If you know me well, you’ll know that I’ve struggled with my skin most of my life. When I say most of my life, I mean from the tender age of 11.
If you don’t know me well, that might come as a shock as it usually does when I tell people that I used to have really bad acne.
When I say I struggled, I really mean I struggled. Being so young, when your skin is supposed to be in it’s prime, it was very tough for me as an 11-year-old child to have a face full of spots when all of my friends had ‘perfect’ skin.
I know some of you can probably relate to this. But for those that can’t, imagine you are just about to start attending a new school, with all new people – you’re leaving the comfort of your tight-knit primary school community for a school with hundreds of pupils in attendance. That process is difficult and terrifying enough – but on top of that, your body is going through changes. You start to notice small bumps under your skin, those small bumps turn into pimples, and soon enough your entire face is covered with sore, red spots. People stare and call you names. ‘Why is her skin like that?’ ‘Does she not wash her face?’ You don’t understand what’s happening. Why is this happening?
It may sound trivial, but being so young and experiencing acne is one of the most awful feelings. An estimated 80% of people aged between 11 and 30 experience acne outbreaks at some point. Acne is a terrible thing to go through at any age – I wouldn’t wish it on anyone because I know the emotional distress I experienced. But I was unlucky enough to have to go through it right up until I was 17/18.
That’s 7 years of feeling like complete sh*t.
I can’t count on two hands how many creams, medication and diets I tried to get rid of my spots. You name it, I tried it. But absolutely nothing was working for me.
It got so bad, that I began to lock myself in my room and stare in a magnifying mirror for HOURS – criticising every inch of the skin on my face. Looking back now, I realise the shell of a person I was. Quite sad actually – I missed out on things because I was too worried about how bad my skin was. I wouldn’t even let my family see my spots – If I was going to leave my room I made sure I had something on my face to cover it, whether it be sudocrem or concealer. Imagine being embarrassed of your FACE.
The worst part was when I started to feel compelled to wear makeup to school when I was only 13 because so many people would stare at my face and make nasty comments. This got me into trouble with my teachers who would constantly pull me aside and tell me that I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup to school, that I didn’t need it because I was so young – they didn’t understand. There was one teacher, who would always comment on my makeup in front of the entire class and it would be so embarrassing. Most days, I came home from school, locked myself in my bedroom and I would stare in the mirror and cry at the reflection looking back at me. Sounds so sad I know lol, but this was my hidden reality for years.
I was a swimmer from I was 5 years old and swam competitively for my local club. So as you can imagine, having to stick a swimsuit on when you had ‘bacne’ (back acne) was very daunting. Luckily, the people I swam with weren’t as nasty as some people I went to school with, but it really made me hate going swimming – something that I used to love. I fought with my parents every week because I didn’t want to go.
I know I was a difficult teenager – (most of us were) but a difficult teenager with raging acne?! All I can say is, God Help my parents! (Sorry Mum & Dad haha!!)
After countless visits to the doctor and months of trial and error with treatments and medication that didn’t work – I was finally referred to a dermatologist. Finally, someone who would take me seriously. If you’ve suffered from acne, you’ll know how hard it is to get someone to listen to you – some doctors put it straight down to hormones/puberty, but you know your body and you know when nothing is working.
I think he finally took me seriously when I told him how it was making me feel. Moral of the story – talk about your feelings, it’s the first step in making things better.
Anyway, after lengthy chats with the dermatologist, she finally decided that I was a candidate for a drug called Roaccutane. Scary sounding word – I know, and it was even scarier when I actually researched it.
Before I started my 3 month treatment, I was googling the drug and I read so many horror stories (I don’t recommend doing this!) But I also read so many success stories – I definitely had to try.
This is one of the strongest drugs you can get to treat acne, it can only be prescribed after you’ve been referred to a dermatologist and you have to have been on at least 2 different medications for at least a year. Your normal pharmacy won’t stock this either – every month you have to head to the hospital to take a mental health assessment and a pregnancy test before they will give you your next dosage. Crazy, I know. But apparently this drug is so strong, that it can make you seriously depressed (which is why they make you take a mental health assessment every month). They also make you take the pill during the course of the treatment, this is because it can seriously harm an unborn baby (deformities etc) and monthly pregnancy tests are essential in case you do happen to get pregnant. Imagine what my mum was feeling every time I had to visit the hospital for my monthly check up haha!
I’ve just realised the sh*t I’ve put my poor parents through…. (Sorry, again!)
As soon as I began my course of Roaccutane, I noticed my skin changing almost immediately – and not in a good way. It’s true when they say it’s going to get worse before it gets better. My skin was literally flaking off, I have never experienced my skin being so bloody dry to the point where my lips would bleed if I even smiled (something I rarely did anyway). This was a really rough time for me, because you can’t cover dry skin with makeup. But I knew I had to keep going and stick it out. Unfortunately, no one recommended a good moisturiser that would help keep my skin hydrated, but I’ve recently learned that the recommended moisturiser for people on Roaccutane is La Roche-Posay Effaclar Moisturiser that you can purchase here. I’ve used this myself and it’s one of the most moisturising products I’ve ever used. I wish I would’ve known about it back then! This range in particular is so great for acne-prone skin. I use their cleansing gel, toner and moisturiser (Duo +) to help maintain my skin. You can view the whole Effaclar range here.
The drying of the skin is part of the process – this is how you know the drug is working.
Admittedly, my mood was seriously swayed throughout my course of Roaccutane. One minute, I would be in the best mood and the next I could be sitting in my room and just crying at nothing. It was terrible, but I kept telling myself ‘it’s going to get better’, and it did.
Once I finished all of my medication – I had one last visit to the dermatologist so she could see my progress and decide whether or not I needed another course of the drug.
I can’t explain my happiness when she told me that she was very happy with my progress and that another course wouldn’t be necessary. I hadn’t looked at myself in the mirror properly in months, and to hear from a professional that I had good skin?! What?! I truly never thought I would hear those words.
The entire experience was so hard, but I finally felt like myself again.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any good pictures to show you what my skin was actually like – I couldn’t bare to look at myself in the mirror sometimes let alone take selfies haha. But I’m going to show you a picture of the first time I was able to wear a backless dress and feel beautiful in it; my formal.
It’s important to note that Roaccutane doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s very dangerous for some people who are already dealing with mental health issues. But if you are going through a similar experience at the minute, first of all: I’m sorry and I understand. Secondly, please make sure you speak to someone. If it’s something you are finding very difficult, please ask for help. Unfortunately, your acne might not just disappear on its own and maybe drugstore brands just aren’t enough. They weren’t for me.
Speak to a professional and tell them your concerns. If you think Roaccutane might be for you, ask them about it, they’ll be able to assess you and determine whether or not you are a candidate for it.
Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t have perfect skin and probably never will – but does anyone?! The answer is NO!! And it’s SO important that you understand that.
I wish I could talk to my 11 year old self and tell her that.
I wish I could tell her that she’s beautiful and she doesn’t need to cry.
I wish I could give her a kick up the arse and tell her to go out with her friends and spend time with her family.
I wish I could tell her that locking herself in her room and crying in the mirror for hours isn’t going to make it better.
I wish I could tell her that it will get better and that she is so much more than the acne on her face.
It might be hard now. But I promise, it gets better.