Acne Journey

I first started experiencing acne when I was about 12. I was in the first year at my first high school when the intrusive lumps started to painfully form under my skin. By the end of the week, these painful lumps would transform into red marks on my skin. Not only was my face affected but so were my shoulders and back. I was only a few months into this experience when I was ushered to the doctors by my family due to large boils that were becoming more common on my back.

I was given a topical medication that burned when I put it on. I often had to have some help when trying to apply this to my back. Its smell was strong and burned my nose as it was applied. My eyes sometimes watered as the substance clung to my cheeks. I went through this routine for a few months. Three bottles in with no results I stopped applying it. It was meant to have worked by now and my eyes had done enough watering.

The boils, at least, had subsided. Small spots remained.

The closest I have been to spot free in years…

I moved schools and the people there were less welcoming when it came to acne. I remember telling several people in my second year at school that my spots were due to a shampoo allergy. Why no-one questioned me four years on when the spots were still there I will never know. Surely I would have changed shampoo brands by then?

Even so, I would like to think that I handled my appearance well. I tried at various points to get really into makeup like my peers. It didn’t work. I knew that I could try to cover my spots but that I wouldn’t have the motivation or desire to put makeup on every day. I also am quite frugal when it comes to my money spending habits and couldn’t justify putting so much money towards my skin. The few times I did wear make-up, you could easily see that I had problematic skin due to the large foundation coloured lumps protruding from various points on my face. I didn’t see the point.

Over the years I tried tea-tree face wash. Face scrubs. Special face masks. Changing my pillow cases often. Washing my face twice a day with plain water. Witch hazel. Sudocrem. Cleansing. Moisturising. Washing my face only once a day with plain water. Tumeric shots. Multi-vitamins. Washing my face twice a day with face wash. Cutting out chocolate. Cutting out milk. Cutting out dairy in general. Washing my face only once a day with face wash. Trying not to ever touch my face. Sunbeds.

I got to age 18 (one month shy of 19) living a mostly makeup free life. I’d pop on mascara a couple days a week and if I had a date or something else fancy I’d even go through the effort of putting lip-gloss on. LIPGLOSS! However, one month before my 19th birthday I started my new role as a care assistant at a local care home. Things went a little downhill for my self-confidence here.

Makeup free on a trip to Newcastle

I want to point out that I work with dementia patients who, in no way, mean any harm or upset to me or anyone around them. I also do not blame them, resent them or have any negative feelings towards them as a result of my confidence issues and never will. But anyway, I often had residents say things like “I know it’s you because of your spots” and one dear old lady each day would stroke my face and ask “what happened?”, “have you burned yourself?”, “have you cut yourself?” and “does it hurt?”. So, one week into my new role I went and purchased some Maybelline Dream BB Cream and it saved my life.

I applied it every day before work and the comments stopped much to my relief. My workplace is also full of mirrors – by the office door, by the kitchen door, in the lift, in the upstairs corridor, in every bathroom and by the laundry cupboard. Therefore, avoiding my face became pretty difficult. I didn’t realise how little I saw my own face until I started seeing it all the time. Sure, there were times where I didn’t have time to put my BB cream on before work and I took that day ‘on the chin’ so to speak. That specific BB cream had salicylic acid in it which helped my spots a great deal. They would dry out and clear up much faster than before. Sadly, I struggle to find that specific BB cream. It’s still listed on Amazon but for double and triple the price. If anyone knows where I could get it or a similar product I would greatly appreciate it!

*Cue small fond work memory*
A few months into my role the same dear old lady as mentioned above, bless her soul, stroked my cheeks and beamed a huge smile at me and said: “it’s getting better!” I almost cried. Mainly because her dementia was quite bad and I felt honoured that she knew who I was – even if she did associate who I was with my spot ridden skin. Her optimism was, and is, valued.

I’m not going to talk much more about makeup as I’m saving that for another post. I’ll continue with the latest update on my acne journey.

I returned to my doctors about 10 months ago. I explained that I was hoping to have grown out of my spots by now. I explained that most people I knew either had already had spots that had completely cleared or they were just starting to get them now whereas I have had them consistently for 7 (at the time) years now. I was referred to dermatology and given some antibiotics to take in the meantime as well as two creams – one for the morning and one for the night. Three months in I had a review where I stated there had been no change. I was given more of the same. I was also asked to restart my contraceptive in preparation for my dermatology appointment (again, more on that in another post).

My dermatology appointment finally rolled around in January 2018. I was given a quick glance at my shoulders and my cheeks were inspected. I was asked what I use of on my face (see the above extensive list) and told to use something different. I’m currently using Cetaphil. I have a review in May.

I’m 2 months in and see no change. I sit here typing this while an uncomfortable pressure sits on my shoulder blade due to my pillow resting on a new boil (they’re back). As I type I keep glancing in the mirror that is sitting directly across from my bed. Each time I do I see the two new very large spots on my left cheek. The mirror is quite far away and it’s also very dark which only highlights their size.

I hope to include some pictures in order to document this journey properly. As well as to allow future me, who will hopefully be spot free, to look back at what her skin was like and, therefore, appreciate the new clear skin even more. If I do include pictures you may wonder what the fuss is about. Usually when acne or something similar is googled images flock up of people who have no clear skin present on their face except for maybe their eyelids. I understand that there are people out there with much worse cases of acne than me. It doesn’t matter, to me, how abundant the spots are. What matters is how my confidence is affected as a result. Eight years is an awfully long time. I couldn’t even tell you what my face looks like without spots because I can’t imagine it. The last time I was spot free I was prepubescent in primary school.

11-year-old Amy with clear skin!

The next step, I think, is Roaccutane. I will find out in May. I will keep you all, and future me, updated.

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