Acne and breaking out in pimples is horrible... even the word "pimple" is horrible! It's something we've probably all experienced at least once in our lives as our hormones become temperamental during our teen years, and unless you're one of the lucky ones who's never had to go through it, you'll understand how it can greatly impact on your self-esteem. Fortunately, for me, I managed to combat my acne a few years ago and today, I thought I'd share with you my story and how I did so.
Where it all began
While many people's experience with acne begins during the early years of high school, I started to breakout just as I was about to graduate, and it became fully-fledged acne by the time I reached university. In Year 9 when I hadn't started wearing foundation yet, I remember a girl in my Art class commenting on how nice my skin was and by the time everyone had gone through their phase with acne, mine was just beginning. A couple of pimples on my chin soon turned into more appearing on my cheeks and forehead; the whole ordeal lasting me from around the end of 2005 to roughly mid-2011. Almost six years, from ages 16 to 22. That's a long time to not feel comfortable in your own skin.
Appearances aren't everything - we all get it - but that period of time really was a low point for me. I mean, it didn't affect my whole life, I was still very social (more than I am now!), but it certainly got me down almost every day, and when you think you have no control over it or have no idea when it's going to end, you'll constantly find yourself asking, 'Why me?'. Having people point out the pimples on your face doesn't help either and for the life of me, I still can't understand why people are so quick to point them out (or any "flaw", really), especially when they already make you feel self-conscious and you already look in the mirror and see them for yourself every single day. I was a lot more stressed during Year 12 and my time at university, so I'm not sure whether that was the cause of my acne, but I remember turning up to uni one day, my face layered with foundation and caked with powder, and I just totally did not feel like myself at all. I hated not wearing makeup and I so badly wanted my skin to look the way it did back in Year 9.
From low end to high end, I tried a lot of different beauty products to rid myself of acne and nothing worked. The worst of them was Proactiv, which was like dousing my skin in acid! The cleanser made my skin terribly dry and flakey and with the moisturiser, I remember waking up one morning not being able to open my eyes because they were so sore, itchy and puffy. And this is coming from someone who doesn't have sensitive skin, nor suffers from any allergies. My skin had never been worse and just when I was about to lose all hope, in 2011, I took a chance on going on the pill.
I think it was for about a year that my best friend kept telling me to go on the pill after it had worked so miraculously to clear up her own acne. I was really hesitant though because I'd heard bad things about it like breast cancer, weight gain, depression and deep vein thrombosis, and as I didn't have a boyfriend, I also didn't see the point. It was worth a shot though and I knew I had to get to the root of my acne problem and tackle what was causing it - my hormones. No beauty product and no diet change was ever going to affect my hormones, so when I finally went to my GP, I felt confident in my decision to go on the pill.
I was prescribed Diane, but I take the generic branded version called Brenda. Diane contains a progestogen called drospirenone, which has anti-androgenic properties and is meant to help with acne and excess hair growth. Within a few months, it had single-handedly banished my acne once and for all.
It took a good three or so months for it to really kick in and for me to start noticing a difference, and it wasn't just me who noticed either. My family noticed, people at work noticed, as did my best friend, who kept saying, "I told you so!". In the five years I've been on it, I have never ever experienced a bad side effect and it's helped with so much more than my acne. My periods are shorter and lighter, and during my time of the month, I also don't experience breast tenderness like I used to, or PMS. I never suffered from PMS badly (just a bit of discomfort on the first day), but maybe once or twice a year, I would experience hot flushes and cold sweats and honestly feel like I was going through menopause! You can, however, skip your period on the pill and it even prevents babies, so really, I think it's an all-round winner.
The breakout-banishing products I use
Not only was 2011 the year I started going on the pill, but the year I got into this whole beauty blogging thing and discovered the brilliance that is the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser. In conjunction with balancing out my hormones, I started using well-trusted beauty products to take care of my skin topically and also began double cleansing to make sure I was thoroughly removing my makeup. The days of clubbing until the wee hours of the morning and crashing into bed with a full face of makeup were long gone, and no matter how tired, drunk or hungover I was, I would clean my face every single night. I still do.
When my face cleared up, I was still left with scarring and hyper-pigmentation, which soon enough, also cleared up thanks to my favourite serum of all time, Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair (you can read my full review here). After the pill, it's the second thing I owe my acne-free complexion to and for feeling confident sans-makeup.
While I never experience big breakouts anymore, I'm not completely immune to pimples and occasionally, one or two will like to make an appearance. My all-over face treatment of choice is La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo [+], which deeply penetrates the skin to purify, refine, exfoliate, repair, as well as unclog pores and blackheads. Like Advanced Night Repair, it even also reduces the appearance of acne scarring. For something a little more heavy duty or for those nights I'm feeling lazy, I'll use Alpha-H Liquid Gold as an overnight treatment after cleansing. It's another great product for diminishing hyper-pigmentation and also helps to reduce the size of blemishes. The REN Clarimatte Invisible Pores Detox Mask is my go-to blemish-fighting mask if my skin is feeling a little congested or greasy. Reducing excess sebum and eliminating blackheads, for a clay-based mask, nothing makes my skin feel as soft and smooth as this. I'm currently out of the mask, which is why it's not pictured, and I also really want to give the Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Pack a go next!
If I want a more targeted treatment for those particularly pesky pimples, I reach for my Origins Super Spot Remover Blemish Treatment Gel. With Salicylic Acid, it tackles bacteria by cleaning out the pores and also contains an array of naturally-derived ingredients to help speed up the healing process. I used to use the Peter Thomas Roth Acne Spot and Area Treatment, but it smells pretty funky (worked a treat though!), thus making the Origins offering by far the best spot treatment I've ever used.
The last product in my breakout-banishing arsenal is La Roche-Posay Serozinc*. Newly launched in Australia just this month (about freaking time!), it's a face and body mist designed to help acne-prone and irritated skin. For me, I love using Serozinc when my skin is looking oily and to reduce the appearance of redness. With a triple action formula of zinc sulphate, spring water and sodium chloride, it purifies, soothes and cleanses, and also even mattifies the skin. I first fell in love with Serozinc after buying it from eBay almost two years ago and I'm so glad one of my French pharmacy favourites is now available so easily to me.
My skin today
Almost five years on from going on the pill, my skin is still acne-free more than ever. I love my skin both when I wear makeup and when I don't, and I'm back to receiving compliments on it! Not that the opinions of other people matter to me, but in a way, it's kind of sweet because I really do take care of my skin and it's good to know that it shows.
I still take the pill everyday and often at times, I do wonder about going off it to give my body a break and to see how my skin reacts. Numerous friends of mine have done this in the past though, only for their acne to come back (then they've all gone back on the pill), so I am a little cautious of that. I've had a few GPs say that it's fine for me to stay on the pill until I'm about 50, so I'm not overly concerned in that sense and before I make a decision, I'll be sure to discuss it with my GP first. I know the pill doesn't work for everyone, though I feel extremely lucky that it did for me and that I didn't have to go on anything harsher like Roaccutane.
For me, acne is now a thing of the past and my skin looks just as clear as it did back in Year 9, fourteen years ago! While I've still got other shit to deal with in my life, I'm just glad acne is no longer one of them.
How do you banish your breakouts?