First-year Sophie Tarditi applies her daily skincare routine. Tarditi said she has found that The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% has helped heal her acne. Photo courtesy of Sophie Tarditi
The struggles of acne, scarring, eczema and other skin conditions unite a large group of Pepperdine students.
Seventy-five percent of Seaver students said they have dealt with acne in their life and 41% said it has followed them into adulthood, according to a Pepp Post poll of 64 responses.
“It definitely does not help your mental health,” said first-year Abbey Kunz. “It’s not like I wake up in the morning, look at my acne and go, ‘Damn, yes!’”
As college-aged students enter adulthood, many said they are finding ways to clear their skin and reach healthy levels of confidence in their appearance. Some students are rigorously adopting daily skincare routines, trying prescribed medicine or using natural herbs and ingredients.
First-year Sophie Tarditi said she has been interested in skincare since she was 13 years old. She has struggled with cystic acne, the most serious form of acne when cysts form under the skin.
“Last year, my skin was doing really bad,” Tarditi said. “I had a bunch of acne all over the hollows of my face and my mom said, ‘OK, we have to fix this somehow,’ so I started doing research.”
First-year Olivia Borchert has dealt with severe cystic acne and has been seeing a dermatologist for about five years.
At 17 years old, Borchert said she couldn’t take the pain anymore and started Accutane.
“At softball practice, even if my coach just threw a ball at me and I missed it, I would tear up,” Borchert said. “That was really difficult for me to handle.”
Kunz said she has atopic dermatitis, or eczema, which causes rashes on the skin. She started getting acne in fifth grade and has struggled with it ever since.
“When I was in middle school, I used to cover up in scarves and long sleeves because my neck was so bad, just moving would hurt,” Kunz said.
Solutions and Skincare Regimens
As students put down the pencil at the end of the day, they are picking up products to clear their acne. As they try to find the path to healing, they said they are exploring different skincare options.
Tarditi has had laser treatments and performs a skincare routine every day: serums at night and face masks every week.
“I have been a lot more consistent with my skincare routine and making sure that my skin looks good because I also have two roommates and I don’t want them to see me with a bunch of acne,” Tarditi said.
Tarditi said she uses a CeraVe cleanser to remove all her makeup, Ponds to moisturize, and then serums from The Ordinary. She also uses a peeling solution from The Ordinary once per week to remove dead skin.
“My skin is dry, but then when I put on creams, my face is super oily, so I can’t really find that perfect in-between,” Tarditi said.
Kunz said she has a daily skincare routine but feels the need to change it up every month because her skin will get used to products and stop improving.
Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Jeanette Black said this is common in college-aged patients who think there is no way to heal, applying product after product.
“The treatment approach is very tailored to the individual,” Black said. “The best advice I could give to anyone is to see a board-certified dermatologist before you waste a lot of your own time and money.”
Many students said the cost of skincare makes them hesitant about trying new products, and it seems as if the cost only keeps going up. Tarditi said her Ordinary products have helped heal her skin and range from $7 to $10.
Along with skincare routines, many students said they have found healing through Accutane.
Accutane is a prescription drug that Black said shrinks the sebaceous glands to become less acne-prone once off the medication. She administers the medicine in rounds that usually last up to six months. The dosage depends on multiple aspects, such as the weight and acne of the patient.
“Accutane is a very unique medicine in that after a course of Accutane, if it’s dosed correctly and taken correctly, it can permanently change the nature of your skin,” Black said. “There are not a lot of things in medicine that can do that.”
Black said some side effects include dryer skin and, if the women were to become pregnant on Accutane, it could cause birth defects. Doctors monitor the patient’s blood and test for pregnancy every month. After finishing the Accutane, it takes about a month to leave one’s system.
Even though Borchert said Accutane has proven to have cleared her skin, it is a process that takes a lot of time and money, and it has emotional side effects.
“I wouldn’t recommend Accutane to anyone unless you have tried absolutely everything you can,” Borchert said.
Even though Borchert said Accutane has proven to have cleared her skin, it is a process that takes a lot of time, money and an emotional toll.
First-year Taryn Navia said she has always struggled with severely dry skin and wasn’t interested in skincare. But after doing research, she realized her cracking skin was leading to breakouts.
Navia said she gets a lot of her skincare online from a Korean company called April Skin. She said she prefers its more natural products, including a carrot cleanser and a rice toner.
“My face is a lot more clear but not perfect because we are still teenagers,” Navia said. “I’m at a point where I’m like, ‘Why does it matter? Everyone our age has acne problems, I don’t get why I should feel self-conscious about it; it is natural.’”
Holistic treatment is another option students said they want to explore more, especially since it is more plentiful in the Malibu area. Roughly 73% of students polled said they have or they would like to explore the more holistic path.
Infographic by Beth Gonzales
Balfour said she treats patients with all different skin issues and her approach is to heal the skin while taking the whole body into account.
She said her practice includes drinking herbal teas to treat the skin from the inside and to get the liver and its hormonal secretions back on track.
“We are analyzing the lesions of the skin in order to choose herbs,” Balfour said. “You put them into a formula, but you are never looking at the skin alone. The group of herbs takes the whole person into account and treats patterns of imbalance that are all interconnected.”
Balfour said treatment is individualized rather than a ‘one size fits all’ prescription.
She also said the look of someone’s skin reveals a lot of what is going on internally and the best advice is to see a specialist, no matter the age of the patient.
“The most important thing to know is that there is more than one path to healing,” Balfour said.
Since starting college, Tarditi said her “stress breakouts” have been under control and she thinks her motivation to take off her makeup every night and lay off sugary snacks has helped.
Tarditi is still trying to find frugal options to deal with the issues that remain.
“I have a bunch of acne scars that are definitely really visible, and that is something that I’m still a little insecure about,” Tarditi said. “I want to try to find some sort of treatment that will help take those away, but I know those can definitely be permanent, so that is something I am going to have to live with. I definitely could go out and not wear makeup and be completely fine now — that is a big improvement.”
Cutting out as much dairy as possible, applying sunscreen, using creams by The Ordinary, Jane Iredale dermatologist-tested makeup and the shot Dupixent for her eczema are what Kunz said has been finding her relief.
“Since me and my mom started taking the shot, it has gotten much better and I don’t have as many problems with my skin,” Kunz said.
During quarantine, Borchert said her cystic acne started flaring up, so she decided to go on her second round of Accutane. She is on her fourth month now and said it cleared up faster than ever before. She said her skin is now glowing.
“I wouldn’t have decided to do it if I didn’t think it would have an effect on my emotional and mental state of mind,” Borchert said. “I am a big believer in ‘If you look good, you feel good.’”
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