Monday, May 2, 2016

My Acne Story

First, I should state that I am not a professional dermatologist, aesthetician or anything of the sort. This blog post is simply a recount of my experience with acne, a lead in to future acne related posts and should be treated as such. Also, this is going to be long, and it's going to contain some very unattractive pictures that I originally never planned to see the light of day. I apologize in advance for my face.

My story of how I "cured" my hormonal adult acne (w/ before and after pics)

Prior to age 24, I never in my life imagined a life with acne. I thought I had been blessed with perfect skin forever. With the exception of a rare blemish here & there, I had pretty much flawless skin. I never wore makeup and my “skin care” consisted of washing my face with water. Once in the 8th grade, a classmate even went as far as touching my face because she couldn’t believe that I wasn’t wearing makeup. She clearly had no respect for personal space. 

But some time in 2007, after I had turned 24 and was in my last year of college (yes, I was a slacker), my face decided it hated me and adult acne reared its ugly head. Maybe it was stress, although I don’t particularly remember feeling stressed, but it was my final year and I was constantly pulling late nights in the lab and library… so you never know.

But I do remember the progression exactly, it started on one cheek. Huge, red, inflamed cysts appeared out of nowhere. Then after a couple weeks, it traveled to the other cheek and in stayed in just those two areas... during that time. But, I was pretty much devastated, and very embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to see me.

I had never felt uglier.

I don’t remember exactly what I tried at first, I’m sure some over the counter face washes, then Proactive, which didn’t work for me at all. After a few months of trial and all sorts of errors, I finally visited a local esthetician who changed my world. She used IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) treatment on my face twice a week for 8 weeks. Then once the acne was pretty much gone, we switched to microdermabrasion and retin-a. I was even able to take my graduation portraits with smooth skin. My skin wasn’t perfect, but it was 95% better. And I was a lot broker.

And then I graduated and moved to Atlanta.

Once I had settled in Atlanta, I no longer had access to my wonderful esthetician and my skin started reverting. I started getting blemishes again but nothing close to the huge, red, cystic acne I had in the past. So again, I started experimenting with different over the counter face washes, treatments, and moisturizers. I switched my foundation up time and time again, trying to find that perfect cover up.

After some frustration I decided to visit a dermatologist. He told me I needed Accutane. I did not need Accutane. That plus his cold beside manner, told me to just leave his office and never return.

That frustration led to more trial and error, more money spent on different products. I had tried pretty much everything from low end products to high end. Probably several thousands of dollars spent at this point, and I was only 2 years into my “skin care journey”. I was able to kind of “manage” my skin up that this point, but I still wasn't happy. I had some good days but lots of bad days. And I never felt comfortable without makeup.

Then in 2011 a friend asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, I said yes and immediately started worrying about my face. Could I have clear skin by the time her wedding came around? I wasn’t sure but I was going to try. So I decided to try a dermatologist once again. The new dermatologist was much more pleasant and she ended up prescribing me antibiotics along with some topical treatments and face washes. After about 3 months, my skin was clearing up and I was able to look decent for my friend's wedding - with makeup, of course.

But shortly after the antiobiotics stopped working, and my skin had erupted worse then ever before.

At that point, it was year 5 of living with acne, so I should have finally had it under control. But I didn't. It was now all over my face, and it was ugly, inflamed, and painful. PAINFUL. I basically hid from the world as best I could for several months, maybe a year, because I didn't want anyone to see me. I had a friend who would try to tell me it was just skin, which only made me want to punch him in the face. When your skin actually causes you physical pain, having someone tell you it’s "just skin" feels really insulting.

I should also mention  I was under a lot of stress during this time period, for reasons, which I'm sure was not helping my situation at all.

The only lucky thing about this time period is that I was working from home 90% of the time. Because of that I was able to hide out at home, whilst binge ordering skincare product after product online. I’m sure I made it worse, before it even remotely started getting better. I tried everything. I was receiving packages several times a month. Basically the only person allowed to see me was the UPS man. And now, I’m sure the overuse of products was only harming me, but at that time, I was desperate.

I tried everything. I even went as far as having my dentist remove all of the metal fillings from my teeth, because I read somewhere that the mercury in those old metal fillings could cause acne. I'm still not sure if that's true or not, but I'm sure it didn't hurt to get them removed. 

It wasn’t until I decided to go gentle and as natural as possible with my skin care that things started to turn around for me.

No more harsh treatments. No more chemicals.

I started off with the The Body Shop Tea Tree line (cleanser, toner and oil) and finally started to see some relief. My skin wasn’t as inflamed and the acne wasn’t multiplying like it was previously. I was finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

I also tried several different supplements and found one that really works for me.

Below are some pictures from that first initial year (I still can't believe I'm posting these on the internet), from left to right:

11/2012: My skin basically when it was at it's worst
12/2012: After one month of using a gentler skin care routine + taking a skin supplement
12/2013: After one year of using a gentler skin care routine + taking a daily supplement + eating cleaner

Acne Before and After

After achieving some great progress from The Body Shop line, I decided that I wanted to start trying all natural products. My goal was to use only the most gentle products on my skin that I could find. I researched, read blogs, scoured Etsy for handmade products. I concentrated on tea tree as an ingredient, but then I started looking to see what other natural ingredients could benefit my skin. One of my favorites is activated charcoal, which I make sure is the main ingredient in my face soap.

I attribute all of my success to lifestyle changes: converting to a minimal, natural skin care routine, supplementing and eating cleaner (cutting out those fast/processed foods).

Now in 2016, I’m no where near where I was before that first onset of acne in 2007, but I'm also almost 10 years older. I no longer feel the need to hide my face or wear makeup. I feel attractive again. I do still get some spots here and there, mainly during that time of the month or if I've been binge eating chocolate (eesh). But overall I really feel like I've gotten a handle on the situation.

This is me current day (April 2016) on what I consider a "bad day". But even this bad day feels pretty good to me.
My story of how I "cured" my hormonal adult acne (w/ before and after pics)

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