It’s pretty scary releasing these photos. Just looking at them makes me feel a little strange. My hormonal acne got so out of control. But I’ve finally found a hormonal acne treatment that worked for me.
This is a photo of me before I started taking Spironolactone, a hormonal acne treatment, vs 4 months later.
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!
My hormonal acne experience
I’ve suffered from acne for years; since the age of around 14 — and I’m keen to talk openly about my experience on this blog. Sometimes, I don’t think the condition is taken seriously enough. When my acne reached its worst, I was depressed. It really affected my mental health and self-esteem.
I couldn’t leave the house without makeup. I felt judged and disgusted. I didn’t want boyfriends or even friends to see me without makeup. I’d avoid any activity which would require taking my makeup off.
To be honest, I felt trapped in my own skin. Acne is right there on your face. I couldn’t hide it under clothes. I could slather on concealer – but really, you could still see 10 lumps and bumps peeking out under my skin. I had to slather on my mask every single time I left the house.
I didn’t feel pretty at all. I bet people thought I was actually pretty confident and possibly even vain — because of the sheer dedication I had to putting on perfect makeup everyday. But it wasn’t confidence, it was actually pure insecurity. I constantly felt I had to cover up my horrific skin.
I started getting acne as a teen. At this point, it was a few small spots at a time – the usual teenage acne you’d expect. I heard time and time again that “it will clear up as you get older” – and for most of the people I knew, it did!
But for me, that wasn’t the case. It only got worse. I had a few clear skin phases when I tried different hormonal acne treatments, but it only ever lasted a few months at a time.
Treating my hormonal acne was an endless struggle
I tried pretty much every brand of the pill, most of the recommended antibiotics for acne, prescribed topical treatments such as Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid creams and all the expensive ‘acne-clearing’ skincare systems, various diet changes, natural skincare remedies, going makeup-free (yep, that was a struggle), and well, probably everything else you could think of.
I don’t think my acne was treated as well as it could have been by doctors. Don’t get me wrong, I respect and I am so thankful for every GP that tried to help me with my acne — and that we even have a public health system in the first place!
I just think the entire thing needs to be approached in a different way. Take antibiotics, for example — which I had rounds and rounds of. Antibiotics are great for clearing acne short term. I took a couple of brands in sixth form, which kept my skin okay. In fact, I had a fully clear spell in my 2nd year of university, thanks to Tetralysal. But no one told me that it would only work for a few months and my body was likely to become resistant to it.
Every time I took antibiotics, my acne would slowly start to creep back, getting worse until it was more severe than it was before I’d taken the antibiotics.
Then, I started doing my own research and realised just how bad long-term antibiotic use can be for your body. They can do all sorts of damage — and I’d be using them for up to 8 months at a time, on and off for years. No doctor mentioned this to me. Not once.
As a girl who’s visited the doctors 10+ times for acne from the age of 16 – 23, I’ve continuously been shocked by the lack of interest in finding out what’s actually causing my stubborn acne… or, perhaps, how it might be affecting my mental health.
But then I found spironolactone
My acne peaked when I was working abroad in Vietnam. The acne was cystic; deep, under the skin, with each spot lasting up to 2 weeks at a time. It had also started to scar my skin, which I’m still dealing with now. I felt so bad and couldn’t even look people in the eye. I was insanely embarrassed by my own face!
This is what my face looked like at this stage, just before I started taking spiro. Excuse the yellow patches — I was really into turmeric treatments at this stage, which, to be fair, did actually help to bring down inflammation.
Through my own research and determination to cure my skin condition, I found out that acne in adult females is sometimes caused by hormonal imbalances. I also discovered that acne can be a system of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
I spoke to doctors and numerous people who had been diagnosed with PCOS online. A common symptom is stubborn acne which doesn’t respond to other treatments well. There are numerous other symptoms, of course – such as irregular periods and anxiety. Funnily enough, I had problems with all these things!
And that’s how I discovered spironolactone, which is sometimes used to treat the symptoms of PCOS. For some reason (and don’t ask me why, because I’m no expert) women with PCOS often have high levels of male hormones. Spironolactone inhibits testosterone production and has anti-androgen properties. This means it blocks the effect of male hormones, like testosterone, from binding to receptors that cause oil production in your glands. Don’t worry, I don’t really understand it either!
Hormonal acne treatment: Clear skin in 4 months
Under the supervision of a pharmacist and a dermatologist in Vietnam, I started taking 50mg of Spironolactone a day.
Spironolactone usually doesn’t start to clear up severe acne until you’ve been taking it for a few months — it’s no instant cure. I was so impatient, though — I wanted my acne gone and began to convince myself that it wouldn’t work.
It’s also worth mentioning that the drug is a diuretic — basically, it makes you wee more! At first, I had to up my water intake like crazy so I didn’t get dehydrated. Weirdly, that seems to have settled now.
The first thing I noticed was that my skin was getting drier. I’ve always had fairly oily skin, with a shiny T-zone and no dry patches in sight. I had to alter my skincare routine as my skin seemed to completely change — thick moisturiser was my new best friend!
My acne actually got worse before it got better. It seems this is common and is referred to as the ‘initial breakout’ all over Instagram and acne forums. I had clusters of acne on my cheeks and chin — it was awful!
Thankfully, about two and a half months in, it was as if the Spironolactone had suddenly started to work. My face finally started clearing up — and within a month I only had a couple of spots.
Now, at around 5 months in, I have none. No spots. Not one! How incredible is that? I’ve gone from having to spend hours covering my face to leave the house, to literally dabbing a lil concealer under my eyes and on my nose. It has legitimately changed my life and seriously boosted my self-esteem.
This is my skin makeup-free. You can probably see that I’ve got some texture issues on my cheeks from the horrific breakouts. It’s getting better slowly.
Don’t get me wrong, I know this might not last – who knows how my body will react to this over the long-term? However, I do know that it’s working for now and has acted as a real lifeline for me.
Are you suffering from hormonal acne right now? Here’s my advice
If you’re suffering from acne now, try your best to love yourself. It’s so easy to think ‘I’m disgusting. I’m ugly. No one will like me’ – but it’s simply not true!
You are not your acne. Acne is just a temporary thing on your face. It’s a condition – just like a broken leg, a rash, a cold and everything other medical condition.
When one of your friends has a cold and they look a little ill, pale and have a sore red nose, do you think they’re ugly? Nope. Actually, you probably completely separate them from their symptoms. Yah, they’ve got a cold – but you know they’re beautiful.
Likewise, when you have acne and your family and true friends see it, they don’t think you’re ugly. They’ll think you’re as beautiful as ever.
Acne is there, but it’s not your face. The spots will come and go. Separate acne from your own perception of yourself completely – it’s a temporary, annoying addition to your life. But nothing more.
Try not to obsess over each and every spot in the mirror – it’s useless! I got in a really bad habit of monitoring my skin too closely. It became all I thought about. It’s easy to believe that your spots are the first thing someone will notice about you and that every person you pass in the street will notice them. But guess what? In reality, everyone is far too busy thinking about their own problems and are unlikely to even notice your skin!
Keep your mind off acne as much as you can. Acne sometimes takes patience and you shouldn’t waste your life waiting for it to disappear. That comes from someone who regrets wasting some of my time in Vietnam – one of the most beautiful countries in the world – all because I was hiding away.
Go to the doctor if your acne is severe and isn’t clearing up on its own. Keep going back until a solution is found and tell the doctor how bad it’s making you feel.
And finally, one last, very important thing. If anyone is ever mean to you about having acne or makes a horrible comment, try to think rationally before letting yourself get upset.
You are a great person who is suffering from a skin condition – something which isn’t your fault. The person who said something to you is choosing to make someone else feel bad about themselves about something which they can’t control. Is that person a nice person? Uh, no. Do they even deserve your time? Noooope.
You’re beautiful – even when you don’t know it and even with acne. You’ll find the right hormonal acne treatment for you, but in the meantime, you’re still totally perfect.
Read an update on my spironolactone for acne journey here.