Can't believe it's been 6 months! I started taking spiro back on October 23, 2012. Time flies. I've had ups and downs, and here are my latest thoughts:
-- Spiro is great at keeping hormonal levels in check. In addition to a birth control pill that is low in androgens, I 100% think spiro is a great option for women who struggle with acne brought on by stress, PMS etc.
-- Spiro does not make miracles happen. Don't get me wrong, it helped A LOT, but I also learned that there were other underlying issues causing my acne:
-- Picking at pores. I know it's gross but I would pick and pick and pick and then immediately regret it when a simple blackhead turned into an inflamed, icky sore. Spiro will help, but I HAD to stop inspecting my face every night!
-- Diet. I cut out dairy and that helped a lot too. My stomach was always upset and once I stopped eating ice cream, milk, cheese (basically all the yummy stuff, boo) I noticed my face was less inflamed as well. When I eat veggies and fish and drink a lot of water, I feel great and I look great. When I eat sugar and loads of junk, I look like junk.
-- Makeup. Obviously I want to cover up my acne marks and breakouts with concealer, but I realized the kind of makeup I was using was causing more redness and irritation. I used to use neutrogena concealer with salicylic acid, thinking that would help clear my skin also. It wasn't until I switched to a maybelline product formulated with vitamin c (meant to clear dark spots, etc) that I noticed how much smoother and less irritated my skin felt. While acne products can be great for some skin types, I'm 29 and think that keeping my skin moisturized is more important than drying it out with harsh chemicals. They seemed to do more harm than good.
-- Moisturize at night. I didn't fully understand how important this was until recently. I was getting really upset because the spiro seemed to stop working, until I realized that my breakouts were beig caused by dry skin (thanks to tretinoin, which works wonders on clogged pores but can really suck the moisture out of your face). When I used tretinoin at night and didn't follow up with a PM moisturizer, my skin would dry out and flake and get irritated and red and 2-3 days later I would magically have breakouts in the dry patches. I think my skin was confused, it would dry out and then start pumping tons and tons of oil to compensate, leading to more acne. Now that I use a moisturizer every night, no matter what, I've noticed my skin is constantly "normal" and isn't swaying between crazy extremes from dry to oily to wacky to acne. That always seemed counter-intuitive to me, that putting moisture on a breakout would make it worse, but the right moisturizer will help it heal and reduce redness (like cerave) while products like clindamycine and benzoyl will only make it peel and look worse. Granted I know those products can work wonders for some, just not right for my super sensitive skin.
-- Stay calm. This sounds funny, but as much as spiro can help, if I'm super stressed about something (work, personal life, the fact that I'm breaking out again and don't know why, etc) my skin gets ten times worse. It's a fact. At this point, even with all info about spiro and tretinoin and diet, I will still get a nasty acne flare-up that takes weeks to heal if I don't stay calm and stress free.
-- Antibiotics are overrated. Just my humble opinion. I took doxy at 200mg per day for about 5 months and recently just stopped. Yes, it helped with inflammation. Yes, my deep acne cysts were better when I took it. But my skin was also super sensitive to sunlight to the point where 15 mins outside and I felt like my face was burning off (I'm Italian and have olive skin and normally tan like crazy in the sun so definitely not normal) and I know tretinoin will obviously affect sun sensitivity but this was even more intense. My stomach was not normal, and in general long term antibiotic use is not good for your body's natural balance. Yes, I broke out when I stopped taking doxy (some of the worst cysts I've had in a while, to the point where my derm again suggested accutane and I resisted. And am still healing some of those breakouts) BUT I firmly believe that the outbreak will go away and it was just my body getting back to "normal." I'm also taking a probiotic and that has seemed to help a lot. So much of your outer appearance is linked to your inner health, and I firmly believe that antibiotics are killing way too much good bacteria along with the bad. I know they work wonders for some, but after a long thoughtful decision, I'm done with them. Call me a health freak, that's fine I'd rather get to the root of the issue (lack of moisture, stress, hormones, food allergy) rather than take an antibiotic that is only masking the condition. Antibiotics won't permanently cure acne, they only work to reduce inflammation while you're taking them, and there's no way I want to take them for an indefinite period of time. Just my own view on it.
I'm meeting with a nutritionist in a few weeks to review my diet in more detail. Since I cut out dairy, I've lost about 15 lbs but I'm also only a out 110 lbs now so I need to make sure I'm still getting the nutrients and vitamin d and calcium I need. Plus she may have some insight into the antibiotic vs probiotic topic, which is still interesting to me. Will keep everyone posted how that goes!
I guess that's it for now. Still healing some spots from stopping the doxy but altogether feeling great about the spiro, birth control pill and retinoid treatment I'm on. Also a quick note that I recently started using cerave products and LOVE them, absolutely recommend to anyone using a retinoid.