Friday, January 6, 2012

acne is lame

This is something I've wanted to post about for a while. I'm going to write about it in a more serious tone than what I normally would, but only because it's something that was a crappy part of my life for nine years. It caused me to have some fairly bad self-confidence issues, and I thought I would share my story with you kind people. Please know that I'm not writing about this in an effort to gain your sympathy, but rather to let you know how I feel about this afflication in case some of you have gone, or are going through, similar things. I also wanted to let you know how I fixed this problem for good (or so I hope!).

I am talking about acne. Acne is nobody's friend. I had it from the age of 13 to 22, and I am hoping that it never returns. I thought it was one of those things that stop when you reach adulthood, but nooooo, mine just stayed put. I realise that my acne was nowhere near as bad as some people have it, and I am thankful for that, but at the time I felt like the ugliest person in the world. I had incredibly oily skin and hair, and found these things were quite difficult to disguise, regardless of how much makeup or dry shampoo I used.

I assumed that my acne would go away at the end of my teenage years, but when it didn't I sought help from a general practitioner in 2008. What a waste of time and money that was. It makes me sad to think about it even now. At the time I was working for Apple as a technical support advisor, and I came to think of doctors as having a similar role. That sounds stupid, I know, but hear me out. Customers used to call Apple when they were having problems with their iPhone - say their phone had screwed up while trying to update their software through iTunes, for example. I would advise them to perform a number of steps to try and fix the problem, and to call back if they didn't work. If nothing solved the problem, the customer would then be referred to different person or place. This process is very similar to the way doctors work, in my opinion. I was prescribed a number of creams, gels, facewashes and pills, and always told to come back in a few weeks if they didn't work. It seemed like they had a few stages of "troubleshooting" your problem, and if none of them worked you just get sent away to somebody else - which is what eventually happened.

There have been three things that have helped my acne. All of them are in pill form, two of which had uncomfortable side effects, and one that I still take now. There is also a particular skin care brand that has helped my acne a great deal, which I will tell you about later on.

1: The Pill

At the start of 2009 I went on the pill. I had taken it in my teenage years and remembered that it cleared my skin up a considerable amount, so I decided to start again when I was 20. My skin was quite good during that year - still quite oily but with hardly any breakouts. However - and I didn't realise at the time that it was the pill causing this - but during this year I was constantly sick. I was tested for hyperthyroidism, coeliac disease and ulcerative collitis. One time I even had a camera shoved down my throat to see what was wrong with me. I felt anxious all the time and had frequent panic attacks, my throat would get lumpy and feel as though it was closing up, I had terrible stomach pains all the time ... yuck yuck yuck. It wasn't until October 2009 when one day I decided to read the side effects for the pill that I realised it was making me sick. It makes me so sad to think about it now because it seems so obvious to me now. I can't believe that none of the doctors I saw picked up on it either.

Of course when I stopped taking the pill, I started to feel better about a week later. Six weeks after that my acne flared up again. I had horrible cystic acne along my right jawline, of which I still have scarring from. Unfortunately the breakouts started happening just before my 21st birthday and my six month trip to Europe, both of which were very photographed occasions. I didn't think too much of it at the time because I figured that it would clear up in about a week. But nooooooooo, it stayed put. My acne was at its worst between November 2010 - January 2011.

2: Minocycline

I didn't take anything else for my skin until January 2011. I was on an antibiotic called Minocycline, which was great for about three weeks. After that I got giant itchy bites everywhere. Again, I didn't realise at the time that the antibiotics were giving me these hives. So I stopped taking them, and once my acne returned I tried a skincare brand called Dermalogica instead. I got the Medibac Clearing Kit for Adult Acne. I'm not going to link this product because I do not recommend it at all, and I will show you the results of using Dermalogica at the end of this section. But suffice to say, I think this was the final straw. The first thing I used to do in the morning after I'd woken up was run my hands over my jawline to see if my acne had disappeared overnight. Usually they felt smaller, so I'd go "yay!" and then run into the bathroom, and look in the mirror. They were always there, always just as ugly, which in turn made me feel ugly. This is what my skin was like before and after Dermalogica.

3: Oratane

In April 2011 I saw a dermatologist, who prescibed Oratane to me (I think it is called Accutane in some countries). He explained to me what the side effects would be, so I knew what to expect. Side effects of Oratane include extremely dry skin and sensitivity to the sun. The dermatologist also told me to expect my skin to get worse before it got better. Honestly, I only experienced side effects for the first week, but they were very manageable and soon got better anyway. Since April 2011 I have only had a handful of pimples, and my skin and hair are no longer oily. I could go a week without washing my hair if I wanted to, and it would still look clean. I've had to wear sunscreen more than I used to, but this is something I should be doing anyway with my pale skin. I still have a bit of acne scarring on my cheek and jawline, but it is very slight and is easily covered by makeup. At the risk of sounding like a Clearasil ad, I feel confident enough to let people other than my boyfriend see me without makeup, and this is something I would not have been able to say a year ago.

I strongly believe that another thing that contributed to my acne disappearing has been a skincare brand called Liz Earle. I first tried it in April 2011 after reading Zoella's post about it. I'm sure the main contributor to my acne being cured has been the Oratane, but the Liz Earle products seem to really work for my skin. When I went to Canberra in July, I didn't bring the Liz Earle stuff with me, and so I bought some Cetaphil cleanser and a Vaseline moisturiser while I was there. After a few uses my skin became dry, scaly and very red. As soon as I got home I ordered more Liz Earle products and have used nothing else since. In case you're interested, I use the Hot Cloth Cleanser and buy three 100ml bottles at a time. It lasts about four to five months, which to me seems worth paying the $65AUD to have them shipped to Australia. I have the Dry/Sensitive Skin Repair Moisturiser as well, which is quite good  but I find it leaves an oily residue on my skin. When I was in Canberra I bought the Innoxa Super Sensitive Gentle Day & Night Creme, and it was excellent. It is the only moisturiser I have ever used a whole tub of. I'll be buying it again once I run out of the Liz Earle moisturiser.

If you have read this far, I commend you. You have just read 1,446 words! Well done, you. Again, I'm sorry about the serious tone of this post, and the gross photos of my face, but it is something I wanted to share with you fine people. I'd love to know if anybody else can relate to anything I've written about. Thank you for reading, and I promise I'll be back to my normal silly self the next time I post. Bye!


  1. Hey !
    I had acne when I was younger, but it would only pop out on my nose, it was terrible, thank God, it only lasted like 2 years or something :)
    Good post by the way, I really enjoyed reading it !


  2. oh my god, girl, i can totally relate to this! my skin was clear all through high school, but when i reached 20, i got adult onset acne. it was awful, and i struggled with it for years. i have spent SO much money trying to clear my skin. what finally is working for me is using an all-natural skin care line called evan healy and a clarisonic skincare brush. i have a ton of food allergies, and i read that 88% of women are putting products on their face that they're actually allergic to. i think this was true for me because once i switched to a product without all the chemicals, my skin immediately got better. i really appreciate this post because it seems like acne is a dirty little secret for most women, and it's good to talk about it!

  3. Ach, I totally know your pain. I didn't have acne really badly, but for about five years I had patches of it around my mouth that would not go away, not matter how hard I tried. Fortunately they finally put me on oxytetracycline, which worked, but it leaves yr self esteem in tatters, no? Glad that you've managed to combat it though, keep smiling pretty lady! x

  4. You would have never thought that you've been through such a battle with acne, your skin always looks beautiful in photos! Glad you were brave enough to talk about this online, I'm sure lots of people can relate to you! I have some quite major breakouts but I don't think it can really be considered as 'acne' so I'm lucky in that respect! Hope you had a lovely Christmas and New Years! xx

  5. I would have never guessed either that you battled with acne like that! Your skin is perfect from what I can see!
    I don't know if I had acne when I was in high school, but I had REALLY bad pimples all across my forehead. I mean, it was an infestation! I felt soooo bad about myself. I hated looking in the mirror and I always wore bangs to hide it. Funny enough, when it went away I was happy to show off my forehead and thought I'd never get bangs again...until two years ago which has nothing to do with the pimples. :) I tried a lot of things to get rid of them and I honestly couldn't tell you what finally worked, but I do know that ProActive only made my breakouts WORSE! I'm not sure if ProActive is big in Australia but it's on pretty much every other commercial in the US for fighting acne and breakouts. I too have very oily, and sensitive skin, so for me the ProActive seemed to make me even redder and uglier. It's so crazy how certain products work extremely well for one person and not the next. I'm really happy that you found what worked for you. It seems like a miracle with the way you said that while you were away you used Cetaphil and then went back to the Liz Earle and everything was fine again! You found your saving grace!
    Kudos for sharing something so personal, and frankly, I'm good with funny Kirsten AND serious tone Kirsten. :)

  6. It sucks that you've had to go through all of that - and so amazing to know that you were able to resolve the problem! Luckily for me the pill fixed my acne but I'm still trying to sort out other cosmetic issues with my skin. Thanks for sharing your story with us. :)

  7. @Kimberly Capeto You're so lucky it only lasted two years! Although I bet it felt like ages at the time. Stupid pimples!

  8. @Is It Secret, Is It Safe I've heard good things about that Clarisonic! Glad that you've found something that works for you :)

  9. @Space Cadet Betti It sure does give you crappy self esteem my friend! I'm glad that your skin problems have been fixed :)

  10. @Danielle Aaaw I wouldn't call it a "battle" but it certainly was a pain in the arse. I keep looking at this post and cringing because of the picture of my gross face, haha.

  11. @Roni E. Ohhhh my brother's girlfriend went on ProActive and it gave her eczema. What a shitty product. I've never heard good things about it apart from on the TV ads, surprise surprise!

  12. @Kathryn Haha yeah, only took nine years to fix the problem! So annoying. Glad that you fixed your acne though :)

  13. I can totally relate! My skin was bad in high school and it seems to be getting better, now that I drink a gallon of water a day and wash it with all natural castile soap. However, there was once a time, when it was god-awful, so yes, I definitely feel ya girl!


  14. i love that i don't have to fight with acne;)

  15. ah acne is one of the worst! good-luck with your cure and try not to let it get to you! :)

  16. Oh gosh, what an ordeal D: I'm glad you finally found a solution that works for you! Your skin looks lovely in your pics, I would never have been able to tell :) xx

  17. I have huge nasty pores ugh I wonder if the accutane would help for that. My mom and dad both have huge pores so I know I got it form them. :T I will be looking at the Liz Earle too! <3 Thanks girlie.

    also yes lets be lookbook friends forever.

  18. I really appreciate this blogpost! You're a great writer and stuff like this is such a big deal for a lot of people. I had very dry skin in my early teens and also a lot of acne, when I started taking the pill it almost completely vanished. I still have some break-outs from time to time but that's just from not removing my make up, probably. Being the lazy ass I am. :-D My skin is also still pretty dry but that's just my skin type, I'm also very fair and I easily burn in the sun. I'm glad you found something to 'ease the pain' and you got something that actually works for you! I've read a lot of stories where people just keep playing around with clearasil and what not and just completely wreck their skin. So again, kudos to you for being so sensible and finding something that really works for you! And yes, YAY FOR SHAPEWEAR! :-D

  19. I had no idea you have battled acne... sorry you had to go through all the craziness and feeling ill... but hey, you are fabulous anyways, and you look gorgeous now- beauty comes from the within! :)
    Good luck!

  20. Good on you for sharing, I used to have (mild) acne and went on a few pills, it dissappeared a long time ago though thank god, I still get heaps of blackheads though :( lucky they are easy to cover up! And I still get mad oily hair and face....dont think theres much I can do about that other than the lifesaver that is dry shampoo!! x

  21. You're so brave for sharing that! I don't know if I would have had the guts to. I know a little bit about what you went through, even though I was lucky enough to never have acne, my boyfriend had very serious acne when we were teenagers, and he was on Accutane for several years, and the side effects were horrendous. Once, when on holiday in Fiji, his entire back got so sunburnt it was one big blister. It's great that Accutane works so well (he's been off it for about 7 years and has perfect skin), but the side effects are so horrible. Thanks for sharing hun xx

  22. Amazing post - I've just recently started getting the worst acne I've ever had (proper completely face and neck covering acne, which I was lucky enough to mostly escape in my teens) as a side effect of medication, and I have no idea what to do about it, because I am not able to take any more medications. So basically, I have been trying clearasil and the lot, but they don't seem to work AT ALL. The best for me so far has been exfoliators, but thank you so much for recommending Liz Earle, I think I am definitely going to try that out! Thank youuu :)

  23. Good on you Kirsten, it was brave to do a post like this, especially with pictures.

    I can totally relate.

    From the age of 10 I had terrible acne all over my face, chest and back - I was a competitive swimmer at the time and the other kids thought that it was a disease that they could catch, it was awful.
    When I turned 12 I was put on Roaccutane for the first time. I'd tried lots of other treatments / pills etc but nothing worked. Roaccutane has some pretty nasty side effects but it does the job. It's been known to cause serious liver damage, photosensitivity and incredibly dry skin - all of which I show signs of. I had 6 courses of Roaccutane over about 6 years and now I have very dry skin with the odd pimple every now and again.

    Sorry that was way longer than I planned it to be!!

    Hugs xo

  24. @thefabulousgypsy - I've just started to drink about 2L of water a day, it definitely makes a difference!

    @Ola - girrrrl you so lucky!

    @That Brunette One - haha thank you! Luckily I'm not bothered by it anymore :)

    @Corrina - aaw thanks! Luckily my scarring doesn't really show in photos :) yay for Photoshop!

    @Lauren - I think accutane would help that, it completely got rid of my blackheads. It just stops excess oil production made by your glands or something. But otherwise give Liz Earle a try, it is magical.

    @The Canon Girl - I've heard crappy things about Clearasil as well! SHAPEWEEEAR! We're going to be twins!

    @The Skinny Moonstick - you're so nice! Thank you!

    @Sarah - ohh yes! Dry shampoo! It was my best friend.

    @aelie - That's horrible! I know, it makes me so sensitive to the sun as well. Today I was in the car for 5 minutes and my legs were all red. Ridiculousness! It gives me hope that your bf has been off Accutane for that long and with perfect skin. I hope that happens when I stop it!

    @annikavictoria - Definitely give Liz Earle a try. It's seriously the only cleanser that has ever worked. It sucks about your acne, I hope you can get it cleared up!

    @Porcelain complexion - I know, the side effects of roaccutane are pretty bad, especially the liver damage thing. I can't really tell if I've been effected by that, but I make sure I rarely drink so that I don't worsen the problem. Wow, 6 years of roaccutane? That's crazy! In a row or separate courses? Anyway your skin always looks perfect in your photos!

  25. Hey lovely,
    You can only do a 6 month course at a time (at least that's what my doc said) So I did 6 months on / 6 months off for 6 years.
    Most people only need 1 or 2 courses but my acne was pretty extreme - chest, back & face. It might come back but that just means you might need another course. Eventually it will be a long term fix.
    I've been off it for 8 years and I only get the odd spot very occasionally, usually hormone related around that time of the month.
    Just make sure you always wear sunscreen everyday (even in winter) never use soap (use moisture rich body wash instead) and use good moisturizer on both your face & body - I have extremely dry skin to the point where my legs used to bleed when I shaved.
    If you do end up doing another course ask them about perscription lipbalm - it's brillant!
    Hopefully that helps!

  26. Great piece. I too have been plagued by acne ever since I can remember. Only a fleeting visit so havent had a chance to read properly. But definitely will! x

  27. Wow that is awful that you had such horrible reactions to the pill and especially that none of the doctors could figure it out (or admit that was the cause, which seems most likely to me). I've def been really fortunate and only had acne patches in one area at times, but def know what it's like to not want people to see me without makeup, let alone take pictures. Even today I hated a few pictures of myself because of some acne-flare ups (& get annoyed that this still happens to 25-year-old-me!). Thanks so much for sharing this and I'm so glad to hear you've found something that's working for you!

  28. I had bad acne from 11-23. It was at its worst in high school, of course. It was all over my face, neck, chest, back and shoulders. I dreaded dances or summertime. I tried EVERYTHING from the dermatologist, including all of the face washes, creams, and I was on a variety of pills. I didn't want to go on the Acutane because of the side effects. One day I went to my primary care doctor who is not a dermatologist and he gave me this stuff called Benzemycin. It worked wonders, but I still had the acne. I finally got on the pill when I was 23 and it was mostly gone, especially on my back and chest. My face still had zits, but they were manageable. Then, last year I went to Lush and got the pink Fresh Farmacy soap and Grease Lightning gel and my skin has never been better. LUSH of all places lol. My skin doesn't look that great without makeup because I have scarring and I still get the occasional breakout, but I'm so happy with it now! Wow, this is a long comment!

    Mabel Time

  29. You are so brave to post this!,I myself had acne and had to take accutane I did have to suffer through some of the side effects but it was definitely worth it! love your blog x

  30. I can totally relate to this post, acne is the worst. I've currently got really bad acne (I'm 18, have had it since I was about 12). I've tried heaps of things, like antibiotics and prescription creams etc; the only thing that ever worked was the pill, but I came off it last year after a few years on it and my acne's flared up again. I've been trialling some Mario Badescu products, but they don't seem to be working very well so I'm probably going to go back to the doctor soon and ask about Accutane.

  31. Reading this, and seeing how wonderful and perfect your skin looks now, gives me hope. I have acne too, and now matter how many different products I use, it never goes away completely. I think I should probably see a dermatologist, but I am always afraid of trying products that are super harsh.
    I really liked this post, and your outtake on the subject.

  32. I can definitely relate to this. I'm 20 (soon to be 21) and I've had acne since I was 13/14. I have it on my face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders. Luckily, my face has cleared but I still have it everywhere else. I've tried so many products and since I'm allergic to sulfur (apparently that helps clear acne) I can't have use those products. I'm going to the dermatologist again to see what else I can use because I don't want to go on the accuntane, due to the side effects. I'm also going to ask my dermatologist about Verilux Clearwave Phototherapy System for Acne. I saw it in a store yesterday and I'm hoping I'm able to use it.

    Have a lovely day!


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