One of the most valuable lesson I've learnt throughout my 23 years on this planet is to be kind to people. Everyone is fighting their own battles and whether we are vocal about our problems or not, undoubtedly, everyone is always going through something. Be it medical, emotional, psychological or physical pain, these things can often go unnoticed by others but are at the forefront of our minds 24/7. Growing up, my biggest insecurity was always my skin. I was the girl who had spots as soon as spots were even a thing. And I know, I know, ALL teenagers get spots, they kinda come with the package deal of puberty and growing up... but for me my acne didn't improve no matter how healthy I ate, how much water I drank, how much make-up I wore or which fancy brand's anti-blemish solution I paid for.
Acne is probably more common than you think. It is estimated that 80% of people will suffer with acne breakouts at some point in their lifetime. I can honestly say through my years of struggling with bad skin I felt very alone and I would constantly compare myself to my friends, all with fresh glowy spot-free skin. And whilst with hindsight and maturity being a very valuable thing, as much as I tried not to compare myself to others, when I looked in the mirror and all I saw was my acne, it was hard not to feel insecure. It's sad to admit but I really feel like my skin is something that affected my confidence and often my happiness too. I've rang into work sick in the past when the truth was, I couldn't bear to leave my room and face the world.
As well as obvious blemishes and redness, I struggled with under the skin spots which never surfaced or had a head but were just THERE. Even with makeup on my blemishes still weren't hidden. I don't have many photos that aren't benefited by good lighting and the spot removal tool but below are pictures taken around 9 months ago with and without make-up.
I've been going to see a doctor about my skin since I was around 16. After lecturing me on my diet, water intake, skincare routine and those things called hormones, I was prescribed a spot cream. Hopeful and lacking knowledge at the time, I plastered on my face at night as instructed, waiting for my spots to disappear. But did it work? NO. Following that I was put on antibiotics which I took religiously for 2 years. Did I see any improvement? NO. After trying various other treatments recommended by my GP, the ladies at the beauty counter, my Mum and randoms from forums on the internet, I decided it was time to really take control and see a dermatologist.
Unless you go private in the UK, your GP must refer you to the dermatologist which isn't always the easiest matter. With healthcare budgets and whatever else, in my experience, the doctor is often reluctant to refer people without attempting every recommended single option and believing your acne is bad enough to seek external medical help. Moving to London for university meant I was always between doctors and switched to a local one depending on where I was living each year. But finally in 2014 I was referred to the dermatologist (only to wait around 3-4 months for an appointment may I add).
I'd done a lot of research about acne, (the different types, the drugs and the side effects) before seeing the dermatologist but there was one common cure that I'd read a lot about called Roaccutane. Roaccutane is quite dangerous and controversial in some ways but for acne of my kind, seemed to have worked for a lot of other people. I was prescribed this with a 20mg a day dose and was beginning to see an improvement in my skin. Roaccutane works very differently for different people and can make your acne a lot worse before making it better however I found it really helped to balance out my extremely oily skin and reduced the amount of active blemishes I was getting. However, in return for a slight improvement in my skin the side effects really took their toll and I was suffering with extremely dry (I mean like crispy) lips no matter how much Blistex I applied and although one insecurity started to disappear, another was created. Another side effect I had was repetitive nosebleeds - NOT FUN. It is worth mentioning that Roaccutane is very much associated with mental health too and has been linked to anxiety and depression. I was lucky not to be effected in this area.
So there I was, 3 months into my recommended 6 month Roaccutane journey with improving skin and an optimistic outlook. But then remember that time where I moved to New York to do study abroad? Well that's when that happened and I could't continue my prescriptions abroad as allowing my next monthly dose required me to visit the dermatologist for a check-up. My skin kind of halted at this point. Although I was not longer taking Roaccutane, it was fairly clear and I was less insecure about it.
However, a year or so later, my acne came back and made me feel more insecure than ever. I'm not here to have a pity party but this time I knew I had to go back to the dermatologist and endure the lengthly process all over again. After waiting around 4 months following getting another referral from my new GP, I was back on Roaccutane. This time, it just WORKED. IT WORKED. My skin cleared up really quickly (under the skin spots and all) and although I still suffered with dry lips, my side effects weren't as bad as my first time. I've been off Roaccutane a few months now and fingers crossed my acne will never return. I can't even begin to tell you how good it feels to not be the 'spotty friend' anymore and how much its changed my all round happiness and confidence.
If you have any questions feel free to tweet me @helloomonica or ask me below!
And NO this post is not sponsored by Roaccuntane!!!