How This Product Cocktail Cleared Up My Skin Overnight

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
I recently woke up with a constellation of whiteheads and cysts on my cheeks so intense that I thought for a second I had time-traveled back to my own adolescence. Unfortunately for my face, I hadn't. It was real.
I wasn't really sure what caused my breakout, so to be safe, I took precautions to ensure I didn't accidentally make it worse: I changed my pillowcase, cleaned my cell-phone screen, and washed my makeup brushes. Then, I solemnly swore to the goddess of dermatology that I wouldn't pop my new crop of frenemies (even though I really, really wanted to).
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Preventative measures thus taken, it was time for a game plan. I treated the problem areas with a strategic cocktail of products and, to my relief, woke up the next day with my breakout cleared up. There were pink marks where huge zits had been. I'd say it was a miracle — but it wasn't. It required a lot of effort.
I didn't consult a skin-care expert before developing this recipe for my face, but according to celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas, I actually did the right thing — which explains the effectiveness. When I told her my method, she assured me, "This is a very proactive approach, and you used products that work well together. This combination of treatments is much better than just picking at a pimple and causing a mark."
So, now that I've gotten the seal of approval, I feel like I can share my cocktail with you all. Ahead, what I did to clear up my skin and why it worked so well.
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I used this activated-charcoal mask as a spot treatment for about 15 minutes in the morning. Activated charcoal is highly absorbent, so it sucks the gunk out of pores like nobody's business.

Origins Clear Improvement, $24, available at Origins.
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After gently washing off the activated charcoal, I used a Q-tip to apply tea tree oil over the blemishes. This oil is very drying, which is why it helps get rid of whiteheads, and it also has antiseptic properties. After this dried, I put on my makeup and went to work.

Jāsön Tea Tree Oil, $11.49, available at Walgreens.
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At the end of the day, I washed my face with Eve Lom's cleansing balm, which is super-gentle but still gets all the dirt and makeup off.

Eve Lom Cleanser, $50, available at DermStore.
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I then applied a generous layer of this mask, which is one of my regular go-tos for any kind of skin emergency. It's deep-cleansing, exfoliating, and soothing all at once, with clay, almonds, camphor, and honey. I washed it off after 20 minutes, revealing brighter, happier skin.

Eve Lom Rescue Mask, $50, available at Sephora.
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After washing off the mask, I applied a coat of this salicylic serum on my whole face. Salicylic acid is great for acne because it targets the zits while soothing the skin. I followed it with a gentle moisturizer, said a prayer, and went to bed.

You already know how this story ends: I woke up zit-free and happy, only wearing a light, tinted moisturizer the next day rather than my usual foundation. So, the next time my face decides it's going to become the Adirondack Mountains, I've got my battle plan in place.

Do you have an overnight skin-care miracle regimen you swear by? Share the wealth in the comments below.

Estēe Lauder Clear Difference Serum, $54, available at Estēe Lauder.
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