When I was 19, I had a terrible breakout unlike anything I ever had before. Sure, I had the normal teenage acne- occasional zits that were cured with topicals. But this was different. I had huge cysts around my chin and lower cheeks and they just kept getting worse and worse in a very short period of time. After going on an antibiotic pill that did not end up working, the doctors resorted to Accutane. My sophomore year of college on Accutane was the most mentally challenging year of my life. For those of you on Accutane, beware! I have to say, in my case of severe acne, I probably needed to be on it. But, be sure your doctor is moderating you appropriately. I was being watched by a teaching hospital. Students were moderating me incorrectly and giving me too low of a dosage. I did not see results because of the dosage, and I acquired much more acne and scarring than I would have if I had a high dose from the start. Make sure you are seeing a good doctor! Secondly, make sure you have emotional support. I have always had a great support system and I've always been relatively social, but I found myself becoming more and more antisocial as the acne progressed. I found myself crying all the time. I remember clearly every time I called my Mom I would just start crying. I was depressed. I felt like my friends did not understand when I tried to open up to them about it. They thought, "it's just acne! It's no big deal!" But it was to me. I locked myself in my dorm room for a good 3/4 months until the Accutane started working. I covered my face with makeup every time I had to go to class. I avoided eye contact with people. When my face started clearing up, that certainly changed.
The emotional issues that go along with acne can be overbearing for young females. I used an acne.org blog during that time and found it extremely helpful. I could learn from people in my situation, and I knew that I was not alone. That's important to know. You are not alone! Also, your friends who you think don't understand you might be right. The truth is, everyone is hypersensitive to their own imperfections. Everyone has something they don't like about their physical appearance. When you look at other people with acne, do you judge them? Do you think they are lesser people? Of course not! You might feel a bit sorry for them, but you treat them just like you would treat everyone else. The truth is, no matter how bad it is, it's not as bad as you think. That's something that took me a long time to learn.
I'm back 5 years later at the age of 24. Why? Because about 6 months ago I suffered a similar break out to the one I suffered at 19. Before I get into my current state, I want to talk about what I have done since my Accutane treatment and until this point.
Accutane worked for me. I had completely clear skin when I finished treatment. Sure, I had the red hyper-pigmentation that I had to cover with make-up, but I no longer had cysts. My friends and family noticed a huge change in my behavior. I was back to myself. In fact, I was better than back to myself! Since I knew how bad things could be, I had a new sense of confidence. I was dating, I was meeting new people, I was more social than I ever was in my life (even before the acne). This lasted for about a year and a half. At that point, I would occasionally get cystic breakouts. None of them were terrible and they were treated through topicals. One thing I refused to take was antibiotics because I had taken way too many antibiotics throughout my life and I don't think it was healthy to keep taking them. From age 21-23 I was put on different topicals and another drug called Spironolactone. I was on Spironolactone for a good 8 or 9 months. I did help me tremendously with my hormonal acne. I was also on birth control pills. With that combination, my skin was very clear. I went off of Spironolactone when I was 22 and suffered breakouts in reaction to going off of it. I decided to give it some time and stay off, and my skin was completely clear for another year while I was only on birth control.
I hate taking drugs and medications. One thing that has been really tough for me through this process is that doctors all put me on medications. I didn't think there was any other option. I had been on birth control since Accutane and I felt that my body needed a break from it. I went off of it 9 months ago because my skin had been very clear for a long time, and I thought I could handle being off of it. Around this time, I was also looking into laser treatments to finally help with my hyper-pigmentation and scarring from Accutane. I thought I was finally finished with adult acne! BUT, I started getting small breakouts again. I didn't worry about it too much, and I decided to stay off of birth control. MISTAKE! About 4 months ago, I had a tremendous outbreak just like the one I had at 19. It happened very quickly, and in a matter of 2 weeks, I had full blown hormonal cystic acne on my chin and face. Interestingly, the emotional backlash I had was not as negative as it was at age 19. I just kept thinking, it has been worse than this! I'll be okay! I decided to go back to a skin doctor. Clearly, the birth control was helping my skin significantly, so I went on birth control again. They also immediately put me on antibiotic pills and spironolactone (because it helped in the past). While I was hesitant to go on antibiotics, I wanted to do everything I could to prevent going on Accutane again. Recently, I was on antibiotics for 2 weeks and it helped dramatically. However, when I stopped taking them, the acne popped up again. Currently, I am back on antibiotics and spironolactone. I am doing another round and I hope to stop antibiotics soon. The thing about antibiotics (which I learned a couple years ago), is that you start building a resistance and it doesn't help acne anymore.
The worst part about all of this is that I'm stressed. Stress does not help anything. I recently moved to a new city without a job. I found a job, but I know when I start working, I will be covering my face with makeup again, and worried about what other people think of me.
I am starting a blog again because this is something I have struggled with for 5 years. It sucks. I've realized that medications, topicals, and even Accutane, the so called "cure to acne", are short term fixes to the problem. If you have cystic hormonal acne, the causes go deeper. I have long been frustrated with my skin doctors and their approaches. But, I didn't know what else to do! I've decided to stay on birth control and wean off of antibiotics and spironolactone. While doing this, I am going to make some lifestyle changes. This blog will follow a more holistic approach to the treatment of acne.
I recently found a blog started by a lady who had a similar situation. She developed severe acne in her early 20s. Overtime, she did a lot of research, and through holistic means, she claims to have cured her acne. This is her website: http://www.highonhealth.org/ . I will be using some of her tips. I will be changing my lifestyle by exercising more. I will also be cutting out most dairy and some gluten. In addition, I will be using natural cleansers and techniques instead of typical topicals that doctors prescribe.
Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions. I have been through the worst of it. While my skin has generally been great since Accutane, it is not uncommon to get a second wave like I'm getting right now. I know the emotional complexities of having adult acne, and if you have any questions for me, feel free to ask.
A few things I've learned:
-If your skin starts getting bad, don't wait to see a dermatologist! Acne can get bad VERY fast.
-Do everything in your power to stay off of Accutane! Take antibiotics and Spironolactone if you have to. They may be short-term, but they will regulate your acne so it doesn't get worse. During that time, you can experiment with lifestyle changes that will help in the long run.
-If you are on a medication, don't just stop taking it! I did this plenty of times because I hate medication. Each time, my body reacted with acne. Make sure you are being followed by a dermatologist. Run everything through them. Oftentimes, you can wean off of a medication so your body doesn't react strongly from a sudden shift.
-Stress really does affect acne. You might be stressed because you have acne, and this just makes the acne worse! How unfair! Try calming techniques including yoga, and meditation. Exercise is the best stress-reliever for me.
-A healthy lifestyle is key to healthy skin. When I drink alcohol excessively, I always break out after. When I was in college, I would always eat terrible foods during finals week. This made me break out.
-ACNE IS NOT AS BAD AS YOU THINK IT IS! TRY AND STAY POSITIVE!
-DON'T PICK YOUR PIMPLES. I still pick and pop, and it spreads bacterial and causes more pimples. I know this, but yet I still do it! I think that it will speed up the process, when really it makes everything worse! Sound familiar? I have decided to stop touching my face and picking (even just picking that excess skin). I'll let you know how it goes.
-Moisturize!!! Dry skin makes acne worse. Adult faces are different from teenage faces. Teenagers usually get acne because of oil. That is not the case with adult acne. Because of this, teenage remedies, such as those topicals containing alcohols, don't do it for adults. Moisturizing will absolutely help your acne!