With every YouTube video now featuring ads for FaceTune, magazines photoshopping models to be unrecognisable and Instagram accounts showing a curated feed of selfies largely, in part, to a multitude of editing apps, it’s not hard to internalise imperfections. This has been particularly true for me over the past few years when it comes to my skin. With 95% of people aged between 11-30, at some point, according to the NHS, it’s affecting more of us than we let on. Heavy duty concealer can cover only so much before we’re all turning to more effective methods of ‘cures’ whether that’s skincare, over the counter or going to a dermatologist.
Now, with acne, the skincare industry has cottoned onto the fact we all want rid of it. The products make huge claims about what they can bring you – whether it will get rid of your acne, wrinkles, cellulite, you name it, they think their product will fix it. Don’t get me wrong, I bought into it too for an awful long time. It was like I was on Supermarket Sweep the way I carried on sometimes, and whilst some cleared it up more than others (FYI- Dermalogica did try it’s best for me and if you’re suffering from occasional breakouts, I do think this is a great range to try) nothing ever actually did anything long term to ‘fix’ my acne. Any photos you’ve seen of me is either good lighting, lots of heavy duty makeup or taken on a good day – there’s a number of photos where all I concentrated on was the spots and so I never posted. That’s just me though, I’ve been following some Instagram accounts lately that chronicle their acne journey and it is really inspiring to see their confidence and makes me question why it dented mine so badly.
I’ve had acne to various degrees over the years, starting when I was about 20 and cocky enough to think I’d swerved teen acne. No no, let’s give it to her in her 20s they cried – along with an allergy or two for extra funsies. Back when I didn’t realise dairy was a no-go for me, I did have acne up my cheeks along with on my chest and back. I’ve spoken about this before so I won’t bore you, but it wasn’t a good time and I used to wear three layers of heavy duty Double Wear foundation every night out. Like Elsa from Frozen, I’ve been concealing not feeling for many years.
But, at the ripe old age of 26, my chin acne wasn’t going no where. It did bounce around the area and was actually really sore. This has been going on for a number of years (again, to various degrees) until one day, my dad said that my skin was looking bad again and I cried for 40 minutes before deciding to see a proper dermatologist about it. If you’ve never had acne, you might think it an extreme reaction and roll your eyes at what you may perceive as a minuscule problem. It’s all relative I’m aware, but the reality is that it’s on your face, it makes you self conscious and it can really affect your confidence. Popping out of bed (ok.. zombie dragging myself out of bed) every morning the first thing I would do was to check on the state of my skin. That would be the determining factor of whether I’d have a good day or not.
I tried a few things at the dermatologist – weeks upon weeks on Epiduo, a topical treatment was first. This burned my fucking skin off. That’s pretty much a summary. Pretty agonising, it bleached my favourite jumper, my skin peeled off until I just wanted to bathe in moisturiser and overall, for me, didn’t work. I know it does clear up lots of peoples skin though so don’t let me put you off. I used this once a day then twice a day when it wasn’t working.
Then there was Spironalactane. It’s a water retention drug that is used off-license to treat women with acne because it blocks testosterone to try balance hormones and therefore rid acne (it’s more complex than this but I’m not a doctor so God knows the science.) Balancing my hormones turned me into a complete nutter for a few weeks, my moods were all over the shop and the vast majority of these I admit weren’t great. A long 10 weeks for everyone who knew me I’ve been told (gently of course, no one wanted to poke the bear.)
Finally, I came a’knocking on Roaccutanes door. Where it was waiting for me, cockily, swizzing round in it’s chair and remarking, “I’ve been expecting you.” I’d had a bit of a nervy b leading up to going on the drug. It’s got some not so great side affects and really is a last resort drug. I’d tried pretty much everything before this, as listed above, also including regular extraction facials, but since it was affecting how I felt about myself so much and I didn’t want acne for another day, I decided to just get on with it and hopefully put the issue to bed once and for all.
I’m now over half way through the course. I stress that I’m not medically trained so I wouldn’t want to go against the research that professionals have done on it and therefore I can only speak from my limited experience, but the side effects I’ve had so far are so worth the results I’m already seeing in my skin. I’m not diminishing the power and side affects of the drug but I do think the internet has demonised it and made it into something that’s super frightening to take. You have to take it under the watchful eye of the dermatologist so it’s really important you do discuss side effects with them – especially if you are seeing an altered mental state whilst on the drug. Apart from the mental health aspect, buckle up for some dry skin and keep your eyes on the prize – clear skin.
A few things you need to be aware of before you start? You can’t get pregnant whilst you’re on the tablets – everyone is really serious about this point because it would be really damaging to a fetus if you fell pregnant whilst on or shortly after the drug, so you’ll need to take a monthly pregnancy test and be on dual contraception. Now, apparently my personality doesn’t count as a form of contraception, so you will need to sort that before you go if you haven’t already. Sun exposure, he told me, affects 1/3 of users, so if you are going away this summer, it’s worth buying a big hat and wearing covered up clothing. I considered waiting to begin treatment until winter but then when your skin is dry during the colder months, and so it would be more uncomfortable and drying anyway, so in the end I decided I may as well start now and just deal with it.
So far, my side effects have been manageable. I’m as dry as an old boot which at times is really sore and in all honesty, not to sound like a mega whiner but I wore a cashmere jumper to a meeting the other day and almost gnawed my own arm off it itched so much against the fabric. My lips have been the worst so far, they are really tight and dry, almost as if I’ve grazed them by falling on pavement, but I’ve been obsessively applying multiple lip balms to try keep them from cracking because once they’re cracked you’re fucked basically. Sorry for swearing mum but honestly, I’m going through lip balms at a rate of knots. I’ve also got some cuts on my ‘biceps’ (inverted commas because honestly, my arms are noodles I have no muscle) and when I went to London last weekend, shoes normally comfortable absolutely shredded my feet apart because my skin is so thin and weak with no oil in it.
But the results dear reader, the results. They’re unparalleled with anything I’ve tried before and that’s for all over my bod. (Past attempts to cure acne also include: the disastrous time my mum walked into the bathroom after I’d tried to scrub the blackheads off my face in a Lady Macbeth style frenzy but only achieved rubbing my skin off my face. Doh.) Pores have gone a little strange in texture, almost orange peel like so it has been a went a little strange for a few days – almost orange peel like, so I’ve been adjusting my makeup accordingly to try and even out this texture. I’ve been told it’s swelling in the muscle in my cheek and hopefully will go down following treatment. But, my God is it all worth it when you wake up and do a little dance in the mirror at the death of the spots on your face day by day.
I’ll keep you updated with progress – If you got this far in my word vomit, keep your fingers crossed my skin doesn’t dry out so much I resemble the Sahara.