Sunday, 8 February 2015

Acne girl.

Acne girl. That's what he called me. We were in art club during lunch break at school. I was in Year 8, he was Year 6.

Acne girl.

Little boys are mean, aren't they?

I was just 13 at the time. Nearly ten years ago now. But I've never forgotten that.

It's by the by that I was top of the school (Head Girl even), he was two years below and this was clearly a breach of the school ground hierarchy. But no one should be called 'acne girl', no matter who they are.


I've never really spoken about it on my blog, but after briefly mentioning my skin struggles in a post a few weeks ago and receiving such lovely, supportive comments in response, I thought I'd take a deep breath and let it all out. It's not easy to bare all like this, but here goes...

No one in my family has spots. How unfair is that? I've been the spotty one for as long as I can remember.

I’ve tried EVERYTHING to clear up my skin: first, high street products; then everything the doctor could prescribe, from topical creams to antibiotics to various forms of the pill; and I also went to see a dermatologist. Nothing worked, not sustainably anyway.

I remember a particular trip to the GP a couple of years after the 'acne girl' incident. The doctor told me I had "severe acne". I was a sensitive 15 year old, alone in the doctor's office, trying my very hardest to hold back the tears. Needless to say I let them all out afterwards.

Gotta love a bit of black and white to smooth out your complexion
A lot of people have teenage acne apparently. Some worse than others. Some people have flawless skin throughout. Grrr.

But teenage acne is different to adult acne. The former tends to affect the T-zone, whereas the latter takes hold more on the cheeks and chin. Charming.

Most teenage acne sufferers are freed from their spotty prison as they grow up. Some of us are less fortunate, with teenage acne seamlessly morphing into adult acne. "HAAA HAAA! Thought you were getting rid of me?" mocks adult acne. "I'm going to be making your life miserable for, well, the rest of your life, acne girl."

That's where I'm at.

You can hide spots on the rest of your body, but not on your face. It doesn't half knock your confidence.

You wouldn't guess it with me, I know. (I often use “Silky Skin mode” on my camera which is literally a GODSEND.) And truth be told, I am a confident, stable, strong, secure young lady in pretty much every aspect of life. (Y'all know how much I love life!) But it got to the stage where I all I saw when I looked in the mirror were spots.

No makeup + tan + silky skin mode = what acne?
Over the past few months I'd been wearing more and more makeup to cover up my itchy, painful, red adult acne. I hate having to do that. If I could, I'd go out bare-faced, but trust me, all the makeup looks better than the alternative.

I sit in seminars looking at all my friends and realise I'm pretty much the only one with skin this bad. Sure, a lot of us still get occasional pimples in our early twenties, but it's not the same really. What I'd give for just the occasional pimple!

The fact of the matter is, acne does not look good. It's not damaging my health, but I hate it. My desire for it to be gone is pure vanity, but I'd feel so much better in myself if I had acne-free skin.

The thing is, I'm hopefully soon going to be starting a career in the world of work. I want to look professional, and grown-up, and be taken seriously. That's harder with acne all over your face.

So a month or so ago I decided enough was enough and went back to see the dermatologist. Mum and I knew there was one last option I hadn’t tried. A strong drug that is only prescribed in serious cases. A drug called Roaccutane.

The dermatologist had told mum and I about it years ago, but we all decided I shouldn’t take such a severe step while still a teenager and before trying everything out there.

Roaccutane has been known to have some pretty harsh side-effects (extremely dry skin, sensitivity to sunlight, weariness), and because of one bad story Mum read years ago of a teenager committing suicide after taking the drug (probably in the Daily Mail), she was not in the slightest bit keen for me to take it.

But after talking it through with the dermatologist, I was adamant that I had to give it a try. He said it was the best option for me too.

The iPhone selfie camera has a pleasing smoothing effect.
Roaccutane has a 95% success rate in clearing up acne in 4-6 months, and for about 70% of people, skin stays clear for life afterwards. With stats like that, how could I not be keen?! I was desperate. Pretty sure I can put up with a few months of extra moisturising and wearing a higher SPF every day if I’m going to get rid of my acne.

Luckily, the dermatologist eased mum’s worries, explaining that suicide scare-stories about the drug were massive one-offs and were likely due to insecure teenagers who were already depressed, as tragic as that is. Just from our brief meeting, the doctor said he could tell I’m a stable, secure, together young lady and that mum had nothing to worry about.

Of course, every single person responds to a drug differently, so you can never be 100% sure.

Due to the challenge that it is to get a doctor’s appointment these days, it was a couple of weeks before I could start taking the drug, in which time I started alkaline eating – in short, cutting out dairy, refined sugar, meat, gluten and caffeine. Well, 80% of the time anyway.

I’d read that eating an alkaline diet has cleared up acne for some people, and amazingly, I started to see improvements in my skin in just two weeks! My skin looked calmer, less angry and my skintone was smoother.

It was tempting to put off taking Roaccutane to see if the diet alone would solve the problem, but not tempting enough.

I’ve been taking the drug for nearly a month now and am hoping Roaccutane combined with my diet will result in flawless skin asap.

So, is it working? Excitingly, yes!

Slowly, of course. I’m not expecting to have a face as smooth as a baby’s bum for a few months yet and of course I still have spots, but it’s getting better, which is the most encouraging thing in the world.

I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to look in the mirror every day and see the little improvements.

Makeup + good camera = acne girl's best friends. Cocktails and cookies are also good friends.
I doubt other people have really noticed yet, but you always notice gradual changes yourself before anyone else does. Well, you and your mum maybe.

But what’s super fun is that I now feel confident enough to go out without make-up on. And I haven’t felt that way for a looooong time.

Sure, my skin is drier than normal but not horrendously so. Maybe it’s going to get worse as the course of treatment continues, who knows? And apart from that I feel totally my normal, happy, healthy self, yay!

It’s almost silly that something as seemingly small as the skin on your face can make such a difference to your confidence, but it does. And I firmly believe that when you feel more confident you will be more successful in everything you do.

So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can soon leave Acne Girl behind for good and become the Smooth-Skin Girl I’ve always felt inside.

Does anyone else relate to any of this? Please do let me know so I don’t feel awfully exposed and regret this personal post… 

PS. I'm not loving how many pictures of me there are in this post but I wasn't sure what else to use to break up the text. Thought I'd spare you the gross acne close-ups as for all I know you're reading this over breakfast. I'd never do that to you, lovely readers. Mmm breakfast...


  1. Isabel Odriozola8 February 2015 at 10:07

    Well done for writing about this, Rachel :) It's not an easy thing to deal with, let alone write about. And I agree, it probably does feel like you're exposing yourself! But I really appreciated this. I'm still struggling with pretty nasty acne on my shoulders and chest, and it really kills my confidence. Been like that for years.. But I've always been too embarrassed to go to my doctor about it, I feel so ugly and unfeminine. But you've encouraged me to go for it :) Won't fix itself, after all! So thanks! Hope you're well otherwise, I'm always super impressed by your writing :) Hug!

    1. Thank you so much, Isabel! So sorry you're suffering too but really appreciate your comment. Hope you get it sorted soon :) X

    2. Isabel Odriozola8 February 2015 at 20:44

      Thanks :) It was just so refreshing to see someone being so open about it. I'm always hiding my problem skin - can't wear sleeveless dresses or anything without feeling like everyone's staring. I feel completely hideous, even after 10 years of it!
      So seeing this post really did help me to summon the courage to just go for it. :) Take care, Rachel <3

  2. I don't have anything constructive to say but I really enjoyed this post and you opening up. Fingers crossed it works :) xx

  3. I've had the most awful acne since my teens! You know those huge, painful under the skin spots that stay on your face for weeks at a time and then leave a redness that takes months to fade? Yep, that was my skin. Over the past fourteen years I've tried every kind of acne cream, serum, medication - I've tried every combination of birth control to try to control it and absolutely nothing worked. It got to the point where I was avoiding going out with my friends because I was so, so self conscious about my skin.

    I saw an article about Silver Serum a few months ago and I decided to try it as a last ditch attempt at clearing my skin up (because at 23 I really do feel too old for acne). And it worked! I never thought that I would be able to look in the mirror at my skin without make up and not want to cry. I haven't had any cystic acne in a month and the spots that do pop up are tiny and disappear within a day. If anyone reading this is struggling with cystic or hormonal acne, please give it a go because it's honestly a miracle product.

    I think you're really brave to have posted about this! Adult acne is something that does affect people and there needs to be less shame about telling people about it.

    1. Wow, thank you Hollie. That's really interesting to hear. If my current method doesn't work I'll definitely give that a try. So glad your skin has cleared up now :) X

  4. I suffer with the same problem. However, everyone on my dad's side of the family has adult acne, so as a teenager, I kinda knew it wasn't going to leave me. I tried everything but nothing could free me of spots I could actually feel pulsating on my face. It was only three weeks ago I found a High Street product that worked and at the tender age of 25, I actually wept!
    After using 'Bobbi Brown Soothing Face Oil' for three weeks, my spots are calming and my complexion is smoothing!
    I wish you success with the medication (it actually made mine worse!). I know because it is horrendous to live with.

    1. Oh my, that's amazing! I'll try that if my current method doesn't work, thanks Gemma. So sorry to hear Roaccutane didn't work for you - I've actually never heard of anyone for whom it hasn't worked so I guess you must've been really unlucky there. Thank you so much for your comment. X

  5. I'm in the same boat! Never had acne as a teenager but in my late twenties I developed adult acne which the latest doctor has decided is rosecea. It's been four years now and I've spent hundreds on various creams and potions and pills and tweaks to my already healthy diet. It's so frustrating and I think incredibly common in women especially. Some say it could be due to the rise in products that we all slap on our face in the first place. Who knows. I hate it. I've just bought Silver Serum as that's the latest thing I read helped someone else!

    1. Oh no, Kim! So sorry you've had to spend so much. Thanks for your comment though and fingers crossed the new serum works :) X

  6. Hey Rachel, Bronwyn here (your cuz-yes i do read your blog!)
    I'm also about to start roaccutane. You're not alone. I'm glad you're noticing a difference! Im apprehensive about starting but spurred on by the hope of being acne free on my wedding day...
    Of course, there are worse afflictions and illnesses to suffer from but looking in the mirror and being disappointed by what you see can have really damaging effects. In fact, the thing I hate most about my spotty "muzzle" (thanks for that term, consultant) isn't how it looks but how it feels-they are so sore, itchy and painful to the point where chewing can be uncomfortable!
    spots can be regarded as dirty, unclean, a symptom of laziness and poor lifestyle choices and as I like to think of myself as a strong, intelligent, capable woman and mother, seeing a spotty reflection can make me feel very defeatist - like no matter what I do people will see me as a hormonal spotty teenager. What I try to tell myself though is that while my spots may be the first thing I see when I look at myself, it's not what everyone else sees...hopefully.
    Best of luck with your treatment. Let me know how you're getting on. Perhaps we could set up our own roaccutane support group!? Ha.
    Let us not be ashamed of our beautiful faces... But won't it be nice when they're acne-free!! Fingers crossed.
    Lots of love xxx

    1. Hey Bron! Thanks so much for your comment. It'll be so amazing to be acne-free for your wedding but I know you'll look beautiful whatever your skin's doing. Completely agree with everything you've said. We must deffos go through this together! Much love xxx

  7. Hi! My name is Kat, and I am 29. I have been on Clarus, a brand of Accutane you can get here in Canada, for about 6 months. I had severe acne when I started, and now my skin is CLEAR, completely. I still have hyperpigmentation, but no more acne. I think I have about one month left, as my derm opted to put me on a 7 month trial of a lower dose, alternating every other day 40mg, and 80mg. My symptoms have been totally manageable, mostly just dryness inside my nose, and some eczema on my hands. Congrats on taking this step! So exciting. I have been writing a bit about my experiene on my blog if you are interested.

    1. Wow, I'm so glad your skin is clear now, Kat! Thanks for your comment :) X


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