Acne and me: The story so far

Just a little heads up that this post is from my old blog and was written around 3 years ago. A lot has changed since then, and I’ve since successfully cleared my acne (and seriously improved my writing skills). It’s probably still worth a read if you’re experiencing acne, though!

Teenage acne… and “you wear too much makeup!”


Since I was around 15 I’ve struggled with acne. It started off just a few spots here and there. I remember my entire family telling me not to worry; that it was a teenage thing and it was the norm.

They were right of course – most, if not all, teenagers will experience some form of acne while they’re growing up. During puberty, the body produces more androgens, which makes the skin produce more oil and consequently block the pores. This normally settles down though. Note: normally.

I spent my my teenage years scrubbing at my face with anything I could possibly find. I’d pick up each and every product in Boots which claimed to help spots and I’d wake up 2 hours early for school in order to pack concealer and powder onto my skin.


Most people didn’t actually realise the extent of my skin problem – because I was just so good at covering it up! I was so terrified of people seeing my skin, that I would say I was borderline obsessed with covering up my face. Every night, I felt disgusted at myself when I took my makeup off. I, quite literally, hated what I saw.

I didn’t even want my boyfriends at the time to see me without makeup – I was convinced they’d break up with me if they saw my acne. It made me feel trapped in my own skin.

I used to get endless comments during my school and university years, normally along the lines of:

  • “Wow, you wear a lot of makeup!”
  • “I don’t know why you bother putting so much crap on your face!”
  • “Why can’t I see you without makeup?”
  • “You should go and take your makeup off, it’s bad for your skin! That’s probably why you have acne!”

I’m definitely not angry at anybody who made these comments. I’d probably wonder the same thing if I’d never struggled with acne. But I would like to spread the message that saying things like this can make people feel very isolated. I used to feel ashamed when someone asked me this – like they were thinking that I was dirty or vain.

Usually, if a girl wears makeup to a point that she doesn’t let you see her without it, it’s not because she’s vain. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. I used to think people would call me ugly if I took it off and was consumed with self-doubt. This video might put it into perspective for you.


I feel that people with acne are often misunderstood. People who haven’t experienced acne or haven’t known anyone who has, often pass off acne as a skincare issue. But people with acne, in my experience, look after their skin meticulously. Trust me, in 99% of cases, acne is not caused by being dirty or unhealthy.

And although I totally agree that makeup can aggravate or worsen existing acne and also block your pores if not removed correctly, makeup is not the cause of hormonal acne. Makeup can be the only thing that keeps people feeling sane and brave enough to show their face, so please don’t call people out on the amount of makeup they wear. Frankly, it’s none of your god damn business!

Acne in teenagers is usually a result of hormones raging during puberty. Severe acne in adults can be genetic or caused by hormonal issues such as an imbalance, thyroid imbalance or PCOS. It can even be caused by digestive issues. This normally means that no matter how well you look after your skin, the acne will still be present until you sort out the internal issue. Sometimes, you might just be genetically predisposed to acne. It can take years to figure this out.


Acne treatments: What I’ve tried


Note: This was written in 2017 and I’ve since tried numerous other successful treatments.

I never grew out of my teenage acne. I eventually went to the doctors to address the problem – and now I’ve probably been 10 times or so in total. Here is the list of treatments I’ve tried and the success I had with each.

Topical treatments


ProActive & Clinique Acne Solutions (not from the GP)

These sorts of products generally worked for a while (though they never completely cleared my acne) but eventually stopped making any difference to my skin – it was if my skin became immune to them. Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t necessarily bad products and won’t make your skin worse. However, they’re pretty pricey and are unlikely to cure severe acne long-term, so I’d only recommend them if you have mild breakouts.

Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid, Adapalene (Differin), Duac etc

If you suffer from acne, you’ll probably have been given a few of these creams by your GP. They’re topical treatments in the forms of creams and gels, to be applied under makeup and/or before you go to bed, after cleansing your skin.

Personally, I found these took down existing spots but never completely cured my acne. They’re also pretty harsh and made my skin red, irritated and dehydrated, which made my skin look 10x worse, even if I did have a couple less spots. Obviously, they may work different for you, so if your doctor feels they’re worth a try, don’t let my words put you off.

Antibiotics


Erythromycin – This never worked for me, even after months of continued use.

Tetracycline – This one really did the job – I thought I’d finally cleared my acne! It did take a couple of months to kick in, and from then on, I had really clear and manageable skin for around 9 months. Sadly, my acne then gradually decided to creep back and it turned out I’d become immune to these too. I had a short break and went back on them, but they didn’t have the same effect. I’d recommend this antibiotic if you want to clear your acne short term (though, again, everyone’s body will react differently).

Contraceptive pills


Cilest – This pill made me feel sad all the time and worsened my acne.

Yazmin – I experienced a slight clearing effect on my acne, but it worsened my moods.

Dianette – This cleared my skin beautifully. Dianette is a fantastic pill for acne-related issues but you’re only allowed to take it for a limited time. It’s the strongest pill going and has been linked to depression, suicide and blood clots. It made me pretty emotionally unstable to a point which affected my life and relationships, so I had to stop. I’m just being honest!

Gedarel 20/150 – This is the pill I’m on now (update: I’m no longer on the pill) and, while I can’t say it’s cleared my acne, it gives me the least side effects in terms of mood, as it’s a low dosage pill. If you have problems with mood or other side effects on the pill, talk to your GP about giving this one a go!

Skincare


I’ve tried every skincare product and routine under the sun, and I can say with confidence, that off-the-shelf acne treatments just aren’t worth it. Often, they’re riddled with chemicals and harsh ingredients – which, yes, might dry out your spots – but also leave you with red, irritated, sore skin.

Now, I’ve cut it right back. I use a micellar water to remove makeup, Cetaphil gentle cleanser (a super gentle cleanser recommended by dermatologists for acne-prone skin) and pure aloe vera gel or Simple moisturiser, to moisturize. Over the years, I’ve learnt the hard way that less is more. Scrubbing at your face with every Clean n Clear product is going to do nothing for your skin.

You might be surprised to hear that dehydrated and dry skin can actually cause more acne. This is because your skin will overcompensate by producing more sebum and end up making the problem worse. Take it from me – keep it gentle and simple!

Living with acne


Acne is a huge part of my life whether I like it or not. But, for now, I’ve decided to stop hiding it. I want to talk about it to build my own confidence and, hopefully, help other people know they’re not so alone in this problem.

One of the most important things to me is to stop the assumptions made on people with acne, as that is something that has affected me at various points of my life. If you have acne and want someone to talk to, please message me! I know that it can feel like you’re the only person suffering and that it will never go. Trust me, you’re still absolutely beautiful – acne or not.

The good news is, help is out there and it is only temporary. One day, it will go for good.

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