How I used Reddit to manage my cystic acne

Illustration by TWYLAMAE
Words by Jonti Ridley

One writer guides us through a minefield of Internet skincare forums.

I’m one of those lucky people who are genetically blessed with cystic acne. Combined with a sensitive skin-type and a ghost-white complexion, my skin is the perfect mix of all the things everyone else in my family was lucky enough to avoid. Over years of trialling mountains of products, by no means have I found the perfect solution. But what I did find was some of my greatest acne answers in the last place I thought to look. Reddit.

Also known as the front page of the Internet, Reddit gets some bad press. It’s true that the platform can be incredibly hard to navigate, with so much content and so many ‘subreddit’ threads, it can be daunting diving into the deep end of a really confusing user interface. But, while we are cautioned against trusting the Internet’s medical advice, there is a budding community of people just like you with problems just like yours ready to share their experiences. 

Before you hit the comments with a skin suggestion or remedy, I can assure you I’ve tried them all. Doxycycline – check. Natural products only – of course. Microdermabrasion – absolutely. Chemical peels – unfortunately. Birth control pill – been there, done that. Light therapy – tick. Accutane – twice. After skimming every blog I could and finding no one with skin as severe as mine, it made sense that I needed to scour the biggest community possible to find my cystic outliers. And I found them.

Reddit was close to my last resort, but to make sure it’s not yours I’ve compiled an easy-to-navigate list of subreddits to hit for your particular skin care needs.

1. The 101

r/Skincareaddiction is the top tier of Reddit skincare subreddits. With nearly 999k active followers, it prides itself on ‘affordable’ advice, as well as ingredient-by-ingredient analysis of products. The forum also allows users to request routine suggestions or share grievances with samples they’ve tried – which helps you avoid washes that cause sensitive skin to break out. Similar to Reddit as a whole, this subreddit is a lot to take in, and people take it very seriously. Luckily, there’s a search function allowing you to search within said subreddit, so you can find exactly what you’re looking for. r/Skincareaddiction is where I found the most uncomplicated breakdown of The Ordinary products my skin may react best to. I’d been eager to try their serums but had absolutely no clue what those big ingredient names meant. I’ve also had it drilled into me that if I’m not using sunscreen, I’m not taking proper care of my skin, which is good advice in the Australian sun.

2. The Local

 r/AusSkincare is a great Australian-specific subreddit, because there’s nothing more frustrating than reading about some holy serum that supposedly fixes all your woes, only to find it’s not available here. The user base is smaller (9.4k) but incredibly dedicated. 

3. The International

Sometimes you have to look overseas to find what your skin needs. If you’re looking to live your K-beauty dreams, r/KoreanSkincare makes it simple to start. Corsx Pimple Patches have been a godsend to draw out the nasties once a spot makes an unwelcome arrival.

4. The Feel-Good

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The opposite to r/Skincareaddiction is r/SCAcirclejerk. As mentioned previously, r/Skincareaddiction is known for its highly committed fanbase. r/SCAcirclejerk is the place to enjoy a meme or two about the latter. This is the space to remind you that as good as your routine may be, sometimes you find yourself up zit creek. Breakouts happen, and that doesn’t make you some kind of goblin.

5. The Budget Option

r/Skincare_addiction is a slightly lesser revolt, focusing on simpler skincare routines and finding cheaper dupes for high-end and pricey products – this is a great place to start if the OG is understandably too full-on for you.  

6. The Niche Support Group

Besides painful cystic breakouts, acne scarring is my biggest skin dilemma. Admittedly, picking at my skin certainly didn’t help my cause. As someone who’s guilty of a dig here and there during times of anxiety, simply stopping is easier said than done. r/CompulsiveSkinPicking can be graphic (content warning to those with queasy stomachs), but it’s also an incredibly supportive community to offer support and advice to those, like me, who know it’s terrible to scratch ‘n’ pick, but just can’t stop. It also offers us some proper healing with solutions to scarring. 

Like anything on the internet, it’s safe to take what you read online with a grain of salt. Even r/Skincareaddiction, as thorough as it is, isn’t a complete substitute for a professional dermatologist. It’s always important to patch test new products and make sure you’re spending within your means (r/SkincareRehab is here if you feel like you’re taking things too far). 

For a generation that’s oh-so-lonely on the internet, we do an incredible job of creating a community for just about anything. Reddit has become a lot more than any of us know, with the depths of subreddits nearly immeasurable. For a lot of us, it’s much easier to ask for help online because interacting behind a screen, without fear of judgement, allows users to disclose every one of their concerns. So here’s to all my acne pals out there. May you find the cleanser of your dreams and if you need some advice and don’t know where to start, you might find your people on Reddit.

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