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How to heal cystic acne

How I Healed my Cystic Acne

I want to preface this blog by stating that I am not a Doctor. I am, however, a nurse and in this post, I am speaking solely on my personal experience.

My Skin’s Younger Years

As a teenager, I really never had an issue with acne. Every now and again, I would get a blemish or two during that time of the month. It would heal within a few days and I would go on with my life. I always felt bad for my friends who battled heavy acne and were left scarred. Both literally and figuratively.

During my teenage years, I really never got into makeup. There was no Instagram, Facebook or even Internet! For me, makeup was for special occasions and not for every day use. When I became a young mom, I did not have a lot of extra time – or money – to put into makeup. Additionally, my career path at that time was not existent. I had jobs. There was no need to look made up on the regular.

My Skin’s Mature Years

Fast forward thirty years as I progressed through my degrees and subsequent career, the need to maintain my professional demeanor and appearance grew. But then it happened. My face became a war zone. I was engaged in the battle for clear skin. There I was an adult woman with a professional career but with a face filled with painful bumps and dark red spots. It was debilitating. It was embarrassing. I felt helpless that my skin turned on me and there was nothing I could do.

My Symptoms

My symptoms came on suddenly. It was as if a switch was flipped within my body and my face paid the price. I would go to work in the AM with a clear face and within a few hours, I would feel pain. Sometimes it would throb. Sometimes the pain was upon touch. This pain was unlike any other pain I had ever experienced. It was deep. Like up against the bone deep. Many times it would also itch. Painful itches.

A working Mom's guide to cystic acne

I tried so hard not to touch the bumps but often it was incidental. For example, answering the phone or even eating or talking would activate the pain sensors. The cysts would come on so fast- within hours. The worst thing about them is that they would stay for weeks and months at a time. To the left is an awful, candid profile picture where you can see the acne. It was hard to even find this picture because I realized that I stopped taking pictures of myself.

I found it quite difficult to concentrate at work. If I was meeting a vendor or presenting to an audience, all I could think of was how bad my face my looked. I felt the pain with each syllable. I grew very self-conscious. Then I started to keep makeup with me at all times in an attempt to cover it up.

What is Cystic Acne?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (the AAD), a growing number of women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are suffering from this form of adult acne. Much of the research points to increased stress, family history, products used in makeup and skin care, medication side effects and fluctuation of hormones due to menopause or polycystic ovarian syndrome.

All forms of acne are some type of inflammation. Pores become blocked by oil, dirt, or even dead skin cells. This causes the typical, raised bump of a acne. There maybe some small infection involved when the head of the blemish develops into a whitehead or a visible pocket of pus. These may be uncomfortable and can be handled with topical treatments in most cases.

What sets cystic acne apart from regular acne is the depth at which the inflammation occurs in addition to the breadth of the infection. This is why it hurts so much. Think of it like a volcano – it may be small at the surface of the earth yet may have deep penetrating pockets of lava far below the earth’s crust. This is similar to cystic acne.

Additionally, cystic acne may never come to a head. This is because the infection pocket is so very deep. Instead, assuming you do not touch it, what you get is a very slow healing lesion. The top layer of the skin remains intact but you can visibly see the blood tinged pus as it starts drying out. This can take weeks to months to heal.

My Journey

Honestly my journey was a lot longer than what it should’ve been. I’m a nurse so I should know better than to put off healthcare.

One thing I have noticed about nurses (and perhaps moms) is that we put ourselves last. In the medical world, it’s a proverbial joke about nurses having many UTIs (urinary tract infections) because they must “hold their pee” since they’re too busy taking care of patients who may have UTIs. Always taking care of the needs of others.

When this first started occurring, I thought these were just really large blemishes and that they would go away on their own. Instead, they lingered and lingered. It would take months for these to heal and new ones kept forming. It didn’t matter the time of the month- every phase of my cycle was fair game.

I never had any experience with this type of acne so initially I was dumbfounded. I researched and researched and finally came upon the answer. During this time, I tried a lot of products. I even became a Sephora VIB Rouge member!

This list of things I tried included three types sulfur based over the counter medications, coconut oil, tea tree extract, salicylic acid based medication, benzoyl peroxide based medications, and a various amount of face washes and masks. Not to mention the makeup to cover it all up.

The list of things I tried was exhaustive and expensive! Finally, I gave in. There was absolutely nothing over the counter that would touch my face. Coming to the realization that I needed something to attack the acne at its deepest level, I called and got an appointment with a dermatologist.

The Dermatologist and Treatment Protocol

Dermatologist to heal cystic acne

Getting an appointment with the dermatologist took a while. All in all about 2 months from calling to the actual appointment. It was worth the wait- albeit I should have done it sooner. After my initial examination, we decided to move forward with an oral antibiotic and a topical cream consisting of a combination of a retinoid and benzoyl peroxide.

The decision to start a potentially lengthy treatment of oral antibiotics was not an easy one. According to the CDC, at least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria. Of these affected people, over 23,000 died as a direct result. Largely these resistant strains are the fallout from years of the over-utilization of antibiotics.

When it comes to antibiotics, it is usually best practice to start with a broad spectrum and hope that it is able to take care of the infection. the term broad spectrum just merely means that it is effective against a large variety of organisms. Only if these do not work or are not warranted for a specific organism, do you then move on to more advanced antibiotics.

The doctor started me on tetracycline. Not only does this medication have an antibiotic property but also it also has some anti inflammatory properties as well. This is a bonus when treating cystic acne. We began with a 3 month plan of this medication. But this didn’t last.

One of the side effects of tetracycline is dizziness. Boy did it hit me hard. I am not usually one to have a lot of side effects from medications so I really thought this would be an easy thing for me to take. The first day I took the medication, I felt like I was drunk. You know the type of drunk when you close your eyes, the world is spinning so fast you may puke? Yep. That kind of feeling. It was awful.

The dermatologist quickly changed my medication to minocycline which is a very close cousin to tetracycline. However, because of the slight chemical variation in its makeup, I was able to tolerate this antibiotic after a few days.

We coupled this antibiotic with a topical cream called Epiduo. It contains Adapalene which is very much like Vitamin A in that it helps skin renew itself quickly. Therefore, those red marks would disappear quicker. The other ingredient is benzoyl peroxide which has an antibacterial property to help keep the skin free of bacteria.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

During this time, I stopped all other over the counter treatments. I continued to wash my face with a gentle cleanser and follow up with a mild moisturizer (both cetaphil). Treatment continued for 9 months. My doctor really wanted me to stop after 6 months but I was having such good results, I begged for an extension.

Within the first month, the cysts were becoming fewer and fewer. The topical cream was helping to eradicate the red blotches and promote healing. Things were finally looking up!

This all took place about 5 years ago and I have been cystic acne free since. I get an occasional blemish every now and again due to my cycle and hormone fluctuations but these are usually small and heal easily.

The one residual effect on my face is that I have some areas of hypopigmentation where I was scarred from the cysts. Most times, my makeup hides the discoloration but in the summer it gets a little tricky if I am in the sun. These areas of my face do not tan at all.

These spots are the last reminders of what I went through. I am so glad it was just a season of my life. The most important take-away that I would like to impart is to make that appointment with the doctor sooner rather than later. Don’t tough it out and ignore your body. Don’t waste time and money trying all of the latest and greatest. Give yourself permission to put you first and take care of you. It is OK and necessary to do this!

If you like what you are reading, please feel free to share my blog with others! Here is a link to my Shopstyle Store and a link to A Working Mom’s Trendy Picks Instagram

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DIY 2019 Planner

My 2019 DIY “Planner”

Over the last few years, I have used a variety of planners and I am sure that I am not alone in this endeavor! We all hear the phrase ‘planner peace’ and debate about whether or not it really exists- right? I would like to not think so. I know that last statement sounds crazy but I love to try different systems and planners to help keep me organized. Also, I want there to be many options to match the different seasons of my life. So, this year, I am using a DIY planner.

In 2018, I used a combination of 2 different Erin Condren planners. First, I used the LifePlanner and then I tried out the hardbound LifePlanner. The issue I ran into with both of these is that they do not fit into my everyday bag. The coiled planner is short and squat while the hardbound is large and rigid. Additionally, I write a lot of lists and there just isn’t enough room in either planner to do this. Subsequently, I would also carry a small notebook.

Erin Condren Planners

What ‘DIY’ Planner am I using?

What I decided to try this year, is to use my favorite notebook and turn that into a DIY planner. My favorite notebook is the Markings Leatherette by C.R. Gibson. It is not too big, not too small. Its creamy pages are a joy to write on and it has a good ‘hand feel’ (if that makes any sense).

My ‘DIY’ Planner Set Up

I started by adding an index at the front of the leatherette followed by a 2019 year overview. I then added a tracker page and a key page to note the various meanings behind the colors I plan to use throughout the planner. Once that was in place, I added a monthly view on 2 pages for each of the 12 months. I wanted to group all of the months together because sometimes I need a lot of note pages and sometimes I don’t need any. It all depends on the season of my life I am in at the moment. Having the notes follow the calendars, allow me this flexibility.

My notes will be very free form. This is how I want it. I may include meal plans or shopping lists. I may have a list of ‘must haves’ or house projects I am working on. Each month may have 1 page of notes, 20 pages of notes or none at all. The point of this is that I want to be able to have it with me at all times without needing to upsize my bag or struggle to carry a second bag.

DIY Planner Monthly View

At the end of the notebook, I also started a few long term lists. These I will start at the last page and work backwards. I consider these more of year long lists. Here, I want to include quotes to remember, books I have read or want to read, and also places I want to go.

Why not Bullet Journaling?

You may be thinking this sounds an awful lot like bullet journaling. Yes, in a way. However, even that seems too structured. I tried it before and the series of symbols confuses me. I cannot draw or letter to save my life. As a matter of fact, my handwriting looks like that of a 3 year old! I end up feeling highly inadequate because I cannot draw cutsie tacos on Taco Tuesday! Also, the way a BUJO repeats the same format month after month, defeats the purpose of my flexible set up. I am trying to go for extreme flexibility and I do not want to deal with all the pomp and circumstance of a BUJO. Please don’t hate on me but I seriously do not need to track my mood every waking minute or track my location every time I pick up a penny!

DIY Planner 2019

So far, this set up is working for me. Albeit, it has only been eight days but it is functioning in just the capacity I need it to. What planner are you using for 2019? I would love to hear below!

If you like what you are reading, please feel free to share my blog with others!

Link to my Shopstyle Store and link to A Working Mom’s Trendy Picks Instagram

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Word of the year

My Word for the Year: Rebuild

I think everyone has heard of the Ali Edwards’ One Little Word project whereby you choose a word and embark on a crafty, self-discovery of oneself. Ali offers a class and some absolutely stunning products that can help you along your journey. Every month there are different prompts and activities to help guide you along the way. I have always been intrigued by this process but yet intimidated at the same time. So, this year, I decided to choose a word but not necessarily do “all the things”. This word is one by which I will approach life. It isn’t specific to one aspect of my life but yet it is the lens I will choose to look through for all aspects. That word is ‘Rebuild’.

Rebuild can mean so much to so many people. A quick Pinterest search will lead you to think that it is just about relationships or trust. Rebuild, however, is so much more to me.

In 2019, I plan to rebuild my career as 2018 really threw me off course. I had left a phenomenal job in 2016 for the hopes and promises that all came crashing down in 2018. That does something to a person. You start to doubt your intuition and doubt the path you chose. Rebuild is what I plan to do with my career and with the trust I have in my intuition. I know that I have a lot to offer and I just need to rebuild the parts of me that will help me get there.

I also plan to rebuild my circle of friends. Not going to a job five days a week, you spend a lot of time alone and start to be too comfortable alone. I need to get out there and open myself up to new opportunities. the more I stay inside my bubble, the more I will stay inside my bubble. I need to stretch myself and push outside of my comfort zone and reconnect with those around me and with those I have lost touch with.

Rebuild is also what I plan to do with how I approach fitness. I need to rebuild my strength and love of feeling my body move. Way back when, I danced from the age of 9 until 21. To this day, I still absolutely love to dance. I am thankful I don’t have close neighbors because my large windows make a great mirror when the right song comes on! At the age of 15, I joined a local Y and pumped iron. I spent many days actually having fun while working out. Back then, it was such an integral part of my life that it was something I just did. Every day. For the past few years – well maybe 20 – it has been thought of as somewhat of a chore. I don’t know how that mindset was changed or why. But I must rebuild my thought process around this.

I also want to rebuild my relationship with food. Food is a source of fuel for my body and should not in any way be a source of comfort. I am tired of the Yo-Yo-ing of my weight because I either cannot control my urge to eat everything in sight or I go the opposite and restrict so much that I say no to everything in sight. Neither of these extremes are healthy. I must be able to find a healthy balance using real food so that it is sustainable and realistic.

Word of the Year; Rebuild; A Working Mom's Guide
Is anything more calming than the ocean to help bring clarity?

Working on all of the above, will help me rebuild my confidence in myself and what I stand for as a person. It will help me repair the trust I have with my intuition and strengthen my resolve to be better, look better, and feel better.

What word will you choose for the New Year?

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Summer of Change

Typical Summers

I have been working since I was 15 y.o. with nothing more than a few weeks of vacation every year as a break.  The only extended chunk of time I ever had off was when I took the typical 6 or so weeks of maternity leave after having each of my kids.  Even then, especially as I grew in my career, there was still never a true feeling of ‘off time’ from work.   There was always some project or some deadline to think about.  Having a whole Summer off (and truly disconnect) is something I had often dreamed about but never thought possible.   Summers usually consisted of me or my husband driving our daughter to Summer day-camp, then going on about our daily grind: work.  There was no difference in our day to day between the seasons.  It was all the same: work.  I actually dreaded summers because it meant having to get up even earlier in order to bring my daughter to day-camp and have enough time to get to work on time.

This Summer, however,  was different.  Really different.

Summer of Change

You see, I have recently been through a significant life change.  For the first time in my life, I am not working.  Yes, my blog is entitled “a Working Mom’s Guide” but this is just a temporary season in my life- like Summer.  While I admit that the circumstance around me not having gainful employment is something that left me with constant self deprecating recordings that play over and over in my head, there was one bright light.  It gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate where my passion lies.  In addition, it has given me something more than any job could provide: endless time to devote to my family and a Summer of memory making that I and my daughter will forever remember.

We started the summer off on a softball high where my daughter and her U10 teammates celebrated a Division Championship.  Quickly, we transitioned into a softball summer camp.  It was four hours every day for 2 weeks and I was actually able to drive her to and from without having to rely on anyone else.  I was even able to watch and cheer her on from the stands during the exhibition part of the week.  Being so used to planning ten steps ahead or thinking about all the work that is due, this camp was the first time I came to the realization that I didn’t need to do any of that.  I actually got to live in that moment.

Fun Excursions

It’s not to say I wasn’t looking for work, I certainly was!  But when I wasn’t, I was planning for or on an excursion!  We went to the beach countless of times – I always had a beach bag packed and ready to go!  Living within a half hour from the ocean, it is a quick car ride to catch some waves and rays.  The summer before, I was only able to get to the beach once- maybe twice- so we certainly made up for it this year.

I was able to re-connect with an old friend.  This was something that I hadn’t been able to do or I just never made it a priority.  We went on a mountain excursion to see some beautiful falls and natural swimming holes.  The water was cool and crisp and the memories warm and amazing.

Ella and I then practiced a mother / daughter ‘camp out’ in our backyard.  We wanted to make sure we could set up our site on our own while in the comfort of our own yard.  It was a success! We then went on a 3 day camping trip with the aforementioned friend and her grandsons.  Can you say girlpower?   My daughter learned to pitch a tent, start a fire, and not rely on technology.  It was the best three days!

We traveled by train to Portland, Maine where we explored all the city had to offer.  In the past, I have always driven there by car so it was a super cool experience to travel by train.

We visited The Mystic Aquarium and the Mystic shops.  In addition, we were even able to explore downtown Mystic and see the drawbridge open!

We visited a local science center and learned about some of the amazing animals we have in our state.   Mini-golf was on the list as was being able to participate in 7-Eleven’s free slushy day!  I took her and her friends to the movies, out to lunch, to arcades, and they had several sleepovers! My daughter also had a few day trips with her friend’s families and left me to my own devices.  I took myself to a Sunflower festival and basked in their beauty.

Looking Back

As I reflect on the summer, it was all about reconnecting and grounding myself.  It is about realizing what is important and what deserves my time and attention.  It is about loyalty and realizing that friends and family deserve my loyalty over a place of employment.  I have realized this summer that  wherever my search takes me, I will be looking for that career to fit into my family and life.  I will not adjust my family and life for a career.

If I could give this summer a hashtag, it would truly be #bestsummerever!

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Easy Weeknight Meal: Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

You know when you have a busy week and cooking is the last thing you have time for? Well, this recipe is the perfect meal for those times! You see, it is not only easy but it is a very comforting easy weeknight recipe. The chicken and broccoli come together in this creamy yet tangy casserole sauce. This recipe does not use any cream soup but instead uses mayo as the base. The beauty of this recipe is that can take you 5 minutes to prepare or an hour to prepare and either way, it’s amazing.

Did I mention this is keto friendly as well? Oh yeah!

For the ingredients you will need:

  • 4 Cups of cooked and cubed chicken
    • 5 min prep: use a seasoned, rotisserie chicken
    • Longer prep: roast 4 chicken breasts at 350°F for 45 minutes
      • season these with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder
  • 4 cups of broccoli florets
    • 5 min prep: use previously frozen, thawed florets
    • Longer prep: toss broccoli with olive oil and salt, roast on a sheet pan in a single layer in 350°F oven for 30 – 35 minutes
  • 1/4 cup of bacon crumbles
  • 1/2 cup of mayo
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 splashes of Tabasco


Preheat oven to 350°F and spray a 9 x 13 pan with your favorite cooking spray.  For the sauce, mix the mayo and the milk together using a whisk.  I like my sauce a little more ‘saucy’ so if I find it too thick, I will add more milk.  Whisk in the spices and Tabasco.  Next, add bacon crumbles, chicken and broccoli.   Lastly, fold in the mozzarella cheese, reserving about 1/4 cup for the topping.  Now, regardless if you are using the seasoned rotisserie chicken or your own roasted chicken, add the additional spices listed in the recipe.  The spices that season the chicken will mostly remain adhered to the chicken.  The additional spices added to the sauce are necessary for the sauce.  Never be afraid to use your spices!


Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.  Bake for 35 minutes, until the top is slightly brown and the sauce is bubbling.  Let the casserole sit for about 10 minutes prior to serving.  This helps everything come together and also prevents burnt tongues.

My family really enjoys this easy weeknight meal.  I really enjoy it because of how super easy it is to prep and yet it tastes like I worked on it for hours.  The fact that it is keto friendly is also a bonus!  This recipe also lends itself very easily to doubling.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I and my family do!

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