11 September 2018

My Skin Story

I've had acne since I was ten years old. At least, that's the first time I remember going to see my GP about my skin. He prescribed me with some cream to apply each night and sent me on my way. At that age, my only concerns were playing out with my friends and wondering if Zoey would end up with Chase on Zoey 101. My skin was the last thing on my mind. It was only when I got to high school that it became more of an issue.

High School is nasty. Kids are nasty.
I was bullied because of my skin. I remember sitting in English and having girls ask, 'why is your skin so spotty?' and sometimes lads would ask me on dates as a joke. I had all the usual name calling that you'd associate with acne, 'pizza face', 'greasy face', 'crater face' etc but I learned to deal with it. At thirteen, my Mum was referring to my spots as 'teenager spots' and told me that they'd go when I was older.

Fast forward to Sixth Form and my skin was at its worst. I went back to my GP and was prescribed various creams but they didn't work. He then decided to put me on the contraceptive pill. It was called co-cyprindol and I was taking it for just over two years, including my first year of university. It was dreadful. My skin got progressively worse, I gained quite a lot of weight and my mental health deteriorated. I had to go and see my GP every three months and each time, he told me that he'd refer me to see a dermatologist. He never did.

Here's a photo of me and my parents in my flat when I first moved in. As you can see, the blemishes all over my cheeks are barely coverable with makeup. I'll be honest, I was ashamed. I expressed my concerns to people and they reassured me saying, 'don't worry, it's not the first thing people will notice about you.' I believed this for a while until a drama lecturer told me that I'd never get a job in the arts with 'skin like that'. I have never been more aware of my acne than I was in that moment. That was when I went into complete meltdown.

I came off the pill and my skin started to improve. I tried every branded cream, soap, scrub and facial wash and some products helped, but my confidence was at a complete low. Throughout uni, my skin changed - sometimes I'd go weeks with blemishes that were coverable with makeup, other times, not even a full coverage foundation/concealer would help.

In February 2018 I decided it was time to sort my skin out once and for all. I couldn't understand why everyone had such perfect skin and I didn't. No one seemed to understand. This year was a big year in terms of social events. I had a Leavers Ball, my 21st and my Graduation. I wanted my skin to be clear. I wanted to be able to stand in front of a camera and not feel self-conscious or wonder how I was going to edit my blemishes out. I just wanted to love myself again.

The First GP Visit

I went to visit my GP in February of this year. I walked into the room makeup-less and sat opposite a lovely woman with a kind, smiling face. I'll be honest, I sat there and cried. I told her everything; how disgusting I felt, all the remarks that had been made and that all I wanted was to have clear skin for graduation. She nodded as I spoke, jotting down everything that I said. Finally, I thought someone was listening.  

'We've given you everything we could possibly prescribe you, I think the best thing for us to do is refer you to a dermatologist,' she said. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then she started flicking through my medical records and her face dropped.

 'You should've been referred to see a dermatologist three years ago.'

She shook her head and began to apologise, all these years of confidence issues and self-doubt could have been sorted three years ago.  It took her five minutes to write my referral to the dermatology department at the hospital and she promised me that things would get sorted. There was just one problem, a fourteen-week waiting list. 

Why I Chose To Go Private

I went home to my parents with a prescription for Epi-duo, a cream I had previously been prescribed but hadn't worked. I told them about the fourteen-week waiting list and like me, they were shocked. Fourteen weeks. Four months to wait for a consultation and only four months until graduation. It was clear I didn't have the time to wait. 

We started to look at private dermatologists and came across the dermatology department at a private hospital just ten minutes from our house. I'll be honest, private treatment is on the pricier side and I'm incredibly fortunate to be able to afford to have this kind of treatment. After much deliberation, I rang to inquire and was given an appointment the following week. There's no way I could stand the fourteen-week wait. It got to a point where I was avoiding going out with friends. I was desperate.

My First Dermatologist Appointment

On the day of my first appointment, I was terrified because I didn't know what to expect. My name was called, I walked into the room and immediately felt at ease. My dermatologist spoke so softly and was incredibly gentle and understanding. I instantly trusted him. He asked me loads of questions such as how long I'd been suffering from acne and the different products that I'd tried, even though I think he already knew. I told him that my ideal situation would be to have clear skin for my 21st in June and my graduation in July.  He then examined my skin with a huge light up magnifying glass and told me that my acne was moderate. 

He said that he could put me on antibiotics but there's no guarantee that they would work and because I was on such a short timescale, the only answer to my problems was Roaccutane.   It wasn't the answer I wanted but the answer I expected. Nevertheless, I was willing to give it a try. 

Then Things Changed...

The next morning I went for a blood test to check if I'd be able to take the Roaccutane and to decide my dosage. The following week, I sat back in the same chair and discussed my options with my dermatologist.  I'd spent the week researching Roaccutane and I'd scared myself. For each good experience, there was a bad one. I read about the drastic effect it has not only on your body but on your skin. I wasn't sure I'd be able to cope. 

My dermatologist could see how scared I was so he suggested that I start on the antibiotics and then if they don't work, we know that Roaccutane is a definite last resort. He prescribed me with Doxycycline (antibiotics) and Differin cream to be applied each night before bed. Then, he told me I was to go back and see him every 2 months. 

March 2018

Wow, I never thought that sharing this photo on the internet would make me so nervous.
Here is a photo of my skin at the beginning of March before I started any treatment. As you can see, my cheeks and chin are covered in red, angry spots. This was taken straight after washing my face. It was these particular photos that pushed me to go and see my GP because I was so, so unhappy. 

After taking Doxycycline and using Differin for a week I saw some minor improvements. My spots weren't as inflamed and I had minimal side effects from the tablets. I made sure to use SPF on my face each morning as both treatments can have bad reactions to excessive sunlight exposure and I tried to keep my skincare routine as simple as possible. So far, so good. 

After Two Weeks

As you'll all know, I'm a researcher. I like to know what I'm putting in my body and what I can do to prevent the nasty side effects. I'd read that my skin would get worse before it got better and during the first month, it did just that. In the second week of treatment, my skin was purging. It pushed all the badness out and even though I knew this was going to happen, I was slowly losing faith in the tablets. I needed to learn that a miracle wasn't going to happen overnight. With any skin treatment, patience is key. 

After a month, my spots had reduced dramatically. The scarring was slowly clearing up and I was happy with my progress. However, I knew there was still a long way to go. 

2 - 3 Months

Two months into treatment and I was feeling more confident about my appearance. My acne was coverable with makeup and my spots weren't as aggressive as they used to be. I went back to see my dermatologist and he asked me to rate my skin on a scale of 1 to 10. I rated it a 5. He prescribed me with another two months of tablets and told me that this would be the month of big changes. 

The next month, I turned 21 and I couldn't believe just how clear my skin was. My spots had virtually disappeared and the only thing left was scarring. I remember looking in the mirror on my 21st birthday and crying, it was the best birthday present I could've asked for. The people around me started to notice my confidence coming back, which was a beautiful thing to hear, and I was slowly wearing less makeup. 

July - August

The past two months have been unbelievable.
I'm actually getting a little bit emotional writing this because it's a true reflection of my skin journey over this past year and I'm really proud of how much it has improved. If you would've told me in March that I would have clear skin for my graduation, I would've laughed at you. In July, I graduated with skin that I was happy with. I had my official photos taken without worrying about blemishes and it felt amazing.

In August I felt confident enough to go out without makeup on and strangers started to compliment me on my 'glowy skin', something I never thought could happen. I cannot believe how happy I am with how my skin looks and I will never be able to thank my dermatologist for the confidence he's given me.

So, What Did I learn?

There have been times throughout my treatment where I felt lonely like no one could ever understand how much acne knocked my confidence. Acne isn't just spots. It's not because someone doesn't wash their face or eats too much chocolate. Acne is a real medical condition and the sooner it starts being treated like that, the better. 

Two of my inspirations, so to speak, throughout my skin journey have been Georgia Toffolo and Em Ford.  A few weeks prior to my first appointment, I watched a segment on This Morning in which Toff spoke about her struggles with acne and for the first time, I felt like someone understood. Then, I watched Em's video about her struggles with acne and I felt proud. I felt so proud of the little blemishes dotted over my skin and the scars they leave behind. 

If anything, I've learned to be proud of who I am. I've learned that so many beautiful women suffer from acne and that it doesn't mean we're any less beautiful. I look at people like Georgia and Em and think they're absolutely stunning, so why am I not beautiful because I have acne too? My acne doesn't define me and the minute I stopped letting it control who I was and how I felt, my confidence started to grow. 

This is nerve-wracking for me to post but I feel like it's important to share photos of acne prone skin. It's incredibly frowned upon in the media and we need to change the attitude towards people with acne. When do you ever see a girl with acne modelling for Rimmel? Benefit? Urban Decay? You don't. Because people perceive acne to be an imperfection when in reality, it shows true beauty. I wish I would have realised this sooner. 

I'm due to go for my next (and hopefully final) dermatologist appointment in two weeks!
Have you suffered from acne?
If you have any questions on products or skin treatments then send them my way. 

We need to break that horrible stigma surrounding acne and embrace our imperfections. 

Lots of Love,


No comments

Post a comment

Blogger Template Created by pipdig