From age 12 - approx 22 I suffered with cystic acne. I Tried every treatment available, paid to see a very expensive private dermatologist but nothing helped. I developed BDD and OCD as a result and these disorders have adversly affected my daily life ever since. The acne seemed to go away approx age 23 and I have had beautiful clear skin for approx 20 years, however I am now 42 and attempted to give up smoking in Jan 2013 (I've been a 15 - 20 a day smoker for approx 20 years). Within a couple of weeks of giving up my skin started to get bad again but I tried to ignore, assumed it was part of the detox process, and got some over the counter cream to treat the outbreaks (which incidentally works no better now than it did 20 years ago). It gradually got worse and worse until the 4 month point when it just exploded and was as bad as it had been at it's worst in my late teens / early 20's. My skin felt sore to the point it would sting when I went outside, it was red, blotchy and bumpy over my entire face and I had 2 - 3 large painful 'deep under the skin' cysts at any one time as well as numerous smaller pimples with heads. Along with the return of my acne my BDD came straight back - checking my face in the mirror every 20mins to see how bad it was, hating what I saw and crying, avoiding going out unless I had to as felt so ashamed and embarrassed about how I looked. During May I took 3 weeks leave off work to avoid having to go out in the hope that it would calm down and start to get better, I cancelled my holiday and haven't been out socially since. Part of my BDD is skin picking, and when I was in my teens I used to literally 'cut out the acne' sticking sicsors and needles deep into the cysts in an attempt to get rid of them. At my most extreem I performed a DIY chemical peels, killing the top layers of my skin by showering 10 - 15 times a day and by leaving TCP soaked cotton wool on it like a facemask for hours at a time over several days until the skin was dead and cracking. I would then peel it away, it would be raw and weeping underneath but would heal in about a month and look less pitted and scarred. Anyway, at the 5 month point of my quit smoking I could no longer resist the compulsion to pick at my acne so in sheer desperation did some internet research into what might be causing it. I didn't think for one minute that quitting smoking would be the cause, that's meant to be good for your skin, however I was not alone and the quit forums were full of people experiencing the same, and unfortunately their experience gave me no hope that the acne would be short lived but would be back to stay. Knowing how self destructive my acne triggered BDD can be (I became so depressed in my early 20's I attempted suicide several times) I reluctantly started to smoke again in the hope that I could put my body chemistry back to what it was prior to my quitting. I have been back smoking for 3 weeks now and am seeing a vast improvement already. I am hopeful that I can undue the damage of my quit attempt but think it may take a few months to get my skin back to how it was.
Has anyone else gone through this experience? If so, how long did it take for the acne to go away once they started smoking again, and did they find a way to give up smoking that didn't involve having to put up with acne for the rest of their lives? I've read that in some people smoking supresses the homonal imbalances that cause acne, which would appear to be happening in my case, but when I've looked into remedies for hormonal acne they all seem to be BCP based which isn't an option for me because of my age, also I'm now dreading upcoming menopause as it seems my hormones are still not working as they should be so have I got acne to look forward to in my 50's as well....thinking I may as well top myself now!