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Acne: the cure that made me ditch cosmetics for good


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I’ve had cystic acne destroying my face since my early teens, and if I could tell my younger self anything, it’s that waiting to “grow out of it” is never a good idea.

Years of squeezing spots and yo-yo-ing between oily glazed skin and cheeks peeling from rough exfoliation really leaves its mark.

Here's how it looked in September 2017:

Acne fucking sucks, and if you’re anything like me, the trauma your skin goes through every day can leave you sceptical when the doctors reel off another 30 different treatments that might just work.

Back in September last year, my doctor suggested I try using Differin gel. And, to be fair to it, it did reduce my acne drastically. But with hormones at the root of my problem, it felt as if I was only skimming the surface.

After all, for most people Differin isn’t a long-term fix, and with more scars than I could ever count, I couldn’t risk  a treatment that would eventually throw me back to square one.

After stumbling back to the doctors with a face that looked like bubbling cake mix, she finally gave in and said the three words any acne sufferer is dying to hear: “referral”, “dermatologist” and “Isotretinoin”.

Months of research already had me pumped to try this. But Isotretinoin didn’t earn its label as the ‘nuclear option’ for nothing...

Don't get me wrong, for me the pros of this treatment (i.e. acne clear skin!!) undoubtedly outweigh the cons. But preparation is important and there’s a few things you ought to expect before you start your course of treatment.

While the time it takes to respond to the medication varies between each patient, most will usually start to notice a difference in their skin within the first couple of months. 

You’re going to hear a lot about the ‘initial breakout phase’ if you google the meds, and this simply refers to the purging response your skin will have to it entering your system.

There’s plenty of horror stories online about how your face is going to erupt as your skin pushes all of that gunk out, but most only see a few extra spots than usual.

This unfortunately comes as a side effect to many acne medications, and while it’s hellish to solider on through for those few weeks, just see this as proof that it’s doing something.

Your skin wouldn’t purge unless the medication was following its course. Just take it as evidence that it’s working!

Expect dryness… and a lot of it. Your arms, lips, face, eyes and all inside your nose will start to feel like a prawn cracker, but if you can resist picking at it, a regular routine of moisturising 2-3 times a day and applying lip balm every 45 minute makes it’s perfectly manageable.

Remember! Try to avoid anything that is oily or scented. Your dermatologist will probably recommend a few products to you, but here’s a couple that have really stood out for me. 

Clarins - Hydra-essential cooling cream-gel:

Aveeno - Daily moisturising lotion:

Vaseline - Lip therapy tin - rosy


On top of that, you’ll need to apply sun cream every day. You’ll burn a lot quicker than normal and your skin will be far more sensitive to the elements. If you leave your skin to burn, your scars will stick around for even longer. 

Sounds expensive?

While you’ll spend more money in some areas, you’re going to save it in others.

My body was so oily that I used to wash my hair every day to combat it. The dryness is annoying for your skin, but it’s the best thing that has ever happened to my hair. I haven’t bought new shampoo in months!

Sounds obvious doesn't it? You have NO idea.

Sensitive skin is one thing, but this treatment will do more than make it flare, it will actually make it rip. Whatever you do please don’t get your eyebrows waxed!

This medication is renowned for slowing down the healing process for your scars, and a fragile body with crappy skin that won’t repair itself gets pretty frustrating. I can’t open a plastic pot of salsa without a trip to the first aid kit.

I hope you don't mind needles...

You’ll need at least 4-5 blood tests while you’re on the course to check your insides still work and a pregnancy test every four weeks. It’s absolutely vital that you don’t get pregnant while taking this, as doing so almost guarantees that the baby will be born with severe defects.

This all sounds too much...

Don't panic. Your dermatologist will take really good care of you. If the side effects feel like they’ll a little too much to cope with then ask for them to lower your dosage. 

Trust me, the side effects of these meds are nothing in comparison to how great your skin will feel. Even with my slightly bumpy skin and fading scars, I haven’t worn make up in months.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint…

Here's my skin now - No make up at all!

The experience has been liberating and something as simple as washing my face in the shower has become enjoyable. I still get a couple of spots each month but that’s normal.

Now I can feel beautiful without my makeup and the scars are my perfectly imperfect reminders of the progress I’ve made both physically and mentally.

Got any questions or want to talk more about your acne or medication? You’ll find my email on my profile – I’d love to hear from you!

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