Me, My Acne, and I
The raw and revealing truths behind our skincare obsession (and the products that can maybe fix them).
By Grayce Toon
Moist is a monthly column that explores the overlap of skin troubles and melt downs, the spirals that ensue thereafter, and the wonderful products that sometimes solve both.
The Internet has been with me since my earliest memories. I barely remember when my family had dial-up and that incredibly intense and chaotic noise it would make (the soundtrack to the early panic attacks I had as a child). Miss Internet has been a guidepost and a savior, particularly when I needed her as a teenager in rural Kentucky. She was my beacon of hope for what my future could be, the inspiration for the kind of woman I’d become. I truly don’t know how I would’ve ended up in New York without her!
I have also bought sooo much shit because of her influence. In January 2022, I was influenced by TikTok to get a prescription for Tretinoin as a way to prevent signs of aging and help with occasional pimples. I started getting what I thought were the “Tretinoin Uglies,” or purging breakouts from my skin after introducing such a high-dose retinoid to my face. After 8 months, my skin never got over the purge and even got worse. I’d cry because I was waking up every single day with a new pimple. Not only were they incredibly painful, but I started experiencing something dissociative. I could barely recognize myself when I looked into the mirror.
I never had acne as a teenager. I had no idea I had acne-prone skin. I’d google what other products to use to counteract my breakouts, leading me to eventually dry out my moisture barrier on my face with Dr. Dennis Gross AHA/BHA Facial Peel Pads since I was using them EVERY DAY, as a TikTok told me to. I thought Skincare Internet was going to make me bulletproof from aging and breakouts, but it ended up destroying my face.
Eventually, the Internet would heal me by leading me to Sofie Pavitt’s Acne Program. There, I met my literal angel of an aesthetician, Bryan Cortes, who helped me calm down and also repaired my skin. I am eternally grateful to them for the introduction to actual skincare, showing me what it needs to thrive, and inspiring me to understand what different actives and products do — rather than just pay for a Curology prescription every two months and hope for the best (like I did from 2018-2021).
I am not a licensed aesthetician, dermatologist, or expert, just an actor who also writes. My only qualifications are being in an industry that is obsessed with what I look like and being keenly aware of what I look like. I’m 25 and still auditioning to play high schoolers (this is not a brag - I am emotionally tired of playing teens), but I believe this is mostly genetics/diet/lifestyle/routine than it is from one miracle product.
However, it is INSANE that I am in my mid-20s and have wasted many brain cells wondering how I will age, fearing that I will no longer be considered desirable by my industry or society. While this is all a patriarchal stranglehold I wrestle with every day, the truth is that this train (me) has already been in motion for the last 25 years, and I cannot stop it. I will age and I will die and both of those are gifts of having lived.
Onto the products...
While I am here on God’s Green Earth, I am also enjoying taking care of my dry, acne prone, sensitive skin and am curious about this whole practice called skincare. For the Spring and early Summer this year I’m using CeraVe Hydrating Cream to Foam Cleanser to start the day. If I have a pimple, then I’ll ice the inflamed acne for 30 seconds to a minute before icing my whole face. I then use the CeraVe Hydrating Toner with a cotton pad.
After that’s dry, I’ll use my most GOAT product: Sofie Pavitt Face Mandelic Clearing Serum, then follow up with First Aid Beauty’s Hydrating Serum. Next, I use Biossance Squalane + Marine Algae Eye Cream (DM Me - I am open to suggestions with day eye creams) and then apply Dieux Skin’s Forever Eye Mask while I blow dry my hair.
Once my hair has decided if it wants me to have a good day or not, I peel off the eye masks. I follow up with Shani Darden Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer. Lastly, I go in with a few pumps of Skin1004 Madagascar Centella Hyalu-Cica Water-Fit Sun Serum before going about my day. Typing this out makes me feel like you’re shaking my hand and I’m naked.
I know I just said that I feel like I’m naked in front of you right now, and that is what I love about Skincare. I get to know someone pretty quickly and intimately with these details. When someone explains their routine or a product they’ve recently tried, I’m getting insight into what they’re looking to achieve, what makes them feel insecure, or knowing what makes someone excited! Skincare is an individualist practice and not every product or treatment will work for everyone, but we all participate in one way or another, even if you claim to use bar soap on your face only (but please don’t).
I’ll be using MOIST not only to interview folks who are more knowledgeable than me, to share exciting products, but also to feel more connected with our experiences of what Skincare does to us.