GIRL TALK - My Acne Journey
I began developing what I thought was hormonal acne when I was about 12 after starting my periods fairly young. Starting Secondary School is challenging enough, let alone having the added worry of your appearance. Being none the wiser about other factors such as diet which can effect your skin (for some people), the first step most women take when dealing with hormonal acne is to go straight to their GP and 9/10 are prescribed the Contraceptive Pill or Roaccutane. The Contraceptive Pill certainly is believed to clear up acne, and when dealing with acne myself this was the first thing the GP suggested. In terms of the Contraceptive Pill, It’s been shown that the presence of artificial oestrogen can encourage the build up of a protein called SHBG, which in turn brings down androgen levels (which includes testosterone). Women’s’ ovaries and adrenal glands normally produce a low level of androgens. Higher levels of androgens can lead to excess sebum which is one of the main factors in pore clogging, which in turn leads to bad skin. Because testosterone increases during menstruating, and oestrogen significantly drops during your period, it means you are more prone to hormonal acne around these times of the month, especially if you have a higher testosterone level to begin with. Taking the Pill can therefore lead to clearer looking skin throughout the month because there is not so much of an influx in these hormones.
I believed for years that this was the answer for me, although to be honest taking the Pill wasn’t really helping my skin as much as I had hoped, but I just wanted to believe that it was helping me. The Pill totally “plays” with your hormones, and like anyone who’s tried it, it can take a while to find the right one for you. One type may make you sick, another could turn you into a raging lunatic and another could make you feel suicidal…. It is nuts!Finally, I found the one that didn’t send me crazy and I ended up taking it for 5 years. By around the 5-year mark I developed a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis or blood clot) in my lower leg. It was never directly linked to the Pill; however, being on the Pill for so long played a very likely part in the cause.
I then began to think about how dangerous being on the Pill for so long actually was for my body and how doctors are so quick to dish them out without thought of the possible consequences. It is true that Pill users are at a higher risk for venous thromboembolism (VTE), which is more commonly known as the formation of blood clots. The risk factor can depend on the kind of Pill you take with the ones made up of artificial progesterone being about three times more likely to lead to thrombosis. The rate of women who experience this kind of side effect from taking the Pill are 1/1000, however If you have a family history of VTE, going on the Pill is a major NO. I had a family history of thrombosis (blood clotting) so I stopped taking the Pill altogether after this incident, and to be quite honest there was no change in my skin at all. I still had acne, but it didn’t necessarily get worse. The Pill did not cure my acne and was a complete waste of time.
There was a time when I suffered very privately with confidence issues, always putting on a front that I was okay but secretly hating myself. This lasted for about 12 years and I was outwardly confident but inwardly a mess, to the point, no one even knew that I was that bothered about my skin, until every now and again, I’d have a breakdown about it out of the blue. I wouldn’t dare go anywhere without make-up and the thought of having a boyfriend went completely out of the window because there was no way in hell I’d handle the close analysis of my skin. I actually convinced myself I was ugly and found it particularly hard to take a compliment and believed I would never be attractive to a man. I became totally addicted to make-up, and it was rare for even my family to see me without it. I was going through the transition of leaving school and going to University, and I was so tired of feeling ugly and sad every time I looked at myself in the mirror and so envious of all my friends with beautiful clear skin. I was beyond tired of being consumed by acne, and it affecting my confidence as an adult. I spent unknown amounts of money on skincare, calling out for anything and everything that could help but nothing ever did! Dozens of Dermatologist appointments, disgusting Chinese medicine (that I could only stomach if I mixed it with Nutella), home remedies, antibiotics…you name it, I tried it.What really was a turning point was the moment I decided to go Vegetarian. Maybe my skin was never hormonal, maybe it was just an escape route for the crap I was putting in it. I had always been fit an healthy, but the more research you do into the meat industry the more you’ll understand why the body is likely to reject it. My skin actually started to clear up and it was amazing!
On route to my “skin dreams”, thinking I was totally onto something, an incident arose and I had surgery on my leg. A couple of weeks later I began getting bad chest pain and consequently I ended up with multiple Pulmonary Embolisms (blood clots of the Lungs). I was rushed to hospital, and told I was lucky to still be here. It’s the weirdest thing being told you’re close to death and it opened my eyes that life is way too short. For the next 6 months I had to take blood thinning medication to disperse the clots and regulate my blood and it was only about 3 days into my treatment when they made my skin “explode”, and the acne that I thought I had finally started to grow out of, came back with a vengeance. By the time I was due to come off the medication, which had become a major safety blanket for me, I was starting a new job at MAC Cosmetics. This was daunting enough with everyone looking so immaculate all the time. It was the first time I had really understood anxiety. My skin was worse than ever and I was anxious all the time, being terrified to come off my medication and constantly being so conscious about working in an environment where I had to look perfect, but felt far from it, all the while settling into a new job and making new friends. I came off the medication but my skin had hit rock bottom. If I wasn’t covered in spots, I was reacting to the antibiotics I was on, that were supposed to be helping me. This was the first time I had counselling. Looking back it was a milestone in my life where I learnt how important it is to talk out loud about emotions and what you’re dealing with, and it really helped me to learn about opening up.
I began to put everything into the right boxes mentally. It’s one thing to say that beauty is inside out, but to truly believe it in yourself and live with the mind-set that you don’t have to look perfect all of the time is another thing. It was hard to change my mind-set completely while still being in an environment that was feeding my addiction to covering up my skin. It was actually doing make-up for young girls with beautiful skin that made me see things clearer and realise how sad it is that nowadays we grow up and think it’s normal to cover up. I didn’t like it, and I felt angry that I had been consumed by it. I began only wearing make-up when I really wanted to or when I was at work. Alongside regular Dermatologist appointments to have microdermabrasion sessions, I started learning more about diet and what role it plays in bad skin. I had been Vegetarian for a year or so already by the time I decided I needed to make a change and step away from the environment I was surrounded by. I quit my job, went travelling, ate well, felt the sun on my face and never looked back.
I’m now 24, I still get hormonal skin, and I’ve realised that I’m human, I’m a women and it’s normal. I know exactly when I’m going to break out because it syncs with my menstrual cycle like clockwork. I have acne scaring and enlarged pores but it doesn’t matter. However I now eat a completely plant based diet, and quite frankly I have just stopped giving a rats arse. For me, cutting out dairy and the mind chatter telling myself I was ugly was the best skin remedy. Health is wealth, and the relationship you have with yourself is so important, and that is the true lesson. The Pill has many side effects and I would really love to spread to message to young girls like me who felt that was there only way out that it’s not. I’ve become a self-taught expert, and have tried everything under the sun when it comes to skincare for acne. The day I started eating Vegan was the day my skin improved, and the day I stopped caring and actually believing I was beautiful and was the day it stopped bothering me full stop.
Nowadays, I love my own skin; I’m happy and confident. I very rarely wear make-up, and I actually feel better without it which I would have never believed 2 years ago. I still love skincare, but I’m very particular about brands and like to make a lot of my own potions! You don’t need to be consumed by the norms of society to overcome acne or feel beautiful. You are the art. And art can be messy and perfect all at the same time. Once you believe it, you will become it. It really is possible and you really are beautiful.