Acne Education #1 - My Journey


When I started this blog, one of the things I really wanted to post about was this little four-lettered word that can have a big impact on how you view yourself: acne. Acne is horrible. You feel ugly. You lose self-confidence. You ask "why me"? You wonder why everyone around you has lovely, clear, pimple-free skin while you're stuck with these disgusting red bumps and leftover scars. If you have acne, you're not alone, cupcake. Trust me, I've been there too. And so have many others.

So, I thought I would start a series of posts dedicated to acne (what it is, why we get it, and how to treat zits and the redness/marks/scarring it leaves behind) in the hope that I will help at least one person rid themselves of this horrible thing we all wish didn't exist.

In this post, I'll start with my journey so you can get a better understanding of what I've been through in terms of my skin.

Here goes...

Although I have never had acne as such, I have had problem skin. It all began during that lovely pre-teen/early teen period where your body is changing internally and externally. During that time of the month, I would get a few (excruciatingly painful) spots, mainly on my forehead. But other than that, I generally had nice, smooth skin. When I was about 14, it got so bad (still only on my forehead) that mum put me on a vitamin A cream called Retin-A. After a few months of use, my forehead significantly improved, so I continued to use it. By the time I was 16, the whiteheads and blackheads were setting up camp on my face, mainly on my nose and chin: the result of my slightly oily skin and use of the wrong makeup. At this stage, I began using Retin-A on my entire face. It helped somewhat but still didn't give me the result I was looking for. 

When I began university, mum discovered Benzoyl Peroxide (5%), and so I began using that in place of Retin-A. All it did was make my skin dehydrated and irritated. So, I moved down to the 2.5%, which was less irritating. I believe I was using a Thursday Plantation tea tree something-or-other at that time as well. But I was still getting pimples. By December, my face looked like a pizza (Merry Christmas, Carissa!) and at that point I had become almost depressed over my skin. I decided that if my skin didn't significantly clear up before I went back to school, with my strict regime of Benzoyl Peroxide (BP), I was going to see my doctor. BP did in fact clear out all of my blocked pores (whiteheads and blackheads) but those nasty, hormonal, sometimes-almost-cystic pimples just didn't want to scram. So, off to the doctor I went.

After consulting my GP, I had two choices. Option one: antibiotics that will make me feel tired and gross, killing all of my good bacteria meaning my diet will largely consist of yoghurt and that I can only be on for a maximum of three months anyway, or option two: the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) where I can say goodbye to PMS, hello to glowing skin, and regulate those pesky hormones. I chose option two (it was/is purely for my skin, I promise) because we agreed that the cause was hormonal.

The first OCP prescribed to me was Valette. I was on it for seven months. During that time, my skin was flaring up even more. Now I was getting zits in places I wasn't getting them before, including my chest. I thought that maybe it was just an initial breakout due to so many hormones floating around inside my body. I waited and waited and waited some more. Nothing. No improvement. I was preoccupied with my skin more than ever before, and I cried (literally) with every new addition to the family of red bumps. At the seven month mark, I decided that it was time to go back to the doctor.

The next one I tried was Yasmin and I was also given a cream called Differin (similar to Retin-A) to put on my most problematic areas in conjunction with BP, which were my cheeks at the time. Within three months, my face was finally starting to look how I wanted it to. And now I am so happy with it. It's still not quite where I want it to be but it has improved by 90 per cent.

By no means am I saying that you should start taking the pill tomorrow, or to begin my regime. The pill is an option of last resort and there are so many things to try beforehand. Treating acne is complicated and requires an understanding of what it actually is, which is what we'll look at next time.

If you have any questions, you can leave a comment or feel free to email or message me on Twitter.