Just want to start with a little disclaimer though... everybody's skin is different. Every body is different. Everyone's experience will be different but this is just how things have gone for me and I know that other sufferers can probably relate. Things that work for me may not work for you.
I am posting some photos in this blog to show the progress I have. This is really tough for me to put out there but now I'm in a better place I feel a bit better about doing it. Looking at these photos and talking about all this upsets me a lot.
Also, I'm going to do a second post about products I used that really help me out.
I started getting spots around 12/13. Puberty. It's expected that this will happen. This is what we're told. So whilst it was annoying, I kind of just accepted it. My skin was a bit oily and I got breakouts all the time.
I am now 24. I honestly cannot remember what my skin looks like without spots. I've not had clear skin in around 10 years. And that causes me so much upset.
Whilst we are told to expect to get spots as a teenager, we (I) was also told that a few years later, these huge breakouts would stop happening. I watched as my friends' skin was clearing up and mine seemed to be getting worse.
As I got to my late teens/early twenties, my acne got even worse. I was suffering with cystic acne. My face hurt, constantly. It hurt so much that I could barely touch it, even gently. I was going to bed and sobbing because I was in pain and I hated the way I looked. It made me not want to go outside. I hated meeting new people because I was so conscious that they'd just be staring at my face.
I used makeup as much as I could to cover up, but as you can see from the photos, they were very angry and so very difficult to disguise.
It was around this time that I found out I actually have a medical condition (which I don't want to talk about right now/probably ever) that is related to hormones. It's a common condition in women, but it does upset me to talk about, and one of the symptoms is, unfortunately, acne. Once I was diagnosed and found out that was probably a cause of my acne, I got even more upset because I thought I'd never get my skin to clear up.
I have tried everything. Literally everything. All the well known skincare brands that are targeted at spotty skin, tea tree skin care, all the stuff that says is for clearing skin - I have tried it. It didn't work. I was told about Quinoderm which is quite a strong cream you can get from the chemist that contains Benzoyl Peroxide, which IS known to help acne. It did help a little bit, for a short while, and then it stopped working. This seemed to happen with everything I tried. Products worked and my skin looked like it was improving and then my face would just erupt and the product no longer worked. It was incredibly deflating and demoralising.
At this point I was feeling so low. I just completely hated myself. I hated seeing my reflection and tried to avoid mirrors. I know that acne, and how it made me feel about myself, is one of the reasons that contributes to my depression. I was really struggling so I went to the doctors. I always feel like I'm wasting their time to go to the doctors for spots and I know that's how non-acne sufferers must see it too.
|At one of my worst points. August 2014. Been taking antibiotics for a month.|
I ended up being prescribed antibiotics (summer 2014). I hated the next 3 months even more. I had to take antibiotics 4 times a day for 3 months AND you had to have them so many hours before and after food. It meant that I ended up obsessively planning my days to the minute. Making sure I was taking the pills and eating at the times I should be to get the maximum success from them. It drove me a little crazy. The acne got so much worse in the first couple of weeks and I was distraught. I carried on with them though and it was around this time I discovered Caroline Hirons.
Caroline is a skincare expert and I spent so long reading everything she had written about acne and skincare routines. I was introduced to acid/exfoliating toners. Some skincare contains acids such as Glycolic and Salicylic which exfoliate the skin without using those awful beady scrubs, and they help to fight acne away. I am going to talk about products in a different post but on Caroline's recommendation I bought the Pixi Glow Tonic which contains 5% Glycolic Acid. I also tried to get a proper skincare routine together for the morning and evening, using the Glow Tonic in them. Since then I started really getting in to skincare and I was always researching things to use that would be suitable.
After 6 or so weeks of antibiotics I started to see a bit of a difference. The spots looked less sore and angry but at this point I wasn't sure if it was because of the medication of my new skincare. I completed the antibiotics after 3 months. I did see a difference by the end but I wasn't thrilled and I wasn't convinced they were the real reason my skin had a bit of improvement.
And then a couple months later I really broke out again. Every time new breakouts came, it just got more and more disheartening. People kept telling me that maybe I should get more antibiotics but I really didn't want to. Taking antibiotics for that long isn't good for you - there's a reason you only get them for up to 2 weeks when you need them.
So I kept on looking in to skincare and looking into investing in my skincare to get a few great products that would help. I tried a lot of stuff and I tried a lot of acid products which did help but then again... another breakout.
I constantly researched acne and ways to get rid of it and then around summer 2015 (a year after antibiotics) I started reading about how people have connected dairy products to acne and there was a lot of positive and successful stories of people who cut out dairy. I went for it. I planned it out for a bit because I knew it'd be hard and, as I did with antibiotics planning, I made sure I'd be as successful as possible by not even having anything with "may contain" and finding out what alternatives I could have. I went round the supermarkets before I started my month of being dairy free and made note of what I could eat. It was hard. Do you know how much stuff "may contain milk"?! A LOT. I switched to almond milk (which you get used to) and I had vegan cheese and butter. Tesco have a Free From range which I tried a lot of, however my local one didn't have much in the Dairy Free section. I was very strict about it and I kept at it. Not having chocolate for a month was a little tough, not going to lie. The results... I did see a bit of an improvement but again not as good as I hoped for. I always expect miracles even though I know I shouldn't. (I eat dairy again now, also.)
|Beginning and end of Dairy Free Month|
I did notice around this point that my spots weren't all that painful anymore and they also weren't all cystic as they previously had been. But my face just wasn't clearing at the rate I wanted.
Someone I know then told me about Pumkin Peels that she does. She recommends them for anti-ageing as well as to people with acne. She told me about other people she gives them too with acne and how their skin is looking much better so I went for it. (She is licensed and everything, by the way!)
The Pumpkin Peel uses glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids as well as pumpkin pulp to revitalise the skin surface. She cleanses my face thoroughly, puts the peel on for about 15 minutes, then it's cleaned off and she applies a serum and protection. The peel solution warms up once on the skin as it starts to work instantly. It feels like it's burning and is a little uncomfortable the first time but you get used to it. I didn't find it too unbearable but I am used to using glycolic products, too. I had them done in the evenings so that I could go to bed with the treatment products on my skin. After a couple of days I could already see a difference. I was thrilled. And it kept looking better each day. You can have the pumpkin peels every two weeks and she recommended I have 4 sessions and then I can just have them whenever I want. So that is what I did.
The improvement I saw after each one has been amazing. I constantly text her just saying "thank you". I've had 6 treatments since November last year. I had the 4 every two weeks then I had one in February and the 6th just this week. I'm now just going when I do get a breakout which she recommended and told me is the best way.
The peels, along with my skincare routine that I have now got down to something perfect for me and that works, has changed my life. I've had people tell me my skin looks great. I feel much more confident about it. I'm happy to go to the shops without makeup now, which I just couldn't do before. I only let my family and close friends see me without. And I didn't really enjoy doing that.
I still have a bit to go until it completely clears but my scarring and marks are starting to fade so I'm feeling much better about it all.
|Left: before getting 6th peel. | Right: 2 days after peel. Skin looks brighter acne patches more "calm"|
(Sorry not the greatest photos!)
I know that to people who have never really suffered from acne, that to get upset and so low about it seems ridiculous. But that's my face. That is what people see and that is all I can think about when I meet someone. We live in a society where looks are judged, harshly. Especially as a woman, the media makes us feel like there is one perfect way we should look. I don't look like that and it made me hate myself. It made me want to hide away because I was so ashamed of how I looked. I didn't have an ounce of self esteem.
I still struggle with my appearance and confidence, but now I've found something that works for me, things are looking up. I no longer want to rip my own face off because of how much pain it causes me.
It really makes me sad when I see people struggling with acne and then others dismiss it like "it's just a spot, we all get spots!" Yes, we do. But just getting a couple of spots every so often doesn't cause the amount of self loathing and strain on your mental health as having to deal with acne, especially for such a long time.
If you are reading this and you struggle, just know that there will be something out there that works for you. It may take a while to find. This way worked for me and if you have access to it, hopefully it works for you too. Keep your heads up. You are beautiful and strong and don't listen to the things you brain is telling you.