How to Get Rid of Acne Fast (AF) with AHA Exfoliants (a little-known secret)!



Everyone loves a trusty skin hack – especially when it comes to knocking acne dead in its tracks! Acne sufferers are always on the prowl – aimlessly searching the aisles of CVS on a seemingly endless quest for – the ANSWER,  the “magic bottle” that is, that’ll miraculously clear their complexions and solve all their acne woes forever! They try a trendy charcoal mask, dab toothpaste on their zits, paint bird poo on their face (I’m not kidding – it’s a thing!) – you name it, desperation speaks for itself! But did you know that something as simple as exfoliating – the RIGHT way with AHA’s can truly make all the difference in your complexion?

Keep skimming my little chicken, and I’ll glean you in on the estheticians best-kept secret of how to get rid of acne AF – by simply incorporating exfoliating  AHA’s (and even BHA’s) into your skincare regimen!

Let’s do this… 


(How do zits actually happen anyway?)

“So, what’s exfoliation got to do with clearer skin?” you might ask? To answer this question —EVERYTHING! But first, we need a quick and simple understanding of how and why acne forms in the first place – allow me to enlighten you!

Acne, as I teach to my clients in the simplest terms possible, happens when our skin’s pores (called pore follicles) get gunked-up with a sludge of excess oil and dead skin cells that clump together and form sticky, cement-like masses much like a hardened glue stacking over and lining the inside of our pores. These sticky masses essentially plug-up our pores, blocking them off from oxygen and preventing oil from flowing freely!

This pore-plugging scenario makes for the PERFECT breeding ground for “p. acnes bacteria” (the nasty type of bacteria that causes acne) to surge in and breed like a bunch of wild rabbits in our pores!


Now, acne bacteria LOVE moist, closed-off places (like our pores) where they can burrow-in and feast on their food of choice – skin oil! These festering follicular overgrowths colonize our compromised pores lightning-fast and oftentimes manifest into little-localized infections within our pores and surrounding skin tissue.  As you’re probably already aware, infections inflicting our skin-whether it is a cut on the hand or a gnarly emerging zit, usually results in inflammation, raised redness, and oftentimes pus (and thus the anatomy of your pimple)-lovely, isn’t it?

In short, to satisfy the question: how to get rid of acne fast? The answer is simple: prevent the aforementioned process from happening in the first place!


*It’s important to note that these pore-clogging masses start out minuscule, and they can’t always be seen and felt in the making! Oftentimes, we’re completely oblivious of this preceding pimple-causing process brewing beneath the surface (no pun intended). These minuscule pore clogging masses called, micro comedones, can occur MONTHS (up to 90 days) before they make their sexy debut on your face in the form of a hot flamin’ zit! Make no mistake about it, they’re lurking under there, and they’re ALWAYS the precursor to the acne that ultimately erupts into the pepperoni that makes for the worst pizza face! 


Here’s the bottom line:  this pore-clogging gunk can’t simply be cleansed away with a good ole washing of soap and water as someone who doesn’t understand acne might ignorantly imply  (or judge) – “You need to wash your face more!!” (totally infuriating, right?!) The truth is that it’s just not that simple, or obviously, we’d all have flawless complexions given that we all partake in decent hygiene practices as one would hope!? (need I remind you to please shower daily)…

(showers are awesome!) 


All jokes aside, the truth is that for those of us that are genetically predisposed to acne (as all acne sufferers are), we have pores that don’t quite function properly. Human skin constantly regenerates and renews itself about every 4-6 weeks in a process called desquamation. Normal skin sheds about one layer of dead skin cells each day; as our skin oil simultaneously helps to flush and purge those crusty cells upwards and out of the pores. Acne sufferers, on the other hand, have the tendency to over-shed and retain up to 5 x MORE layers of dead skin cells a day (compared those with normal skin only shedding about one layer per day). These “sheets” of dead cellular debris stack on the surface AND line the inside of our pores. Add in the overabundance of skin oil and you’ve got yourself a killer recipe for pepperoni pizza (on your face). 

Basically, that graveyard of dead skin cells hanging around on your skin in a condition known as, retention hyperkeratosis, increases your pores chances becoming clogged EXPONENTIALLY; compared to those lucky friends of your’s with effortlessly clear skin (ugh -so unfair, right?)…  

The reality is that the aforementioned cement-like masses that clog-up our pores are tough as nails to break through-especially those additional layers of dead cells we acne sufferers tend to hang on to. This unfortunate hereditary predisposition coupled with overactive oil glands calls for a little more action from our skin care products – a little EXFOLIATION action that is! 

Who wants some action…? (some acne annihilating action that is)?!..


So the name of the game in effectively nipping acne in the bud is to find a way to rid the skin of not just the excess oil that everyone seems to (solely) attribute to acne, but ALSO the overabundance of dead cells stacking over and lining our pore follicles like flakes of ice-packed snow! Essentially breaking-up and sloughing away the cellular debris that comprises the “glue” that binds these messes of pore-clogging masses together is the key to free-flowing pores – this method is called EXFOLIATION!


Now, here’s the kicker: when I mention the word “exfoliation”, people almost ALWAYS resort to thinking of some kind of gritty bead or abrasive type of bead scrub like St. Ives Apricot Scrub  (which is a horrible idea by the way)…We call these types of exfoliants “physical” or “mechanical” forms of exfoliation, i.e. facial scrubs, microdermabrasion, rotating skin brushes,  “buff puffs”, etc .

While these scrubs might be a cheap steal at CVS and make you feel like you’re getting down to the nitty-gritty and clean (no pun intended), they’re FAR too rough, irritating, and hyper-stimulating for acne sufferers fragile skin!


If you have acne, think of your skin as like a delicate little flower! 🌸 Exfoliation must be done in an ultra-gentle fashion with utmost care—WITHOUT being overly aggressive or hyper-stimulating on your already inflamed skin exuding bumps and blemishes tender to the touch! 

Take a word of advice and NEVER use any kind of mechanical exfoliation or abrasive scrub on acne-prone skin —like EVER! It’s ALWAYS a terrible idea and will only further traumatize your skin and make your acne worse!

FYI: The only time it’s ok to use a scrub is when all your acne has cleared and/or you’re ONLY dealing with non-inflammatory types of acne like blackheads and closed comedones which are hardened, under the surface pore impactions that don’t exude inflammation! 



Did you know that exfoliation can also be achieved with the use of acids in a process called chemical exfoliation or AHA/ BHA exfoliation?

“Chemicals!”…”ACID!!!”—say what!? – well hold your horses there and hear me out…I’m not suggesting you splash battery acid on your cheeks or undergo any kind of tissue-annihilating peel for God’s sake!

What I’m referring to here is the use of a specialized kind of leave-on treatment a.k.a. corrective serum that’s totally safe and beneficial to the skin; containing natural fruit and botanical acids found in mother nature’s backyard!

Whether or not acids are a friend or foe to our skin is ENTIRELY dependent on the type of acid and concentration used...AND just to set the record straight, not all “chemicals” are bad. Water is a chemical. Many wonderfully beneficial chemicals are used in skincare. The KEY is to make sure they are safe for your skin and health, whether it be an organic, inorganic, or safe synthetic. 

These naturally derived acids have a slightly lower PH than our skin, and work by seeping deep-down into your skin’s pores (unlike a physical scrub can do) and help to GENTLY break-up that nasty pore-clogging grime in the most optimal way! As a matter of fact, according to this Tzu Chi University study in Taiwan, AHA’s have many proven therapeutic and cosmetic benefits to the skin (not just acne)!


*(Pic: Esthetic Arts Clarifying Elixir Serum blended with all-natural hydroxy acids of lactic, glycolic, and salicylic + additional beneficial ingredients.) 

With diligent, consistent use, these specially formulated skin acids called alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s) help prevent the pores from becoming clogged – and thus infected with that nasty bacteria in the first place! And the best way to achieve this kind of acid exfoliation is by using a serum or cream that contains AHA’s as part of their ingredient composition. It’s quite simple, you apply the leave-on serum to your skin either during the day (under make-up) or at night.


I personally consistently use exfoliating AHA acids in lower, ultra-gentle concentrations in my professional skin treatments; and I almost always recommend AHA serums to my clients to incorporate into their home care regimens to help them achieve optimal, skin-clearing results!

Most AHA’s have the ability to not just break-up pore-clogging grime, but also have some pretty awesome youth-preserving and skin-beautifying benefits as a BIG bonus!


  • Reduces acne  Whether it be blackheads and blemishes or more severe papular/pustular acne, by continually clearing-out the pore follicles with a quality AHA serum, you’ll, in turn, help to keep the pore-clogging gunk of dead skin cells and excess skin oil at bay. Clearer pores = less acne
  • Lightens and brightens the skin – AHA’s powerful skin-resurfacing action reveals a more even toned and a luminescent appearance by helping to turn-over (exfoliate away) dead, dull skin cells—jump-starting the growth of new, healthier cells from the bottom-up. This includes our melanocytes which are the cells responsible for our skin’s color! Dark marks left over from old acne breakouts? Watch AHA’s swiftly diminish those stubborn spots with continual use and time!
  •  Diminishes fine lines and wrinklesOnce those pesky dry, dull, dead skin cells are sloughed and lifted off those cracks & crinkles, moisture creams, and hydrating gels will seep right in with ease —plumping the skin with moisture from the inside-out! This helps to make for a smoother, dewy, more youthful appearance! 
  • Moisturizes Some acids, in particular, lactic acid and glycolic acid can help to restore hydration to the skin. Lactic acid, in particular, is a well-known part of the skin’s natural moisturizing complex, and is considered to be an excellent moisturizer!
  • Anti-aging – Studies have found AHA’s use to have an anti-aging effect on the skin by not only smoothing texture, evening-out skin tone, and increasing the moisture barrier, but helping to induce collagen!
  • Smooths skin texture – AHA’s smooth skin texture for a softer, silky-to-the-touch feel  (makeup will glide right on)!
  • Helps your products penetrate better like corrective serums, moisturizing creams, hydration gels, SPF, etc.


Let’s break ’em down a bit and discover a thing or two about some of the most commonly utilized AHA’s (and BHA’s) used in skin science today!


How to Get Rid of Acne Fast with AHA's (a little-known secret)!

Glycolic Acid comes from the tall perennial sugar cane stalks native to the warm climates of Southeast Asia and New Guinea, and is also used for sugar production!  It’s the most widely used AHA among dermatologists and skin-care professionals favored for it small molecular structure (the smallest of all the AHA’s in fact) and optimal skin-penetrating properties; allowing it to do it’s exfoliating and brightening magic deep down in the pores for optimal lightening, brightening and skin-clearing results!  A 10% concentration is a good, potent strength for home care use, especially acne!


Lactic Acid comes from milk and dairy products or can be manufactured bio-identically as a safe synthetic for maximum stability. This second runner-up as the most commonly used acid shares all of the same properties and benefits as glycolic acid + superior moisturizing capabilities in comparison to other AHA’s. Lactic has a slightly larger molecular structure than glycolic making for a slower penetrate time which helps to make it less stimulating on sensitive skin. It’s ideal for all skin types, especially acne, aging, rosacea, and of course sensitive skin types as mentioned! 2-4% concentrations are ideal for unlocking its moisturizing effects, and concentrations of 5% and up unlocking its exfoliating properties. In my experience, 10% is a good, potent marker for acne serums, creams, and leave-on treatments to be used as a home care regimen.

…Did you know?

Cleopatra was rumored to have bathed in milk and rose petals? From a natural beauty perspective, this actually makes sense as the natural lactic acid in the milk would have surely softened and exfoliated the sultry seductress’s irresistible physique! 


How to Get Rid of Acne Fast with AHA's (a little-known secret)!

Salicylic Acid, which is derived from willow bark, is a little different from an AHA in that it belongs to the beta hydroxy acid family (BHA). BHA’s are comprised of oil-soluble molecules while AHA molecules are water-soluble. AHA’s and BHA’s are similar but perform optimally on different skin types over others. AHA’s work well for truly ALL skin types, but are best suited for aging (glycolic, lactic), sensitive (lactic acid), rosacea (lactic acid), and sun damaged (glycolic, lactic, etc.) concerns as surface exfoliants; resurfacing the upper layers of the skin’s pores and surface. BHA’s are truly excellent for all skin types as well but work optimally for oily and acne-prone individuals as they have the ability to penetrate and push their way through the skin’s layers of lipids (oil) due to its oil-soluble nature. Salicylic acid is best described as being like “draino for the skin’s pores”! It acts as a keratolytic, which is a substance that breaks up the thick protein binds that bind the dead skin cells together while annihilating oil grime from even deeper within the pores than their AHA counterparts. 

Salicylic acid works best at strength 1-2% in home care products. It’s also not uncommon to see a blend of AHA’s like glycolic acid and lactic acid together with salicylic acid (BHA) to optimize results by employing multi-level resurfacing!

How to Get Rid of Acne Fast with AHA's (a little-known secret)!

Mandelic Acid comes from bitter almonds. This particular AHA isn’t implemented in skin care products quite as much as the more popular kids in school (glycolic-the homecoming king, and his royal posse, lactic and salicylic) but is recently gaining so much-deserved traction!  Mandelic acid is the largest of all AHA’s and the slowest penetrating acid. This large molecular structure coupled with its slow release time makes it an intriguing choice for sensitive skin. I think we’ll be hearing more and more buzz about mandelic in the near future!

How to Get Rid of Acne Fast with AHA's (a little-known secret)!

Citric Acid comes from (you guessed it) citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and limes. It’s a bit strong and irritating for most skincare formulas, however, it’s commonly used in small amounts as an excellent preservative. As a matter of fact, all AHA’s have naturally build-in product preserving properties!


The coolest think about working with AHA’s is that they really work – and help a lot of skin conditions – especially acne! Most skin care formulations whether it be for professional use or homecare use contain a combination of AHA’s and sometimes BHA’s like salicylic acid for superior multi-level exfoliation!!


I personally use Clarifying Elixir Serum at night and recommend this it to most all of my acne clients for it’s ultra-light, deep-penetrating, liquid consistency that seeps right into the skin almost instantaneously. 

Clarifying Elixir Serum has an optimal blend of glycolic, lactic, salicylic acids which have small molecular structures that easily penetrate the skin and get down to some serious acne annihilating business – PLUS – the added benefit of another ingredient superstar- licorice root! Licorice root helps to naturally and safely lighten-up old dark marks in areas when you had broken-out before,  helping to brighten the skin tone and even-out the complexion! 


  • The first couple of ingredients containing the key actives (the AHA’s). This will ensure a powerful and effective concentration of the actives your skin will need to truly make a difference
  • A professional strength serum with around 10% glycolic, mandelic, and lactic percentages is a good potent range for most acneic skin types; adjusting down in percentage for more sensitive and reactive skin types. 1-2% salicylic acid is a good marker for salicylic acid. 
  • Look for a cream or preferably a serum (liquid or gel) with a PH of around 3.0. Most acids won’t really work and do their jobs at PH levels any higher than that! As a note: human skin is slightly acidic around 4.5-5.5, so as you can imagine, the acids PH needs to be a bit lower to do their magic and break-up those dead skin cells and follicular debris! 

Clean deck of ingredients without the nasties: artificial fragrance aka perfume, parabens, mineral oil/petroleum, phthalates, dyes/colorants, or pore-clogging ingredients


The key to starting out on an AHA serum or any exfoliating acid type of product is to go SLOW – slow and steady wins the race! As acids go hard to work in our skin’s pores, it’s normal to experience a little dryness and even some light flaking at times – which is usually harmless. This typically happens when too much product is used both too soon and too frequently; you’re not pairing a sufficient moisturizer with your AHA serum to combat dryness! Here are a few key tips I always advise to my clients when I et them going on my Clarifying Elixir:

  • One pump every other night is a great starting point; gradually increase to nightly use or as advised by your skin care professional. 
  • Use an ultra hydrating, oil-free moisturizer or gel containing non-pore clogging water-based humectants like panthenol, aloe vera, glycerine, and hyaluronic acid under your AHA serum. This will help ease any initial dryness while you get used to using AHA’s on your skin.
  • As always, wear SPF daily when using  AHA’s as they can make the skin a little more sun sensitive


  • You’re using “retinoids”– Retinoid-based skin care products like Tretinoin, Retin-A, retinol, Differin, Refissa, Adapalene, etc. Trust me, these killer ingredients are already rapidly turning-over dead skin cells for you – we certainly don’t want to overdo it!
  • You’re prego (or a nursing mama) Salicylic Acid is not advised for pregnant women (particularly in strengths above 2%), however, these acids are safe: Mandelic, Malic, Glycolic, and Lactic. *Note: Clarifying Elixir contains salicylic acid at a low concentration of 1.7%–which IS considered safe by most dermatologists and OBGYNs, so if your think this serum might be helpful for you, just run it by your doc first!
  • You’re using of Accutane or generics of the similar kind.  
  • You have open wounds or cuts (or cold sores) on the face – It’ll sting and make the lesion worse. Best bet is to wait until the skin is healed before use.
  • You’ve had recent skin peels, chemical peels or laser treatments – Wait until the skin resumes to normal and is completely healed!
  • You’re sunburned– Wait until the skin resumes to normal and is completely healed!


I highly recommend that if you have any degree of acne that’s got you down in the dumps and banging your head against the wall (whether it be just a few blackheads or full-fledged breakouts), to get on a quality AHA serum like Clarifying Elixir serum ASAP! And don’t wait around in a continuance of wasted time and money going down dead-end drug store aisles only to meet disappointment square in the eye every time you look in the mirror.

There’s a saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. If using the same slew of bottled-to-the-brim of inactive, cheap drug store products aren’t clearing-you-up, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things my friend!

If you follow my trusty advice and get going on a steller AHA serum, you’ll surely be surprised before your very eyes at just how fast it’ll get to making pure magic in your skin! In my experience, diligent use of AHA’s in my clients yield noticeable results in as little as one week and just keeps accelerating from there!


If your REALLY wanna knock acne on it’s behind, I’d say don’t stop at AHA’s! Kick it up a notch and pair Clarifying Elixir with a dang good benzoyl peroxide product like Purity Elixir, and use on alternating nights as part of your skin care regimen. I find that my clients do remarkably well when they use my AHA serum in combination with my Benzoyl Peroxide. The AHA rapidly exfoliates the skin, while the BP goes hard to work at killing the bacteria – two of the MAJOR players that lead to acne in our skin’s pores! This dynamic duo is how you get rid of acne fast (AF) and keep it gone! 

My Skin-Clearing Set has both the Purity Elixir and the Clarifying Elixir along with some of my most popular, trusty acne picks like: the Peppermint Purifying Cleansing Gel, a deep pore cleansing gel with white willow bark + hints of pure peppermint and tea tree, Hydration Repair Gel, and the Petals of Dew Hydrating Mister!


Is Clarifying Elixir right for your skin?… 

Do you need an expert opinion regarding your specific skin issues..? Feel Free to contact me for a Complimentary Personalized E-mail Consultation—I’d love to help! 

We’ll cover my best tips, solutions, and recommendations unique to your concerns and complexion!

Kristina  💜

Acne 101: OMG..Why these Zits?

Not a week goes by where I don’t have an heart-to-heart with a fellow acne sufferer in an utter upheaval of frustration having reached their full-blown breaking point—literally, as in breaking-out relentlessly, despite trying EVERYTHING! Many are truly frustrated to tears over the bumps and blemishes erupting an otherwise lovely, creamy-smooth complexion.

“I just don’t understand WHAT’S GOING ON!!? I don’t know WHY my skin’s breaking out like this?  I’ve spent SO much money and nothing’s worked! I’ve tried EVERYTHING!!”

Sound familiar?..

Well, to answer the question as to why you’re breaking out in the first place, it’s critical that we first and foremost—before jumping ahead to possible fixes and lotions & potions, have a total and complete understanding of the complex yet simple anatomy of acne! In other words, what’s going on in the inside the clogged pore (which usually erupts into a full on ZIT) from it’s earliest, most vulnerable stages; those stages that are completely invisible to us in the beginning! Pssst..everything I do in the treatment room and the products and remedies I recommend revolve around inhibiting the process I’m about to mention, so lean-in, because it’s absolutely essential that every acne sufferer understands to a “T” the anatomy of a clogged pore. It’s your right of passage to a clear, revitalized complexions begins with a firm understanding of whats going on with your skin so they can in turn, understand WHAT topical acne products work, and HOW to best use and incorporate as a supplement to healthy dietary and lifestyle tweaks in remedying their skin clear!

Remedying your complexion to clear is your nobody’s responsibity but your’s. Wheather or not you’ll be disciplined enough to do it is a choice.

Acne is The choice is your’s.

Most people are smart enough to know that oily skin, basic hygiene practices, and hormonal fluctuations; from puberty to pregnancy, and throughout the course of a persons life (especially women) are inevitably interconnected to breakouts—and they’re right! However, there’s a lot more brewing beneath the surface—literally,  than most knew were even contributing factors to begin with.

Lets break it down in two sentences:

So, each and every one of us are born with a genetically predetermined about of skin pores, called pore follicles. Follicles sound as though they’re having to do with hair, and they are! Our skin pores are actually itty bitty little hair follicles found the 100’s per square inch covering our face and body’s largest, most sensuous organ—our skin!  The pore follicles(which may or may not contain an actual hair shaft) secrete natural skin oil called sebum, to soften, lubricate and protect our skin. The skin pores also help us to secrete sweat, regulate vital temperature, and plays a big part in our immunity function by acting as a protective line of defense between us and the outside world; warding off bacteria and viruses form penetrating through to our bloodstream. Our skin is nothing short of AMAZING!

Essentially, a pimple results when an over abundance or excessive amount of oil, called sebum, mixes together with an over abundance or excessive amount of dead skin cells called keratinocytes (that stack over the top of and line the inside of the pores) and forms a sticky, cement-like mass (much like a glue) that ultimately clogs the inside of the pore follicle; inhibiting the oil from flowing freely out of the pore.

Harmful acne bacteria called propioni acne bacteria (“P. acne bacteria”) then begin to over populate within the clogged pore and multiply very rapidly! This surge of harmful bacteria typically results in a little localized infection triggering an immune response in the surrounding skin. Anytime there is a a cut, a sore, or any kind of trauma to the skin, an immune response is activated causing inflammation (which accounts for the redness in a papule “red bump/pimple), and oftentimes is accompanied with a white/yellowish PUS formed from white blood cells that surge in to aid (aka a “whitehead”)-lovely!

BUT WHY ME? In those that suffer from acne, there seems to almost always be the common denominator of not just an excess of oil being secreted within the pores, BUT ALSO, THE OVER EXCESS OR THICKENING OF DEAD KERATIN OR DEAD SKIN CELLS AS YOU”LL RECALL. There seems to be an accelerated, faster rate in which the skin cells regenerate and renews themselves resulting in a “thickening”, or surplus of dead skin cell deposits on the top layer of the skin and also hanging around the inside of the pores increase the chances of that sticky, pore clogging mass of dead skin cells to form.

While there’s s still so much to learn and understand about the acne condition, there seems to been a genetic component in having the tendency to shed dead skin cells at much FASTER rate than the average person. That, along with the tendency to secrete an over-abundance of oil is why you have be affected by acne and your lucky friends don’t break out at all!

It is important to understand that there are MANY internal, intrinsic factors happening within our bodies systematically, from chronic inflammation brewing from beneath to hormones going haywire! These imbalances contribute to and exacerbate the acne cycle before we even see it manifest on our faces– that can be to much extent be controlled by our lifestyle choices and the foods we choose to nourish (or poison) our bodies with. we make extent helping to diminish the acne cycle (even if your acne is genetic!):

Just to plant the seed, here are some of the most common acne contributing factors proven in numerous case studies:

  • Hormones; hormonal fluctuations and imbalances
  • Birth Control (particularly those high in the androgen stimulating hormone progestin)
  • Certain Medications
  • Allergies/Food Intolerances
  • Gluten Intolerance (some individuals)
  • Dietary/Nutritional Factors
  • Inadequate intake or supplementation of essential fatty acids (EFA)
  • Sugar (eating a high-glycemic index based diet)
  • Dairy/Milk
  • Wheat/Gluten
  • Intestinal permeability “Leaky Gut”
  • Iodine
  • Stress
  • Sleep/Rest
  • Toxins
  • Drugs & Alcohol
  • Sweat
  • Friction
  • Irritation & over stimulation
7 Simple Acne Tips to Help You Clear Your Skin!

7 Simple Acne Tips to Clear Your Skin (And Inspire Your Confidence)!

In this blog post and featured video below, I share with you my absolute BEST acne advice, tips, and tricks, based upon 13 years worth of experience in working in the skincare realm of the cosmetic industry as a licensed esthetician and acne solutions specialist! It’s been especially rewarding over the course of my career to have had the pleasure to have been able to successfully help others overcome their struggles and insecurities with their skin. It’s s a topic that’s always been close to my heart as a life-long acne sufferer, that much to my dismay, for much of my teens and well into my twenties, I never felt pretty, confident and assured with myself; mostly to due to my complexion and extreme insecurities surrounding the condition (and scarring) of my skin. It was a horrible and traumatizing period of my life feeling hideous and wanting to hide my face from the world. This is why I made the decision pretty early on to turn my pain into my passion so to speak, and help guide others in achieving clear, healthy complexions they could feel proud of!

I really hope this blog post and video I’ve created really clears things up a bit (no pun intended : ) and offers you some insightful advice that can really enlighten the way you’ve previously thought of acne; and broaden your understanding making for a marked difference in your complexion and confidence!

So, here we go..

Tip #1. Always Double Cleanse

It’s very important that you understand and remember this one crucial tip (if you forget everything else), removing make-up is different from cleansing the skin! When you’re dealing with oily skin, stubborn, acneic skin, you need to cleanse the skin twice in a process called “double cleansing”. It’s actually one of the first tricks they teach you in esthetician school! And it REALLY makes a huge difference alone!

First and foremost, you must take the time to use an actual make-up removing cleanser (if you’re a make-up wearer like me) Try our all-natural, luxuriously silky Botanical Cleansing Cream and Make-Up Remover-, in slow, rhythmic, circular motions until that mask of make-up and debris is emulsified and ready to be gently toweled-off with a cool, dampened wash-cloth. (Make-up removing towelettes in my opinion are not sufficient for thoroughly removing that day-old, caked-on layer of foundation and grime!). After you’re done getting your make-up off, literally cleanse the skin again, but in this second cleanse, you’re not just rubbing and recirculating day-old make-up around your face, you’re truly deep-cleaning your skin’s pores, and that my friends is how you get down to business–deep down into the pores that is! I recommend a cleanser specifically formulated for aiding oily & acneic skin types like our Purifying Peppermint Cleansing Gel which contains peppermint, white willow bark, and  bacteria-blasting essential oils to gently kill bacteria deep within the pores in a wonderfully invigorating cleanse! 

Tip #2. Exfoliation is KEY

Gentle, but aggressive exfoliation is the truly the key to a clear, beautiful complexion! Reason being that: when you’re dealing with acne, essentially, you have a layers of dead skin cells that are mixing with your skin oils, and stacking on top of, and lining the inside of your pore follicles. This accumulation of excess dead skin cells and oil forms into ultra-sticky, viscous, masses–ultimately clogging your skin’s pores (you cant always see if and feel it, but it there)! These nasty plugs set the stage for acne by creating a VERY unfriendly environment where bacteria begin to grow and breed like rabbits inducing infection, inflammation, and pus (thus the anatomy of the acne lesion)! It’s imperative to ensure that the skin stays  continuously cleansed and exfoliated in a well-balanced, radically religious home care regime! I recommend gentle exfoliation in the form of a powdered enzyme. An excellent pick would be our Skin Smoothing Exfoliating Powder 4 oz-, that can be mixed with equal parts of your cleansing gel (about a dime to quarter size of each) along with a little warm water and circulated into the face during the cleansing lather for a little non-abrasive exfoliating boost in an easy 2-in-1 step!

Tip #3 Blast Bacteria with Benzoyl Peroxide 

Yes folks, this is how you murder acne..Benzoyl peroxide truly works wonders, you’ll just need  it in higher concentrations than what’s typically available over the counter–and not get too carried away with using too much too soon! It WILL irritate and dry out your skin if you don’t follow directions and ease your skin into it. A little bit at a time (starting with one pump every-other-night) over a little light moisturizer is the correct way to acclimate to BP. Being smart in knowing when to increase the percentage, and when to back-off a little is the name of the game. Try our Purity Elixir 5% 1oz -(mild-moderate acne) and Purity Elixir 10% 1oz-(moderate-severe acne). Ease yourself into it slowly and watch miracles happen as your complexion clears-up leaps and bounds as the days and weeks pass by!

Tip #4 Find the Balance

When using professional-grade skin care products, many of which are quite “active” with a high concentration of quality ingredients which can be a bit stimulating, you must go SLOW and acclimate your skin carefully over time. All skin types are so very different and you need to follow the directions precisely and listen to your skin when you begin using these highly beneficial, “active” products. Sometimes when we get really excited about working a new product into our regime, we use too much too soon, and the skin becomes irritated and dry as a result. So, please PLEASE start slowly with your products using only the recommended amount. With most benzoyl peroxide and exfoliating products (AHA’s, retinol, etc.) begin every-other-night to and don’t over-do it. Find the balance that’s right for your skin and stay consistent in your regime.  YOU WILL see desirable changes happen over time that only gets better!

Tip #5 All skin needs hydration

Having oil in your skin if different from having water in your skin. Most people skin seems to suffer from dehydration to some degree, so it’s important to give back and balance-out your skin’s barrier with a hydrator (aka moisturizer) appropriate for your skin type. Many of my acne clients like the ultra-light, lotion-feel of the Esthetic Arts Sheer Hydration Oil-Free Moisture 2oz -or, even lighter is the ultra-absorbent, gel-feel of Esthetic Arts  Hydration Repair Gel 2 oz-Both options are completely non-comedogenic, and won’t clog your pores. A little supplemental hydration will also act as a moisture barrier between the benzoyl peroxide product (which can be drying if you’re not careful) and your skin! ; )

Tip #6 Paws off!

Compulsively picking at your face is a dead-end street to rebound acne, scarring, and post residual hyperpigmentation “dark spots”–that could take MONTHS to go away (if you’re lucky)! Chronic picking just makes matters a hundred times worse and will make you feel all around yuckier and ashamed for doing it in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle! Think of it this way: it’s like cheating on your diet everyday. PLEASE, please please, if you’re going to take some of my expert advice and even possibly invest in a few key pieces that can truly clear you complexion, you’ve gotta “pick-up some better habits” (no pun intended), and keep your dang paws off  your face! There’s a time and place to have your skin carefully “extracted” by a professional esthetician in facial treatment, in which I’d be happy to elaborate on in another blog/vlog topic. Know this: you’ll never achieve a clear, healthy complexion as long as you’re a “picker”, so make a pact with yourself to get the picking under control for once and for all  so you don’t set yourself up for failure from the get-go!

Tip #7 Be aware of Diet, Hormones, and Stress

I want to start off by saying that I’m not a medical doctor, dietician, nor a nutritionist. Please consult an expert if you’re thinking its necessary to make dietary changes to help improve you acne condition and overall health. With that being said, I’m am a firm believer that there is a HUGE connection between what you put into your body and what’s coming out of your skin. The skin in my opinion is a window reflecting outward what’s going on inward within the body environment. Acne is very much an inflammatory “dis-ease” that seems to be linked to not only our skin-type and genetics (a given), but exasperated by a poor, high-glycemic index diet high in simple sugars, starchy carbs, and not enough nutritionally dense foods. Stress as you’ve heard also plays a huge role in acne as well as many other “dis-eases” in the body.  Please be an advocate for your own skin and health and start doing a little research and self-educating of the link between diet, hormones, stress and acne. A wonderful book that has helped me understand this complexity that I often refer to my clients is, The Acne Prescription, by Dr. Nicolas Perricone. Every person suffering from acne and serious about doing something about it needs to read this book!

Once you begin to understand at acne as not just a superficial exterior condition, but a systemic disease that stems from imbalances within our body environment: we can truly begin to change our complexion, increase our confidence and change our lives from the inside-out! One day at a time..

Hope this blog and video has helped to “clears things up a bit”! Always feel free to email me for a free email consultation if your have questions pertaining to your skin and which products/regimes would be optimal for you!


Your Epic Guide to Retinol and Acne: How it Works (and should you be using it..?)


If you’ve been curious about the benefits of retinol for acne, but a little confused and intimidated by it all, then this is the blog for you! This simple guide explains what it is, and how “retinoid” based skincare gets down to business in clearing your complexion, and restoring your confidence!

Indefinitely, the core issues and insecurities surrounding acne are the same for everybody, no matter what age, or phase of life journeying through. Acne, that evil “four letter word” doesn’t discriminate; and as saddening as it may sound, it can impose a deeply dimorphic, distorted sense of self—making it’s worst victims feel downright hideous, and wanting to hide their faces from the world! 

Even more frustrating than having to bare a face erupted in bumps and blemishes to the outside world and workforce, are the inevitable “cracks & crinkles” that seem to suddenly make their creep-move on the sly as we “incline” in age—adding another element of fury to the battle of the breakouts! Yikes, I know this predicament all too well! For most everyone, finding a sustainable solution that will actually work, and prove to not be a waste of wishful thinking (and money $) is the real battle! Luckily for you guys, I’m happy to offer a little insight from both my personal experience and over a decade’s worth devoted to helping people clear their acne as a licensed esthetician with a private skincare practice. The widely buzzed, but little understood ingredient called retinol, (similar, but different to Retin-A), can be a game-changer for many acne sufferers that have exhausted all efforts in their pursuit to a healthier, clearer looking complexion! I’ll explain everything you’ll need to know about retinol and how it works within the skin in a way that’s painfully easy to understand so hopefully, you’ll feel more confident, inspired, and informed when you’re ready to purchase and begin using a retinol product on your own!

Retinol to the Rescue!

I started experimenting with retinol on my skin in my earlier esthetician years, as I had heard and seen a lot of buzz and praise about the touted vitamin A miracle among industry professionals and was considering it as a supplemental addition to the products available for my clients to purchase for accelerated results their home care regimes. In doing extensive reading and research on on the stuff, I learned that it was not only helpful in restoring youth and radiance to aging skin, but it could also be a powerful and promising tool for clearing acne. In experimenting with retinol on my own skin (as I ALWAYS do before recommending or selling anything to my clients) I was pleasantly surprised by the way it went to fairy quickly in smoothing my complexion and definitely helping to diminish break-outs! I immediately thereafter stocked it in my retail shelves at my spa so I could share in the marked clarity and luminance I was achieving with my clients struggling with the same issues, as the results where rewarding and clear to see!

Since then, I want to kick myself in the behind for not doing it sooner. Retinol has been one of the sharpest tools in my skin care arsenal for not just in proving to be a divine savior for innumerable acne sufferers struggling with varying degrees of skin acnes ranging anywhere from adolescence to adult-onset acne cases, but in also restoring youth and radiance to the skin! I’ve personally grown to praise it and use it religiously as part of my nightly ritual and try to “plant the seed” in my clients , encouraging them to embrace this vitamin A miracle at every opportunity I get. If I could put everybody on it, I would! I believe retinol is hands down one of the most miraculous, ever-evolving breakthroughs celebrated in skin science today!

More people should be using it!

It seems that retinol can benefit most any person, so why aren’t more people using this stuff? Truth is, with all the hype and misconceptions surrounding Retinol, RETIN-A,  Retin-A Micro, Renova, and the likes, it’s confusing and intimidating as hell to for even some of the savviest skin care professionals to keep up with, none-the-less mind-boggling for the consumer!

I believe this confusion coupled with an overwhelmingly saturated sea of skin care products marketed in every media claiming to be the next best cutting-edge discovery is what’s deviated millions of people from experiencing for themselves the wonders retinol can truly work in their skin-and that’s truly a shame!

Similar but Different (Retinol and RETIN-A are not the same!)

First off, I’ll bet 90% of people confuse retinol with RETIN-A, probably because they sound so similar! For various and obvious noted reasons, people usually assimilate them as one in the same product with the same functions and side-effects! Oftentimes if someone hears another squawk about a terrible experience endured with “RETIN-A” and how it “dried-out and parched their skin” making them “really red” and “peeling like a snake for weeks…”, they’ll automatically assume that retinol is the same exact thing and avoid it like the plague! It’s really a shame that retinol gets a bad rap when if fact is it a heck of a lot less aggravating and a whole lot more loving and forgiving on the skin than it’s cunning counterpart (RETIN-A)!

Truth be told, prescription strength RETIN-A a.k.a. Tretinoin can truly do some miraculous things for increasing exfoliation, clearing clogged pores, aiding in skin clarity and restoring marked youth to the skin. But it certainly can be very harsh and stimulating on the skin, and for some—too much so. Retinol on the other hand, is the next best runner-up for those with sensitive and inflamed skin (like acne) with many of  the same benefits of RETIN-A, but with little to minimal side effects.

So this blog has come to fruition as I’m ready for once and for all (and for the vanity of mankind) to clear the air on all the misunderstandings and misconceptions surrounding RETIN-A and retinol, and help you to understand the differences between the two!

So,..RETIN-A—What is it?

RETIN-A is a branded, prescription-strength tube of a topical skin-rejuvenating medication called, Tretinoin, and is commonly prescribed by a medical doctor such as a dermatologist. RETIN-A contains a concentration (usually ranging between .025-1%) of “retinoic acid” a.k.a vitamin A acid. Similar compositions and generics include: Retin-A Micro, Renova, Refissa, Differin, and many others. It’s important to note that the term “retinoid” simply refers to the acid compound of vitamin A (which also happens to be where the skin-clearing and rejuvenating magic is)! Retinoid containing medications are typically applied to the skin topically and acclimated in small, incremental doses. RETIN-A, when understood and used correctly and consistently, remarkably reduces skin acne and helps preserve the youth and integrity of the skin’s cellular functions; encouraging it to act and behave in a more healthy and youthful manner!

History of Retinoids

When Tretinoin was debuted to the pharmaceutical industry around the 1960’s, it was exclusively intended for the treatment of acne. The vitamin A acid in these retinoid containing prescriptions were clinically proven (and continue to be in numerous conclusive studies today) to be a miraculously effective breakthrough in clearing impacted pores and skin acnes in patient trials. If these retinoid rewards weren’t remarkable enough, it wasn’t very long thereafter that clinicians observed one unbelievably, almost too-good-to-be-true side effect; a notable reduction in fine lines and wrinkles along with increased luminance and skin suppleness in those being treated! RETIN-A soon began to undergo an array of studies that proved to be exhaustive and conclusive in being outstandingly effective for not just acne, but as a cutting-edge age management miracle quickly renowned to be the closest thing to the fountain of youth! Check out this study on both RETIN-A and retinol indexed in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (1).

However, with all things seeming too good to be true, there was one major hang-up..

The Retin-A Culprit

RETIN-A and concentrated retinoic acid topicals were causing some serious skin sensitivities in many users, including: marked dryness, dermatitis, irritation, redness, and relentless skin peeling! Many found the stuff to be intolerable despite using the it exactly as directed and decreasing dosages. No doubt RETIN-A is some pretty miraculous stuff, and I wish we could all use it, but unless you’ve got a skin like a rhinoceros, it’s just not for everyone. Furthermore, acne can be further exasperated and inflamed by this marked irritation and over-stimulation.

It’s important that I emphasize that some skin sensitivity, dryness, and flaking are normal during the few weeks into months, however, some, despite using the product diligently as directed can never quite acclimate to it and have to end up doing away with it. Unfortunately, the case for me as well as the feedback I’ve received from a number of my clients.

Retinol to the Rescue

Ahh, and then alas, science found a way to create a more loving and forgiving substitute, thus retinol was born! Simply put, retinol can best be described as an essential “building-block” or precursor to “retinoic acid” A.K.A. vitamin A acid; that is, it helps make retinoic acid; and converts to retinoic acid in small, incremental doses once it’s in the skin. Though, it’s not as potent and powerful as RETIN-A, for many, that’s a good thing! It’s still wonderfully effective and clinically proven to benefit the skin in sharing in the same renowned benefits and properties of Retin-A/Tretinoin with minimal side effects!

As a plus, retinol is usually blended with other beneficial ingredients that help calm, hydrate, and supplement the skin with vital anti-oxidants that synergise with the active A to give you optimal results with as little to no sensitivity as possible!

Vitamin A containing retinol occurs naturally in beta carotene-rich foods such as: carrots, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, apricots, papaya, peaches, cantaloupes, raw tomatoes, and even spinach, however, the skin is the very last organ to receive the skin-beautifying benefits from our food consumption , as the majority is used internally within our bodies for it’s vital biological processes. It’s always most beneficial to the skin to both eat a balanced diet with an array of nutrients including vitamin A rich sources as well as supplement topically with a good quality vitamin A/retinol serum like our Retinol Gel Elixir (1 oz)

Key Retinol Benefits

To recap, Retinoids including retinol are clinically proven to:

• Rapidly increases the skin’s natural rate of cell turnover in a process called “desquamation”, which is just a fancy way of saying your skin stays more exfoliated which in turn, drastically helps to clear clogged pores and acne. This constant exfoliation jump start keeps dead skin cells, viscous skin oils and other follicular debris at bay from blocking and lining of the pore follicles!

• Inhibit the breakdown of collagen and synthesize the production of more collagen! It helps to thicken the dermal matrix pad comprised that of collagen, fibroblasts, and natural hyaluronic acid-increasing elasticity and firmness!

• Encourages areas of discoloration, uneven tone, and dark spots (from sun damage and/or old breakouts) to dissipate by normalizing the cellular functions of the skin’s color cells known an “melanocytes”. It encourages your skin’s tone to even-out and disperse pigment more evenly!

• Add marked radiance and glow to your complexion!

Retinol in short, encourages the skin to act, replicate, and function in a more healthy, youthful manner while increasing collagen, elasticity, normalizing cellular functions, and reducing acne impactions by increasing the skin’s natural rate of exfoliation.

(…I’m telling you, everybody can benefit from this stuff!)

Retinol and Realistic Expectations

I always tell my clients to think of retinol as like taking a vitamin, you don’t always see it and feel it working in your skin, but over time it unveils it magic! Over the course of years and a lifetime, and it will truly help save your skin—even if the results are not clear to see right away. 

Be patient and steady and give your skin it’s daily dose of retinol like you would a vitamin! Though you’ll probably note a definite improvement in your skin’s overall clarity and luminance within the first couple weeks, more complex issues such as hyperpigmentation, deep-set wrinkles, and stubborn acne may take longer to see improvement. Retinol is something you need to get on and stay on for the years and decades to come.

How do I use Retinol?

Most retinol-containing products will direct you to begin slowly using only the recommended dose every other night (as I would) working towards a nightly application ritual. This is just to ensure that your skin gets used to being exposed to incremental amounts of trans-retinoic acid in the beginning. If slight dryness or sensitivity occurs, don’t worry as a little is normal and to be expected! Simply decrease usage if bothersome to every other night, or every-third night working towards an eventual nightly application. A little trick is to wait about 30 minutes after cleansing to apply your retinol (to allow some of the natural oils and lipids in your skin to rise up acting as a bit of a barrier) and/or apply a thin layer of moisturizer under your application. Retinol is typically applied all over the face and even down the into the neck and decollete after cleansing. Avoid applying too close around the eyes, lips, and crevasses of the nose (as these areas tend to be sensitive).

Religious daily sunscreen use of at least SPF 30 is absolutely mandatory when using a retinol product! Since retinol effectively increases your natural rate of cell turn over or exfoliation, it leaves the skin more vulnerable and susceptible to UV damage.

Avoid Retinol If:

• Doing any kind of facial (lip, chin, cheeks) or brow waxing (unless you discontinue use for at least 3-5 days prior to the waxing appointment!) Reason being is that retinoids erode away the top, epidermal layer of the skin (which is comprised of dead skin cells) that can normally act as a protective barrier mechanism from hot wax and sunshine.

• You’re pregnant and nursing.

• You’re planning on being directly exposed to UV rays for a any length of time such as: vacationing, going to the beach, gardening, running outside, and other activities that require you to be outdoors directly exposed to the sun. Especially if you are not smart about wearing SPF, sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat! It’s one thing to walk from the car into the grocery store, but its quite another to bask in the sun for hours on end. If you cant be disciplined enough to wear sunscreen religiously, retinol is not for you.

• You’re using other exfoliating products such as a harsh scrub or AHA cream or serum (alpha & beta hydroxyl acids such as glycolic, salicylic, etc.). The retinol in itself is resurfacing enough and should take the place of any exfoliating products.


Starting Recommendation:

  • Start with a retinol concentration of between .05-.08% like our Retinol Youth Elixir (if you have normal to dry skin), or Retinol Gel Elixir (if you have normal to oily skin). Essentially, they are the same exact formula and strength, but offer different consistencies from a light-weight gel, to a silkier, more emollient formula to accommodate different skin types.


  • Find a retinol product with the first few ingredients listed as retinol, retinol oil, or retinol palmitate!


  • Avoid buying cheap, over the counter formulas misleadingly bottled in beautiful packaging. These kinds of OTC products tend to have a lower quality and quantity of retinol and are often filled to the brim with “buffers” or “fillers”. Research the label for known harmful and toxic ingredients as well as additives that have minimal to no therapeutic benefits to the skin that manufacturers mass market to make a quick buck. Oftentimes the ole adage “You get what you pay” for holds true”.


  • Search for retinol products that contain other beneficial ingredients like anti-inflammatories, anti-oxidants, and hydrating additives like: As a note: studies show that anti-oxidants are extraordinarily beneficial to in fighting inflammation by combating free-radical bombardment in skin cells which leads to lipid peroxidation within cellular membranes; in which is a huge factor in in treating stubborn acne, hyperpigmentation, and a host of other skin issues! 


  • Always wear a broad-spectrum, chemical-free sun protection during the day with an SPF of at least 30 in addition to a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when skipping around in the sunshine! Look for non-toxic, and non-nano mineral-based sunscreens comprised of ingredient like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Solar Shield (1 oz) is a safe, non-toxic option that will most definitely protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays! Always apply liberally with the full recommended amount listed on the directions (no matter how heavy it may seem) and reapply ever two hours or after coming in contact with water!
  • Have a quality moisturizer on hand while acclimating to retinol and use it liberally! This makes a HUGE difference! My favorite retinol hack is to add mix a little moisturizer to my retinol together in the palm of my hand and then apply it to my face. Some professionals may argue that it’s best to apply retinol over moisturizer in a layering system, but I don’t care. I know that for me mixing them together works fantastic and really gives it a great “slip” in helping me smooth the product over my skin. I’ve been able to achieve optimal results this way and my skin stays calm and hydrated. Citrus Shea Moisture Cream (2 oz) is my absolute favorite for daily use and I love the consistency and scent! If your skin is very oily and you prefer an oil-free, ultra-sheer consistency, then Sheer Hydration Oil-Free Moisture (2oz) will be the perfect pick for you!
  • During the first week of use, don’t get overly enthusiastic and apply too much too soon. Patience is the name of the game. Apply the retinol exactly as directed every other night in the beginning. If the skin becomes dry, flakey or over-sensitized, simply back off a bit and decrease your nightly dosages. You can work towards increasing your amount of nightly applications in time as your skin gets acclimated.
  • Wait about 30 minutes after cleansing to apply retinol! This will allow for a bit of the oil and lips in your own skin to surface and act as a little extra protective barrier mechanism before application!
  • Make sure you pick a retinol formula that’s packed in a solid, opaque, glass bottle or tube. Never buy a retinol product that comes in a jar. Oxidation and light exposure will inhibit the preservation and longevity of the retinol.



Is Retinol Worth It? (Heck yes!)

Not only has it helped my clients and I tremendously in preventing the vicious cycle of acne flare-up’s, it feels good to know that consistent use of retinol has be scientifically proven to do remarkable things for youth preservation (and will surely stave off a wrinkle or two as we grow older). Every woman over the age 25 should get on it and stay on it for the years and decades to come!

Still a little unsure if retinol is right for your skin? Feel free to contact me for a free email consultation unique to your concerns and complexion


Share what your what your experiences have been with either with retinol or Retin-A/Tretinoin? Have you found one to be more helpful or favorable over the other?