How Reddit came together to crowd-source a skin care routine for an autistic teen

Redditors in the Skincare Addiction community banded together to offer acne-clearing advice for Alec Ross-Smith, a teen with autism. (Photos: Callie Ross-Smith)
Redditors in the Skincare Addiction community banded together to offer acne-clearing advice for Alec Ross-Smith, a teen with autism. (Photos: Callie Ross-Smith)

When we think of “friendly places on the internet,” Reddit isn’t exactly the first site that comes to mind. But inside the beauty lovers’ community called Skincare Addiction, anonymous strangers often come together to help build skin care routines or tackle skin concerns for others. They may be anonymous on the internet, but at SkinCare Addiction, they all have one thing in common: a love of skin care. This week, the forum banded together to help out 16-year-old Alec Ross-Smith, a teen with autism who is also dealing with acne.

Callie Ross-Smith, Alec’s sister, wrote in to Skincare Addiction asking for help in developing a simple, acne-clearing routine that would keep in mind her brother’s needs. “I’m hoping this supportive community can help create a simple routine for him to do, as he gets teased already so much at school,” she wrote in her post. The SCA subreddit already thrives on meeting specific skin care needs. But for Alec, all hands on deck responded to curate a meaningful regimen.

“I went to SCA because the traditional approach of a dermatologist just wasn’t going to cut it with my brother’s skin and his special needs,” Callie, who resides in the San Francisco area, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “In almost all cases, a dermatologist is a great person to turn to to help with severe acne, but for my brother the traditional methods of fighting acne such as topicals just weren’t working.” A dermatologist had prescribed an oral antibiotic, which worked to clear acne but interacted poorly with his anxiety and seizure medications. When they asked the dermatologist for a different solution, Callie explains, “he wasn’t sure what to do with us.”

“I was getting so frustrated because nothing that should be working with him was working with him,” Callie says. Enter SCA. “I figured if SCA could help me with my acne in the past, I bet they would love a challenge from my brother. Everyone is always so nice on there, and I thought I could trust that particular community to be nice and not hateful towards my brother’s predicament. I was right.” Responses poured in, and commenters expressed support while doing what they do best — recommending skin care products.

“Not only did I get responses from your typical SCA user, many people on the autism spectrum responded, parents responded, and siblings like myself responded. My family and I were so touched by people’s willingness to help a total stranger,” she says.

Here’s what the thread came up with for Alec’s skin: a morning facial cleanse with water, followed by Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes and CeraVe tub moisturizer or First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Face Moisturizer. In the evening, he’ll use the wipes and moisturizer again to cleanse before bed. But that’s not all; there’s also a long-term plan in place. Eventually, he’ll transition into a gentle jelly cleanser, and in six weeks, they plan to add Stridex to the mix.

SkinCare Addiction is popular in the online beauty community for its supportive advice and helpful hacks. Redditors come to the forum with questions on specific routines, like developing a skin care routine for a husband. Grooming newbies also come to the boards for advice like “a basic routine for most people with average skin.” There are even tips on how to evaluate your existing routine before trying anything new.

For the Ross-Smith siblings, the forum has been a supportive place to start Alec on a new skin track, or, as beauty lovers would call it, “a skin journey.” Callie’s goal is clear skin, but she also wants her brother to feel the confidence that comes from self-care. “I hope at the very least that all of his active acne will be healed, and that his skin will be at least a bit more moisturized and protected from future breakouts,” she says. “My end goal really from this, though, for Alec as a person, is for him to learn a bit more on how to take care of himself. I feel like when people see that he respects himself, people will respect him.”

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