Tazorac cream (Allergan, Inc.)
I have struggled with acne since middle school. I got fed up with trying both drugstore products and Proactiv; none of them worked. My skin doesn’t really react to salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide very well; they don’t clear up my acne, they just give me chemical burns! So eventually I gave up and went to the dermatologist. I actually hate my dermatologist, but I go back semi-regularly just to get a bag full of this miracle cream, which you need a prescription for, and which cleared my skin up SO fast and pretty much permanently. My acne is honestly just GONE. Completely. I don’t have the best sleep or diet habits (I’m terrible), but Tazorac still works on my breakouts. I don’t know what I’d do without it! Before using it I never got a single compliment on my skin; now they’re like daily. It’s expensive, but I don’t spend a dime on it—I just get a bag of free samples from my derm on a monthly basis. No side effects at all for me, not even dryness. —Arabelle

Egg White “Agg Tval” Facial Soap (Victoria Scandinavian Soap Company)
I’ve basically had oily-yet-dry, zit-prone skin since I was 12. I had really bad acne on my forehead, which I was so embarrassed about that I grew bangs to cover it, thus perpetuating the bad-skin cycle, wheeee! Enter the Soap With a Hundred Names: what I call “that Swedish Egg White Soap,” but others call “Agg Tval” or “Lanolin Agg-Tval” or “Victoria Eggwhite Soap.” Whatever you call it, here’s the link. This soap has been a GODSEND for me. I’m white, and I have extremely sensitive skin, and this soap FIXED MY FACE. PERMANENTLY. I’m not even exaggerating. It’s this extremely gentle, good-smelling soap that lathers up beautifully, and each bar lasts one whole month. So while it seeeems expensive ($30), you’re looking at six entire months of face soap. Anyway! The beauty of this soap is that you can actually make a face mask with it—after washing your face and drying it off, you rub the soap for more lather and spread this on your face. Leave it on for five minutes, till it hardens, wash it off, and ta-da! A glow! Happy skin! It took a little while for me to see results, but I am not kidding: my face has been clear, smooth, and basically zit free since I began using this stuff. I am constantly handing bars of Swedish Eggwhite Soap to friends struggling with their skin and whispering creepily, “You can thank me later.” What if the Swedes stop making it? WHAT THEN??? —Krista

Clear products (Paula’s Choice)
I spent a whole summer using this revolting au naturel moisturizer called Carley’s Clear and Smooth, which is basically lavender-scented mayonnaise. My face swiftly turned to pizza, but I was so deluded by the thousands of positive reviews online that I refused to stop using it. My mom finally snuck into my bathroom and threw it away. I was furious! My wonderful, wonderful lotion! BUT THEN she replaced the Carley’s mayo with the Clear line from Paula’s Choice. My skin cleared up in 10 DAYS. Paula’s products are cruelty free, they use recycled packaging, and they’re designed for a variety of skin types. I really wish I hadn’t spent the whole summer slathering mayo on my acne. Please learn from my mistake and go to paulaschoice.com. —Maggie

The closest you can come to selling your soul for good skin is isotretinoin (which is sold under a lot of different names, depending on where you live; I used the version called Accutane). This is a pill that permanently cures acne for most people, but in exchange for a lifetime of good skin, you have to suffer six months to a year of playing host to the most unchill dermis ever. Isotretinoin dries our your entire body to the extreme, which can mean bloody chapped lips, joint pain, dry eyes, nosebleeds, and sun sensitivity. The medication can also cause birth defects if you get pregnant while you are taking it, and can totally fuck up your liver, so you have to get a blood test and a pregnancy test every month for as long as you are on the drug. I took Accutane twice, each time for six months, and now I basically have perfect skin, as much as that is humanly possible. Honestly, I don’t regret it. I had painful cystic acne all over my body that wasn’t going away with any other treatment, and I tried ALL the treatments. Isotretinoin isn’t a solution for someone who gets a pimple now and then, or even a solution for someone that has regular bad acne, but if you are the kind of person who cries over their skin every day after school (I was), then this might be something to look into. —Jamie

Cane + Austin acne treatment pads (Craig Austin MD)
These pads are soaked in a combination of glycolic and salicylic acids. They’re pricey ($60 for a jar of 60 pads), but I’ve tried drugstore acne pads and they are not as saturated with product and just aren’t as effective. Before I went on Tazorac, this product was one of the only things that actually did anything for my acne without drying my skin. I only stopped using it because it’s too expensive to buy every two months! But if you have the money to kill or a gift card or something, it’s a really effective product that doesn’t have an equivalent in the drugstore market. —Arabelle

On-the-Spot Acne Treatment (Neutrogena)
I have pretty sensitive skin, so when I get a few pimples around PMS time, I’m wary of slathering any hardcore creams on them, as my face burns and dries out pretty easily. This spot treatment has been my go-to for years, as it’s formulated with a gentler amount of benzoyl peroxide than most: only 2.5%. I usually put it on when I can see a zit forming, let it dry, cover it with a gentle night cream (though sometimes I skip this part), and then let it do its magic as I sleep. In the morning, my face always looks better—the zit has dried up and shrunken down, and any dryness that the spot treatment caused can be rectified with a good daily moisturizer. The one thing I kind of hate about this stuff is that it bleaches everything: your towels, your clothes, your pillowcases—even your eyebrows, if you slather it on often enough (though not to a super-noticeable degree, at least in my case), and will leave hot-pink streaks on your stuff unless you’re careful. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after application, and you should be OK. I’ve also found that it’s easier to use at night, as it can leave a white film on your face during the day if you don’t rub it in enough/moisturize properly afterwards. But overall it’s worth it, a staple in my makeup bag. I’m not sure if this works on every type of acne, but for mild, annoying zits, it tends to do the trick. —Pixie

I have been RULL CURIO about this magical instrument known as the Clarisonic for quite a long time. People have gushed to me about this thing like it was the new hunk on the block! Basically, the Clarisonic is micro-massager that has a brush attached. You put your facial cleanser on the brush and it gently massages your skin for one minute, then automatically turns off. It removes SIX times more dirt, makeup, and other gunk than usual. You guys, this thing makes my skin SO BABY SOFT and I haven’t broken out since I started using it. I feel like it’s only going to get better and better. The only drawback is the cost: it’s over 100 buckaroos (plus buying replacement brushes every couple of months), but seriously so worth every penny. It also comes in every color, including leopard print. They were all out of the leopard when I bought mine, so you know I had to get the pink! LUVIN EWE CLARISONIC! —Marie

Oil-cleansing method
This blurb is about slathering oil on your skin. Did you cringe? Most people do when I tell them I wash my face with oil sometimes. Common knowledge says that oil equals bad, and that oil on your face is the cause of pimples. As it turns out, this is only sort of true. The oil made by your face, combined with dirt, can cause pimples. Some face washes that treat acne use harsh stuff to strip off this dirt and oil, which only encourages your face to produce more oil. Washing your face with oil is a good method because dissolves your skin’s natural oils, but then it replaces them with more clean, nourishing oils. No dryness! It’s cheap! It smells nice! Blackheads slide right out of your pores! Like any regime, this probably won’t work for EVERY SINGLE PERSON, but if you are interested in checking it out, this is a good starter guide. —Jamie

Neem oil
When I say I tried everything for acne, I mean I TRIED EVERYTHING, which is why I’ve been dying to share this secret with the world for years. When I was 17, after five years of loathing my constantly erupting skin and many stints with different topical and oral prescriptions, I found the little miracle that is NEEM OIL. It’s completely natural—a thick yellowish substance distilled from the leaves of the neem tree. It is used widely in India to cure pretty much anything…it has antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties that improve your skin overnight, as well as being a great problem spot treatment. (It’s also a good tick repellent.) I know—putting straight-up oil on your face for acne treatment is counterintuitive. But something in the neem oil calms red, irritated, and broken-out skin better than any product I’ve ever tried, natural or prescription. I will wash my face at night, notice five new bright-red breakouts, apply neem oil directly to them at night, wake up and they’re gone. This is magic potion, I swear. I used to moisturize at night with a thin layer of neem massaged into my skin. Because my acne has calmed lately, I mix one part neem oil with one part lightweight night cream, so my skin is moisturized and the neem is secretly doing whatever it does to make my skin so much better in the morning. You can purchase it online (it also comes in capsules, which I found improve digestion, skin, hair, and nail health, go neem!) or at Whole Foods. Warning: have you ever eaten peanuts out of the shell and encountered the bitter bad peanut from time to time? That taste is what this stuff smells like. It smells gross. —Dylan

Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque (The Hain Celestial Group)
Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque is thick and creamy and it smells like mint ice cream. All you have to do is wet your face, slather the mask (it says on the tube to “apply liberally”) all over, and then just chill as it hardens on your face. It dries up pimples pretty well, but honestly, the best part about it is putting it on. It’s cool and refreshing at first, but then turns flaky and cracked. I like to pretend it’s a second skin and that I’ve turned into some mutant alien creature, but you don’t have to do that. It’s just better if you DO. After you remove the mask your skin will feel smoother and will smell nice and minty! It’s awesome! —Hazel

Gentle Cleanser (Befine)
I first got this cleanser as a sample in my Birchbox a couple months ago, and it came at a time when I desperately needed a new cleanser—although I’m religious about sunscreen and moisturizer, I tend to use whatever goop is lying around to clean my face when I’m out of makeup-removing wipes. At the time, that was this vile-smelling all-natural Neutrogena something or other that is now languishing under my sink. I bought the full-size Befine because it made my skin look glow-y after I used it once and didn’t smell awful, plus it probably does a better job of keeping my face clear than makeup cloths did. Their moisturizer‘s great, too. —Amy Rose

I never really had full-on acne, but I would get breakouts in high school of big gnarly zits—not the fun, poppable kind, but the red, painful kind. I read that aspirin could work its anti-inflammatory magic on zits, so I put that theory to the test. I’d crush a few pills into a paste with water and apply it as a spot treatment before bed (remember to wash your face in the morning!). It never totally got rid of zits, but it did shrink them and make them less painful and easier to cover up. Like magic! Or medicine. Whatever. —Anna

If your acne is severe and consistent, it’s in your best interest to visit a dermatologist to get their opinion. They often offer to put acne sufferers on antibiotics, which works great—for a while. Your body can become resistant to them easily, leaving future antibiotic treatments for acne worthless. They can also kill the good bacteria in your vagina, and give you yeast infections! I used my prescription probably twice a year, for a week each time, during my worst acne times. It was helpful for times before warm-weather vacations when I needed my bacne to clear up stat in order to wear my swimsuit by the pool, or before prom, or something like that. Don’t rely on antibiotics to cure your acne, but they can curb it when you need your acne to calm the most. —Dylan

Kiehl’s products (L’Oréal)
OOOH GURL. Kiehl’s is incredible. I have tried most of their products, starting out with their Blue Herbal line, which is specifically for acne-prone skin. After my skin cleared up, I started using their Ultra Facial Oil-Free Cleanser. That + my Clarisonic has been a match made in heaven! I got my best dude friend using their stuff too. They also make really good zit creams, like their Blue Herbal Spot Treatment, and right now I’m trying out their Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution to help fade some of my scars. The best thing? If you go into their shop or even order online, you get free samples! – Marie

Tea tree oil
This is the best-feeling thing you can put on your skin. Holy cow. Using tea tree oil as an astringent calms and cools your skin, but be careful to not apply too much, because it will feel like it’s hailing snow bullets on your face for about half an hour. I recommend dampening a cotton round or washcloth, adding five or six drops of tea tree oil, then apply as a toner before moisturizing. Then you get the cooling goodness without the stinging. It’s a great acne treatment because it calms irritated skin and takes off the last layer of dirt and oil after you wash. Tea tree oil is not an oily substance, but a watery extract that also soothes sunburns and deodorizes your breath and makes you feel all tingly and wonderful before nighty time. —Dylan

Akne-Zyme (Derma-Klear)
I had hormonal acne (the kind that’s concentrated around your chin and is gross and hurts to the touch) into my early 30s, which was awful because I had wrinkles and pimples (grossest word) AT THE SAME TIME, and never enjoyed that magic moment when your skin is just perfect all the time, which I think is called your 20s. I would say “nothing worked for me until I tried Akne-Zyme,” but I feel like that is such a trope in these reviews that we all sound like we’re doing radio commercials: “I was ready to give up, then X product CHANGED MY LIFE.” But it’s true. I tried everything. And then Akne-Zyme changed my life. Or at least my face. I don’t remember how many of these enzyme pills I took a day, but I followed the instructions on the package. They are “natural” and appeal to my inner hippie. I took them for maybe three years? I panicked any time I ran out, because the zits would come right back. But then one day they stopped coming back. Because the best cure for acne is to just become really really old. —Anaheed

Cetaphil (Galderma Laboratories), fake Cetaphil, Acanya (Valeant), prescription toner pads, vitamins, green tea, clean livin’
I don’t like wearing foundation and powder, so I focus on keeping my skin bright and healthy au natural. Here’s how. Every morning I wash my mug with knock-off Cetaphil from Target, rinse it off with lukewarm H20, apply Acanya prescription gel to any bumps and flare-ups, and moisturize with Cetaphil lotion. Every other night, I exfoliate with these “RENEW” toner pads my skin doc’s office makes. I also stay away from booze and smokes, try to get as much sleep and healthy food to nourish my skin as possible, take my vitamins, drink green tea, and drink hot water with lemon all day to keep my skin hydrated, clear, and calm. Honestly, I invest a ton of energy and $$$ into keeping my skin happy. I love skincare so much that I would have become a dermatologist if I didn’t want to work as a writer and a feminist rabblerouser instead. —Jamia