Carlos' severe acne made him feel desperate. These nine budget skincare products helped.

At 16, Carlos Herrejon hated going to school because of his cystic acne. He thought about it most days, and the angry, red blemishes covering his cheeks and jawline were painful to touch.

“My acne affected me greatly in [year 10] of high school when it was at its worst. It’s really hard showing up to a school full of 2,000 judging teenagers with a face covered in acne,” he told Mamamia.

“It really knocks your self esteem down, even if you are a confident person. I remember when I was breaking out like crazy, I was so desperate. I can say I read around 100 articles on skincare and what you could do to clear your skin up.”

So eight months ago, after trying various treatments without success, the high school student decided to do something different. After doing his research, Herrejon came up with a nine-step skincare routine to treat his acne.

“The process of healing [my skin] was extremely hard. You get to the point where, after trying out lots of products, you don’t know if your routine will even work so all you can do is hope for the best,” he explained.

Thankfully, those nine products – none of which cost over $35 – helped Herrejon completely clear up his skin in under a year.

The results speak for themselves.


He shared his before and after photos on Instagram, detailing the exact order he used the products, and why.

Here’s his arsenal of go-to acne-clearing products.

1. COSRX Low-pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, $15.

how to treat adult acne
Image: Nudie Glow.

Herrejon uses this Korean-made, mildly acid cleanser with a 5-6 pH level in the morning to help balance his face's pH levels.

The product claims it is "formulated on botanical skim-purifying ingredients and mild acids, is gentle on the skin supple and makes skin supple and clear without stripping skin's natural oils, leaving skin hydrated all day long".

2. MARIO BADESCU Acne Facial Cleanser, $22.

how to treat adult acne
Image: Mecca.

For washing off the day, Herrejon opts for the MARIO BADESCU Acne Facial Cleanser at night, which is "super gentle" and "smells great". It's available here in Australia at MECCA.

3. Lumene Klassikko Refreshing Toner.

how to treat teen acne
Image: Lumene.

Next came toner. He finds the Lumene Klassikko Refreshing Toner is "very gentle for my skin and seems to get the job done".

Sadly for us, it's not available in Australia, BUT Mamamia's Executive Editor and former Cosmopolitan Beauty Editor Leigh Campbell loves the Neutrogena Alcohol-Free Toner, which you can pick up at Priceline for $11.

4. MARIO BADESCU Glycolic Acid Toner, $26.

Image: Mecca.

Herrejon uses a separate toner at night. This one contains two per cent glycolic acid, which is also great for acne scarring.

This product claims to "tone your way to more radiant, glowing skin with glycolic acid and grapefruit extract, both Alpha-hydroxy acids, working together to exfoliate and refresh dry, clogged skin."

 5. Art Natural Vitamin C Serum, $11.

how to treat teen acne
Image: Amazon.

After cleansing and toning in the morning, Herrejon next applies the vitamin C serum to help fade his hyperpigmentation (patches of skin become darker in colour than the normal surrounding skin).

Aussies can buy the 100 per cent natural, paraben and cruelty-free product on Amazon.

6. MARIO BADESCU Whitening Mask, $35.


how to treat teen acne
Image: Mecca.

This one's the priciest product of the lot at $35, but Herrejon finds it's the only face mask he's used that gets results for his skin.

The white clay-based mask helps to brighten the complexion and gives a pep to dull skin, gently reducing the look of old acne scars and discolourations from the sun with ingredients like kojic acid, liquorice and mulberry. It also contains no alpha hydroxy acids, making it safe for acne erupted skin.

7. Elf Daily Hydration Moisturiser, $22.

how to treat teen acne
Image: Adore.

"I use the Elf moisturiser in the mornings to keep my face hydrated, it smells good and is super lightweight," he said of his everyday moisturiser.

The hydrating cream is "infused with purified water and complemented by a combination of vitamin E, jojoba, aloe vera, shea butter and cucumber leaving skin healthy and glowing". The website also claims the moisturiser is suitable for normal to dry skin types, and formulated without parabens, sulphates or phthalates.

8. Advanced Clinicals Collagen Skin Rescue Lotion, $9.


how to treat teen acne
Image: Amazon.

Herrejon uses this professional-grade moisturiser at night. he said, "even though it's super thick, it really does rescue your skin."

You can also pick up this product on Amazon.

9. Ultra Sheer Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF30, $17.

how to treat teen acne
Image: Priceline.

Lastly, Herrejon uses this Neutrogena sunscreen everyday to protect his fragile skin from sunburn (often treating acne can leave skin more vulnerable to sun damage than usual).

This specific product is great for acne-prone skin, as it's non-comedogenic (won't clog pores), and Oil-Free and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) free.

Listen: Have you noticed that everyone is obsessed with skincare at the moment? Mia Freedman thinks she knows why. (Post continues after audio...)

Yep, it's a lot.

Incorporating so many products into your skincare routine takes discipline and consistency, which is the only way many acne sufferers can achieve results. Herrejon was also very clear about the fact using these products alone wasn't a magical cure for his cystic acne.

"Replacing your pillow case with a fresh one every week is essential, not picking your pimples or touching your face at all is key too, and I also learned stress and lack of sleep contribute to your acne. [I find] it's good to rest around eight hours daily and not stress too much. Exercising was another thing that helped me clear my skin up," he said.

"However, out of all these tips, the one that helped me the most personally was my diet. I cut out all dairy products and switched to alternatives. I started drinking almost a gallon (almost four litres) of water daily, especially me because I'm active and live in a dry area. I started consuming greens every day, like spinach and broccoli. And lastly, I cut down on red meat. This is when I saw the most drastic change."

For Herrejon, healing his skin has changed his life in so many ways beyond his appearance.

"I have relatively clear skin. However, I still struggle with acne and I'm still learning how to keep my face at it's best. Now that I have clearer skin, it really boosts your confidence and you stop worrying about what people think," he said.

"It's true when people say, you feel your best when you look your best."

The above product recommendations are a result of Herrejon's personal experience, and are not to be substituted for professional medical advice.

Have you tried any of these products to treat acne before? What did you find worked best for you?