It takes a particular talent to make acne genuinely funny. But if anyone can nail it, it’s Caroline Goldfarb. The multihyphenate wears a lot of hats—by day she’s a TV writer for shows like The Late Late Show, Chad and Mindy Kaling’s upcoming The Sex Lives of College Girls; on the side she runs the canned fish company Fishwife and is behind one of the most beloved humor accounts on Instagram, @officialseanpenn.
But she came into my orbit as the cohost of beauty podcast Glowing Up, where her descriptions of her skin-care struggles were both painfully relatable and the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. That being said, the podcast isn’t all laughs; Goldfarb has been open about the mental toll acne can take as well.
“I feel like people don’t understand how detrimental it can be to your mental health, and how much it can weigh on you,” Goldfarb tells Glamour. “True acne sufferers know—when you wake up and look in the mirror, and the face that looks back is not what you want to see. It’s covered in pimples, and no matter how hard you try, it won’t go away. You can’t shake that. I’ve cried so many times looking at myself in the mirror.”
Goldfarb’s acne journey is as classic as it comes. She started breaking out around 13 years old, and armed with way less skin-care knowledge than teens have today, threw every drying product the drugstore had to offer at the problem. When she was 15, her dad—who had also dealt with acne—took her to his dermatologist, where she was prescribed topical after topical. “I just felt totally lost,” she says. “I remember going to the dermatologist and they’d be like, ‘Have we given you this one? Have we given you the Clindamycin?’ I started to learn the names of these things and associate them with failing my skin.”
After exhausting all her options, she tried Accutane for the first of three times. “Accutane is a miracle drug,” she says. “All the side effects are true—my lips were crazy dry, my butthole was dry, it was just a nightmare. But it worked.” Unfortunately, though, Goldfarb said the results were temporary, and after a year or two of clear skin, her breakouts returned in her early 20s, moving from her forehead to her jawline.
After trying product after product, she went back to Accutane, where, again, she had great skin for a few years, only for acne to come back in her late 20s. This time Goldfarb was determined to find a more consistent routine, and luckily she has the help of the internet this time. After years of scouring Reddit and following K-beauty bloggers, she’s settled on a streamlined routine that works.
“I’m proud and happy to say it feels more manageable,” she says. “I still have flare-ups, but I do feel like I’m somewhat more in control. I can wake up and look in the mirror like, Yes, I still have pimples here and there, but it’s just like a much more manageable beast. I’m so fed up with my skin, but I’m also still accepting of the way it is. It’s still a journey. I’m 31 years old, and I’m still working on it.”
Below, Goldfarb shares what’s currently keeping her skin happy.
I have to moisturize every night, I just have it so ingrained in me that sometimes your skin will actually overproduce oil if you’re not adequately moisturized. I’m sure a lot of people will relate—I’ve tried drying my skin out, and that doesn’t really work. So now if I go to bed without moisturizer, that’s the one thing I feel naked without. I use this K-beauty product, the Purito Centella Green Level Recovery Cream. It’s really light and doesn’t clog my pores, and has a lot of centella in it. I’ve used it religiously for years; it’s a great product.
My free trick
I love ice. I get a lot of deep, under-the-skin, big pimples. They’re scary. You can’t tame them—you can put a spot treatment on them, but let’s be honest, it’s going to take weeks to go away. So if my hands just want to touch it, and I want to keep fiddling with it, I take a little ice cube and hold it over the spot in a round of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. It really does bring down the swelling, it brings down the redness, and I did something actionable that might improve the situation.
The same way I feel like I fucked up if I don’t moisturize, I feel even more fucked up if I don’t wash my face at least once or twice a day. I don’t always wash my face in the morning, but at night I do a double cleanse. The first cleanser takes off the oil and the sunscreen, and then going in with that second cleanse just gets my face feeling clean. Doing my proper cleanse really makes my skin feel good. I use the Banilla Clean It Zero Purifying for my first; I like it better than any high-end oils I’ve tried. And then my favorite cleanser is the Neogen Green Tea Foaming Cleanser. It just is really nice on my skin. I always need to feel clean—I don’t want a moisturizing cleanser that leaves a film. This one makes me feel clean, but not tight or dry.
Differin is something that I’ve been incorporating like two or three times a week, whenever I can remember to use it. It hasn’t totally stopped my acne, but it really does help me manage my hormonal acne. I know it’s a science-backed product, and it helps with anti-acne and antiaging, and it’s affordable. I will use Differin for as long as I can; it’s really helped my skin.
My LED light
This is less affordable, but I really like the LightStim, which is a little blue light. It’s proven to help with acne, and with any inflammation. If I have deep pimples or I’m having a breakout on my jawline area, I find using it calms and heals my active pimples, and it’s supposed to prevent breakouts by eliminating acne-causing bacteria. Especially when I have those pimples that nothing seems to help, this just feels like something I can do where it’s calming it and bringing it down.
I use the Elta MD UV Clear Sunscreen every single day, and I also use the tinted kind. That gives me a little tint, and it covers my post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which I always have some of. It has niacinamide in it, which is my number one ingredient that I look for in all skin care—it helps with everything from active pimples to pigmentation. It doesn’t break me out, and I can’t recommend that sunscreen enough.
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty writer at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.