Dearest Santa,

All I want for Christmas is clear skin.

Not one to follow the herd, I nevertheless could have chimed into the holiday spirit this year by writing about “stocking stuffers,” “10 gifts under $10” or ”how to buy something sweet for your sweetheart” but that's not the way the sugar cookie crumbled. The only thing my fingers felt like typing when I started this story was “BAH-HUM-BUG!” That's right — you heard me, ”BAH-HUM-BUG!”

Now don't get me wrong, I'm no Debbie Downer. Christmas really is my favorite time of year, but a few weeks ago, I was perched on my vanity analyzing my reflection from my foldable, 3 tier, 5x magnifying mirror with daytime lighting and staring back was a sight that would've made Rudolph blush. "Ladies and Gents, step right up and let the side show begin! Hurry! Hurry!" Sigh. The ghost of acne past had paid me a visit.

Now, if my memory serves me right, I dumped my acne face senior year in high school circa 1998, but like gum on my stiletto, its remnants still cause me trouble. Fed up and broken out, I made a vow to myself not to waste another dime on clarifying lotions that don’t clarify.

A girl can't ring in the New Year with acne!

I pulled out the x-files (11 years of acne homework), consulted with one of New York City's finest dermatologists, Dr. Anne Chapas, and a top nutritionist, Dr. Gillian McKeith, on how to cure breakouts from the inside out, and personally tested dozens of products to bring you a list of the best! My gift to you: “The Acne Manifesto”.

P.S. Sprinkle a little some of this in your morning tea: 2010 is the year of reinvention and great skin...I can feel it my pores!

Happy Holidays!

Love always,


Acne: It ain't pretty...

If you suffer from blemishes, you are not alone. 95% of the population has dealt or will deal with some form of acne at some point. 3 out of 4 teenagers suffer from acne and recently various reports show that adult acne is becoming more and more prevalent with people in their 20s, 30s and even well into their 40s. There's nothing worse than having an oil spill ruin your day and having to hide your breakouts behind those pretty curls.

What Triggers Acne?

Acne can be dormant for years then all of a sudden, BAM! You've been bamboozled by acne without knowing why, when or how it began.

The leading triggers of acne are:

  • Bacteria
  • Clogged pores
  • Over-production of oil
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Allergies
  • Diet

Acne Trigger: Bacteria & clogged Pores...

Acne is a disorder of the sebaceous glands, which can be hereditary. The sebaceous glands are microscopic glands attached to each hair follicle that produce oil. Inside each follicle, and present in problematic as well as normal skin, is a bacteria called Propionibacterium Acnes, more commonly referred to as the P. Acne Bacteria. P. Acne Bacteria is the bacteria that causes acne.

On normal skin, sebum (oil) moves up through the follicle, onto the skin to lubricate, and moisturize the surface. On problematic skin, the follicle walls are weakened by an overproduction of sebum (oil). When an overproduction of oil causes damage to the follicle, the P. Acne Bacteria floods the follicle. The follicle is then plugged by a mixture of bacteria, oil and dead skin cells, which form a bond that prevent oxygen flow and cause the infection to build up. White blood cells rush into fight the infection, which leads to redness and inflammation and in the process a papule (a red bump without pus) or pustule (a soft red bump with pus) more commonly known as a “soft whitehead” appears. Pus is dead white cell matter—the aftermath of dead white bloods cells that fought the infection.

An open comedone (blackhead), or closed comedone (hardened whitehead) occur when dead skin cells that have not properly shed from the follicle mix with oil, become hardened, and clog the pore.

Why is a blackhead “black”? The top part of an open comedone or “blackhead” is exposed to air which allows the “plug” to oxidize and change in color. A closed comedone or “whitehead” is filled with the same matter as a blackhead but has a microscopic opening to the skin which prevents air from penetrating and/or oxidizing the plug matter.

Acne Trigger: Over production of oil, hormones, stress...

Hormones are substances that our bodies produce to sustain and regulate its functions. Androgen production and stress hormones kick our adrenal glands into overdrive and wreak havoc on our sebaceous glands, stimulating them to produce more oil. According to Dr. Chapas, at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, "fluctuations in hormones that can be caused by stress, menses and possibly even diet, peaks in testosterone or testosterone-type hormones stimulate oil production, which leads to increased cysts and bacteria-filled bumps.” Usually, hormonal breakouts occur “along the jaw line.”

Hormonal breakouts are usually treated with oral medications that balance the hormones, such as oral contraceptives or Spironolactione. Spironolactione is synthetic steroid that is used as an anti-androgen. Accutane, a form of vitamin A, “is an option when acne is scaring or recalcitrant to prescription medications.” Always seeking a holistic approach, I asked Dr. Chapas if it were possible to treat hormonal breakouts without the use of hormones, to which she replied “there is some evidence that diets low in refined sugars and dairy may help restore hormonal balance.”

It's important to consult with your dermatologist if you have serious, persistent or hormonal acne. Together, you and your dermatologist can decide whether or not oral antibiotics, oral contraceptives or Accutane is the right choice and discuss any contraindications.

Learning to de-stress is our skin's best defense!

Acne Trigger: Diet and allergies...

Does your diet affect your skin? Some say "NAY" I say "YAY"! Our skin is the body's largest organ and what we eat can manifest through the skin in so many ways!

Have you ever caught a whiff of someone who had one too many cocktails the night before, reeked of having too much garlic in their pasta, or ate too many onions for lunch? No amount of soap or mouth wash can remove that stench because it's literally coming out of your pores! Nasty! Everything you put into your body, comes out one way or another. There are various reports that indicate allergies to dairy or high sugar diets can aggravate acne. “Milk is mostly derived from pregnant cows, the milk from pregnant cows contain hormones. The enzymes in our bodies convert the cow's milk into the DHT (dihydrotestosterone) hormone. DHT causes our sebaceous glands to produce more oil which indirectly leads to acne.” In addition, eating too much of both fructose and glucose turns off the SHBG gene that control the levels of testosterone and estrogen working inside the body, creating hormonal imbalances.”

“When the SHBG gene shuts down, our body senses that it does not have enough hormones, and produces more testosterone and estrogen, regardless of the current levels of testosterone and estrogen currently in our system.”

In addition, toxins in your intestines and an imbalance in your organs can also lead to congestion in the skin. When the intestines are backed up, the body will use other means to eliminate waste—for instance, through the skin. Dr. Gillian McKeith author of "You Are What You Eat" makes it easy to pinpoint where our imbalances are.

Where is Your Breakout?

Forehead: Intestinal


  • 1 tablespoon of psyllium husks daily in water
  • Give yourself regular enemas or get a colonic

Cheeks: Lungs & Breast


  • Drink mullein tea and take astragalus supplements 3 x's daily
  • Take oil of evening primrose supplements (1000 mg)
  • - Avoid cow's milk products, saturated fats and red meats

Nose: Heart area


  • Take hawthorn supplements 500 mg twice daily with Coenzyme Q10
  • Eat barely grass (1 teaspoon a day)
  • Drink two cups of hawthorn tea daily

Jaw: Kidney Area


  • Eat quinoa
  • Drink dandelion teas
  • Take magnesium supplement (1000 mg) daily & B complex

Shoulders: Digestive Area


  • Digestive Enzyme supplements with all meals
  • Drink 1 tablespoon of aloe vera juice before meals

Chest: Lung & Heart Area


  • Drink mullein teas and ginkgo biloba teas regularly
  • Take coenzyme 10 supplements (100 mg)
  • Sprinkle lecithin granules on salads or cereals

Upper Back: Lung Area


  • Take stragalus (500 mg twice a day)
  • Take geranium supplements 200 mg daily
  • Drink mullein teas
  • Cut out peanuts for a while, and eat simple small meals while avoiding dairy and sugar

Around the mouth: Reproductive Area


  • Take herb agnus castus supplements 2x a day (Corrects hormonal imbalances that manifest as pimples around the mouth)

Acne: How Bad is it?

Acne is broken down by 4 levels. The products I recommend below will help to treat mild to severe acne. For serious breakouts, it is best to consult with your physician or dermatologist.


Mild breakouts, blackheads, a few whiteheads, a few papules (inflamed red bumps) and/or a few pustules (inflamed red bumps containing pus)


Several, blackheads, whiteheads, papules and pustules<


Red and inflamed areas with many papules, pustules, blackheads, whiteheads on many areas of the face


Cystic acne with blackheads, whiteheads, inflamed papules & pustules all over. I recommend seeing a dermatologist. Find a dermatologist in your area.

The Zit Zapping Acne Ritual

  1. CLEANSE: Choose a medicated antibacterial cleanser that won't strip your skin of its natural protective barrier. Gently wash 30 seconds to 1 minute and don't forget to rinse your hair line.
  2. TONE: This is a step that problem skin must not skip. It insures the skin is thoroughly cleansed and residue free. Choose a toner that is non-drying.
  3. EXFOLIATE: There are two types of exfoliants: manual and chemical. Manual exfoliants are always rinsed off and have some type of polishing agent. Acne skin should steer clear of any harsh “apricot”-type scrubs to avoid making matters worse. A non-abrasive scrub with benzoyl peroxide with do wonders to kill bacteria. Chemical exfoliants are left on the skin and penetrate much deeper than a manual exfoliant. They get into the pore's lining for thorough exfoliation. Use a chemical exfoliant 3-4 times a week, alternating with a manual exfoliant 2 x's a week. A chemical exfoliant may cause some peeling that is best removed by manual exfoliants.
  1. DISINFECTANT: Used only on affected areas to control P. Acne Bacteria. Some dryness and slight peeling will occur but can be corrected by a manual exfoliant and applying light weight moisturizer.
  2. MOISTURIZE: 1-2 x's daily. This step is optional but important if your skin feels taught or dry throughout the treatment and when using a foundation. Choose an oil-free, light-weight lotion or hydrated gel.
  3. MASK: 2-3 times a week. To control excess oil, remove dead skin and refine pores. Many people disregard an at home mask as unimportant step, but do not be fooled! This is the best if not only way to control oil and minimize the appearance of pores.
  4. FACIAL: A facial once a month or biweekly until the skin has cleared will produce results immediately.

The Best Cleansers for Problem Skin

Epicuren: antibacterial cleanser

  • Gelle Cleanser
  • Best for Mild to Severe Acne
  • Key Ingredients: lactic acid, allantoin, aloe vera
  • Description: Mi Amor! This is an excellent and refreshing, antibacterial, sudsing cleanser that does not disturb the skins natural PH. It mildly exfoliates, dissolves oil and helps calm inflammation
  • Price: $10 for 2oz
  • Find:

Epicuren: pore cleansing gel

  • Medicated Acne Cleanser
  • Best for Moderate to Serious acne
  • Key Ingredients: lactic acid, allantoin, aloe vera
  • Description: This cleanser bailed my face out of its recession! A medicated, antibacterial, non-irritating, cleansing gel that sterilizes the skin's surface by lifting and removing residue and loose skin.
  • Find:

The Best Toners for Problem Skin

H2O: Anti-Acne

  • Exfoliating Cleansing Pads
  • Best for Mild to Moderate Acne
  • Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, multi-vitamin complex, shine neutralizing algae
  • Description: Oooh la la- I saw a noticeable difference by day 3! 100% oil-free multi-textured pads that remove dead skin cells and kill bacteria. Great for after the gym!
  • Price: $22 for 50 pads
  • Find:

PROACTIVE: eliminates clogged pores

  • Revitalizing Toner
  • Best For Mild to Moderate Acne
  • Key Ingredients: glycolic acid, witch hazel & aloe
  • Description: I ordered the entire system but my skin voted this as the star! Alcohol-free, eliminates clogged pores and balances skin
  • Price: $16 for 6oz
  • Find:

The Best Exfoliants for Problem Skin

Cosmedicine: Speedy Recovery

  • Exfoliating Cleanser
  • Best for Mild Acne
  • Key Ingredients: Tea tree oil, oleanilic acid
  • Description: Hellllo Lover... An oil-controlling gentle physical exfoliator that uses microfine granules. Loosens the intercellular glue that hold dead skin together and helps with inflammation
  • Price: $45 for 4.2oz
  • Find:

Philosophy: oil-free smoothing gel

  • The afterglow
  • Best For Mild Acne
  • Key Ingredients: Lactic Acid
  • Description: Yes, my skin did look like I just...well never mind—a lady never tells!! Very gentle but very effective! An oil-free chemical exfoliant gel with lactic acid. Dissolves dead skin and helps with sun damage. This can be used as a night-time treatment and after shaving to reduce blemishes and ingrowns.
  • Price: $20 for 4oz
  • Find:

Kate Somerville: Dual action enzymatic

  • Intensive Exfoliating Treatment
  • Best For Moderate to Severe Acne
  • Key ingredients: Lactic Acid
  • Description: I would stand in line in the pouring rain to get another tube of this fancy-pants peel. My skin looked like a million euro! A professional-grade peel that works instantly! A physical and enzymatic blend made to combat acne, eliminate bacteria and blackheads, reduce discoloration and polish skin. Delivers results after one use! Use once or twice a week and allow the enzymes to work without massaging the skin. Not for sensitive skin
  • Price: $85 for 2oz
  • Find:

Clean & Clear: acne fighting

  • PERSA-GEL 10
  • Best For Mild to Moderate acne
  • Key Ingredients: 10% benzoyl peroxide
  • Description: Don't let the price tag fool ya! This Persa-Gel is packing some heat! A strong and effective, inexpensive way to fight bacteria.
  • Price: $5.89 for 1oz
  • Available at most major drugstores

Yonka: controls shine

  • Crème PG
  • Best For Mild to Moderate Acne
  • Key Ingredients: Quintessence, burdock, climbing ivy, vitamin A (retinol)
  • Description: Estheticians all over NYC and makeup artist alike have used this little secret weapon for years and years.. Leaves your skin with a long-lasting matte finish and doubles as an excellent makeup base for oily skin. Softens skin, tightens pores and balances skin.
  • Price: $50 for 1.7 oz
  • Find:

Korres: Cinnamon & Natural Clay

  • Clay Deep Cleansing Mask for Oily Skin
  • Best for Mild to Moderate Acne
  • Key Ingredients: white & pink argils natural clay, cinnamon
  • Description: The product sells itself ... I got a sample at Sephora and went back the next day for a full-size. Deeply cleanses and gives and instant cooling effect to calm irritation and absorbs surface oils while decongesting the skin.
  • Price: $27 for 2.3oz
  • Find: