Acne: My Journey and How I Manage It

The majority of people experience acne at some point in their life. I have been unfortunate enough to struggle with it from a young age. At 10 years old, spots began appearing on my face slowly, and then all at once.

Neither my dad or older sister ever had acne. My mom only got it at around age 30 when she started having kids, but it was never uncontrollable, and the unbalanced hormones explained it. This caused them to have little personal knowledge surrounding acne. I immediately became very self-conscious of my acne and wanted to cover it up. Unfortunately,, I was so young that makeup wasn’t an option. My fair complexion made the bright red spots pop and I was left with zero resources to fix it.

As a kid, I washed my face in the shower but never had a consistent skincare routine. I definitely wasn’t taking care of my skin, but at a young age, that was normal. The kids in my class didn’t have acne yet, and many adults looked at it as a part of growing up. It began to take a major toll on my self-confidence. I felt insecure and didn’t want to talk to new people because I was afraid all they would see was my acne. I was constantly reassured that it would go away once I was done going through puberty, but I continued to spend countless hours in front of the mirror picking at my face.

One summer I got poison ivy resulting in my arms and legs being covered in red itchy spots. I can remember visiting a family friend with my dad and them asking if it got it on my face too. My dad responded that it was just acne from being a teenager, but it shot my confidence to the ground. I started to obsess over my acne but wasn’t educated enough to do anything about it.

At 12, I begged my mom to get me Proactiv after seeing the commercial. I remember being so excited when I got the first box in the mail. I was sure it was going to solve all my acne problems. I used those chemicals religiously. The only thing that seemed to work was the overnight spot treatment. It brought my painful spots down in just a few hours but did not prevent new spots. I used Proactiv for about a year and saw little to no difference, so I gave up. I started my period at this time, and other kids began getting acne as well, so I accepted what everyone had told me ---it was my period and unbalanced hormones causing my acne. Once I accepted this, my confidence actually went up as more spots appeared: while they were still painful, at least I wasn’t the only one struggling with this.

I was put on oral contraceptives at age 16 for an irregular menstrual cycle. The birth control also began to help with my acne: most of the spots on my back and chest cleared up immediately, and my face followed quickly behind.

At 18 I still had spots here and there, but they were nowhere near as bad as they were as a kid, so I didn’t mind. However, as I became an adult and more educated, I decided to give some much-needed attention to my health. I went to my doctor and asked to go off oral contraceptives and get some blood work done. I had to wait three months for blood work and my acne reappeared almost immediately, along with those negative feelings that I had as a kid. I started looking closer at my peers’ faces and saw that they too had acne, mind you less than I did, but I hadn’t noticed it before. I was so focused on my own acne that I didn’t realize the people I see on a weekly basis had it as well, which means there’s a good chance they didn’t notice mine either. This boosted my confidence in a major way.

I then decided that it was most likely my diet causing my acne. I did the 28 Day Reset by Blogilates (https://www.blogilates.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/2017_28_Day_Reset_...). I cut out dairy, gluten, added sugar, processed food, and alcohol for 28 days. I had read a lot online about how your diet affects your acne, so I put a lot of faith into this food plan, as I had done with Proactiv as a teenager. I was then going to slowly reintroduce these items one at a time back into my diet and figure out what was causing my acne. Throughout the 28 days, my acne got worse. I was devastated and very confused. If my diet hadn’t caused my acne, I had no other ideas. I began trying different skin routines: some intricate and impossible to stick to, and others as simple as a drug store face wash. No matter what combination of products I used, or how much money I spent, my acne would not change.

I went to my doctor and asked if there was anything else I could do, and she prescribed me a medicated gel that apparently worked very well. I used a very small amount the first time and had no irritation, so I used as directed the following week. I woke up with major burns on my face in the three spots I put the medication. The spots were like snakeskin, with scabs constantly peeling. Because the spots were so dry, any makeup I used would stick to and enhance the red areas. I was mortified and refused to leave the house without doing my best to cover it. The icing on the cake was that my spots were now underneath the burns.

After my blood work came back, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: the same thing my sister had been diagnosed with eight years prior. The high levels of testosterone in my body were causing my acne, and the only solution that made sense for myself was going back on oral contraceptives.

I have come to accept that I will always have spots here and there. I went to Lush and talked to an employee about my acne history, the burns on my face, and my experience with medicated products. As Lush is all natural, I felt very confident trying their products. The employee helped me find the perfect face wash (9 to 5), toner (Eau Roma Water), and moisturizer (Imperialis) for me. My skin began to glow due to the much-needed hydration I was finally getting. After three months, my burns began to go away, and I switched from Lush’s Imperialis moisturizer to Celestial from Lush to get more hydration in a thinner consistency.

A combination of natural products and oral contraceptives help keep my acne under control now, and for the first time in years I have gotten compliments on my skin and feel comfortable leaving the house with no makeup on. My only regret is waiting so long to get professional help and living with my acne even though I knew something wasn’t right. I still deal with breakouts regularly, especially around my period. However, I am no longer held back by my acne as I know I am doing everything I can to take care of my skin.