Kate | 32 | U.K.
Acne started for me when I was twenty-seven. I still remember I was at a family wedding and I could feel pulsating in my jaw line. In the following days, months and years; all hell had broken loose on my face.
Now I must say I didn’t go from lovely clear skin to cystic acne over-night; although this is how it felt. Up until that wedding, I did have the odd menstrual cycle spot pop up here and there but nothing a bit of Clearasil face wash couldn’t handle!
So, for the first four years of having cystic acne I really didn’t know what I was doing. I quickly became obsessed with daily hours spent googling acne cures, acne treatments, acne coverup and everything else acne related. I would watch video after video late at night on YouTube of how to conceal my unsightly bumps and how to clean my face properly (I had convinced myself that I wasn’t cleaning my face right!)
One of the silliest things I have done is buy a pair of exfoliating body gloves to scrub my face with. My face quickly became red, inflamed, sore and dry. But I didn’t think for one minute the gloves were the cause. I thought although my skin was so angry I could see progress; so, a carried on with my twice daily regime of scrubbing my ‘dirty’ face raw.
Eventually I visited a GP who sent me away with an antibiotic called Lymecycline and topical creams. I took the antibiotics and applied the creams for two solid years but saw no progress. Each time I returned to the doctors; they told me to give it more time to work.
Towards the end of those two years I had heard of Accutane and how it had helped so many other people. I was convinced this was the answer.
After a four month wait to see a dermatologist; the day finally came in December 2014. He barely looked up from his computer screen and quickly sent me packing; armed with my ‘cure’.
My body had never felt so foreign to me. I got disturbed vision, nose bleeds, cramps in my muscles, serious insomnia and constant mood swings. The final straw came when I couldn’t even walk down the stairs. My legs completely seized.
It was only the next day I saw the prescribing nurse to whom I told the situation to. Her response: “that’s normal”. She then doubled my dosage.
In that moment of her totally disregarding my health; I realised that I was just a patient number and she was just doing her job of giving out prescriptions.
I stopped Accutane that day and promised myself that I would take no more medication to clear my acne.
In the beginning, my skincare was a simple tea tree face wash and moisturiser. I was too scared to put anything else on it apart from my makeup; in fear of making the situation worse.
For a long time, I thought I needed a skin peel or microdermabrasion which I’ve done both over active acne. Obviously neither of them worked.
I have tried so many things including facial steaming, derma rolling, raw honey masks, tea tree essential oil the list really is endless.
In reality I had no real skincare routine in place at all.
My lowest points through my journey so far have often been on days when I have felt that my skin actually looks ok but you realise other people see you differently.
- My son- he looked up at me and said “why do you have purple lumps on your face?’
- Strangers- they ask if I’d tried washing my face or tell me to wear less make up as it’s clogging my pores. (I’ve never been someone who wears lots of make up.)
- Professionals- I went to an appointment with my partner once he was having a small skin tag removed, over the other side of the room was a LED mask, I didn’t say anything about myself. I just asked if the masks were any good and the lady treating my partner turned around and said “oh I was looking at you face, I think it would be good for you”.
- My mum- she often tells me what I am doing is probably upsetting my skin and to revert to what I was doing before the cystic acne came up.
I’ve had times through the last six years where acne has left me feeling completely broken which sounds ridiculous to write, I mean at the end of the day it isn’t life threatening in any way it is only spots! But the impact it’s had on me has been huge.
I feel as though it has changed me as a person.
I was always fairly confident but acne has destroyed my confidence. I feel like everyone is looking at my bumpy face. I do this stupid thing where I feel the need to bring it up in a conversation first so people don’t catch me off guard because when they bring it up it can easily make me cry.
I’ve avoided nights out with friends and family events for fear of being photographed or under ‘bad lighting’ that will highlight what I am trying to hide.
The change in me came in November 2017. I knew I was getting married ten months later and I thought enough was enough I needed to take control again.
The first thing I changed was my skincare. I decided to go with dermalogica after reading such good reviews- I’ve since added a few products from The Ordinary. These products work so well for me.
I also removed dairy from my diet. Very soon after this, I came across a post on Facebook, that post belonged to Joanna. So, with my mindset change and Joanna’s group and frequent posts I started to feel less alone.
As her group grew and people started chatting about their experiences; my knowledge started to grow with it. I started researching other possible causes to my acne. These last seven months, I have learnt so much but I still have so much more to learn.
I’ve started doing much more research on nutrition and how I’m fuelling my body.
Things have slowly started to make sense to me and what is going on with me internally. I worked out for myself that I have PCOS; luckily for me have already had children.
I managed to get the GP to send me for an ultrasound which confirmed my suspicions. I’m still waiting on an appointment with the gynaecologist but I’m getting myself totally prepared for it. I’ve already had massive diet over haul and exercising five times per week. I have also managed to persuade the GP to test my hormones levels before I go to the gyno so that doesn’t delay any treatment I may need. Fingers crossed!
So PCOS is my root cause, it is something that I would have been born with but all my symptoms were suppressed due to contraception (which I started at fourteen due to experiencing very heavy menstrual cycles and serious cramping).
The reason my acne flared up at twenty-seven is because I change to the copper coil for contraception which has no synthetic hormones whatsoever. I decided that I did not want the synthetic hormones back in my body after realising and that I need to deal with the problem not conceal it.
I’m still that girl who wears a small amount of foundation to the gym but my view of myself is getting better and better every day and I’m feeling more positive about my future; knowing that very soon that the active acne will be a thing of my past.
As with everything in life; it is only temporary.
I was once told:
We face the obstacles in life that we are strong enough to overcome. If we are not strong enough to overcome them; they would not have come our way.