My Acne Journey- Part 1
Ahhh guys! My acne is such a sensitive and vulnerable topic for me. Despite my fears, I want to be open with you all about my journey with hormonal acne over the years. Often times, we are ashamed of our imperfections. Which is silly because we ALL have imperfections. I'm sharing this because I know acne is a relatable issue for a lot of us. These photos are not pretty, but they are REAL. I hope you resonate with this post, or share it with someone going through their own acne journey. Here's my story.
My skin has been a STRUGGLE for me the last few years. I am currently 26 years old, and have had adult female pattern acne since 2014. I had clear skin all throughout high school and most of my college years. I was one of those girls who always had clear skin and would randomly get one big pimple a few times a year. However, once I started dental hygiene school back in 2014 (also the same time I started taking the birth control pill for the first time), I started to get break outs around my chin. At the time I thought my acne was SO bad. Looking back, it was very mild compared to how bad it got!
My skin in 2014-2016
During this time, I thought I was getting acne because I was wearing a face mask while working on patients. I figured bacteria was being trapped under my mask- even though I was changing my mask every 45 minutes. I tried everything to keep my skin clean. I would wear no makeup to clinic so I wouldn’t clog my pores, I would wipe my face between patients with a cotton pad, and I would get monthly facials and chemical peels. Despite my efforts, I noticed little to no improvement with my acne.
Fast forward to 2017, I stopped taking the birth control pill, and let my body balance out to it's natural hormones. But I was still getting CONSISTENT and CYSTIC acne. I always had a pimple on my face. My acne kept getting worse and worse. I was progressing from having one to two large cystic pimples on my face to several pimples (both cystic and surface level) mostly around my chin and cheek areas. The worst part was that I couldn’t resist popping those suckers!! In the long run, popping just made my skin more inflamed and spread the bacteria. I know it’s hard, but try not to pop!! I have so much scarring now because of it :(
My skin in 2017:
At this point, my acne was really harming my self confidence. I decided to go to a dermatologist to get help. My derm was very anti-accutane so he recommended an antibiotic called doxycycline. I started the antibiotic in December of 2017 and took the medication for 3 months. During those 3 months and a few months after stopping the antibiotic, my skin was so gorgeous and clear! I was so happy with my results. However these results were temporary! By the summer of 2018, my acne slowly started to creep back with a vengeance!!
Since then, I have continued to struggle with acne. Some months were better than others, but I just felt my self esteem continued to plummet. The first thing I would think of when I would wake up was how many huge pimples I was going to see in the mirror. People thought they were helping by recommending this and that, but it would just upset me more honestly! I just felt hopeless because I was trying everything and spending THOUSANDS of dollars on products, services, and Doctor visits just to see no results.
In the summer of 2019, my acne peaked to it’s worst. I was going through a very stressful time. My sister was getting married and I was the MOH, I was going through a rough patch in my relationship, and I was working NON-stop with 4 days as a hygienist and 2-3 days for weddings on the weekends. With almost no days off, my stress levels were insane, and my skin showed it.. BAD. At this point I was using a IUD for birth control and I really think this screwed up my hormones. I cried every single day. The littlest things upset me and the big things would make me cry more than I would when my grandma passed away… I would cry at work for no reason! It was really bad and a really sad/ hard time of my life. As soon as I got my IUD removed and replaced with the Nexplanon, I started to feel like my normal self again. I’m no doctor but my theory is that my progesterone was too low! - the correlation between acne and hormones is insane and will be discussed later!
My skin in August 2019 at its absolute worst.
In December 2019 I started to research Accutane, but the internet really scared me. As well as friends and family saying, “Don’t do it, my friend’s sister’s cousin took Accutane and became crazy." I made an appointment with a different dermatologist to discuss what options I had. As soon as the derm saw me, she said I needed to do Accutane. I was like “What?! Me!?” I knew my acne was bad but I didn’t think it was thatttttt bad!! I agreed to the treatment, and planned to start accutane early January 2020. However, I started to get cold feet. A week before I was going to start accurate, I emailed my dermatologist and tried to back out. She was really sweet, but basically just told to stop being dramatic lol. She encouraged me to just TRY it. I’m so glad I did!
My skin December 2019:
Two and a half months into my Accutane journey, my skin became perfectly clear. I’m currently on month 6 and I’m just about done! I'm going to write a separate post about my Accutane journey including what side effects I had, what products I used to help with side effects, and my overall experience. So stay tuned for that!
My skin February 28, 2020:
My skin April 12, 2020 (no active acne, just hyperpigmentation and scarring)
Now that my skin is clear, I am terrified of my acne returning. I started to ask myself WHY I have gotten acne over the years in the first place. There had to be a cause! I knew it wasn’t from dirty skin and it had to be internal/hormonal related. After falling into a deep internet rabbit hole, I learned about hormonal acne in woman. Hormonal acne typically appears on the jaw/chin area, almost where a beard would be growing in males. This is exactly where I was breaking out! I learned that hormonal acne is related to an increase in androgens. Now you may be wondering what the heck an androgen is? Androgens are also known as male sex hormones- including testosterone and DHEA. At this point.. I was like what the effff..I guess I’m just a man LOL.
But in all seriousness, androgens are naturally present in males as well as females. Even in normal conditions, these hormones can trigger acne. Therefore, if the level of androgens rise by just a little bit, it leads to acne in women. High levels of androgens increase the production of sebum or the oil under the skin, resulting in acne . And do you know what causes an increase in androgens.. STRESS!! Lightbulb moment for me.
So at this point in my life, I am trying to manage my stress levels. Starting by taking on less and having more me time. The quarantine life was actually really nice for me. I felt very relaxed, and actually had time to do the things I love! I’m also doing a lot of research on diet to help with acne and to keep androgens from spiking. And sadly that means cutting back a lot on carbs and sugar, and increasing protein and healthy fats- which is hard for me. I have such a sweet tooth! Another way to decrease androgens is consistent exercise! Along with specific supplements, but thats a whole other topic.
I love this lifestyle guide from @composednutrition on foods and activities to manage hormonal acne and lower androgen levels:
I want to end this by saying I am NOT a doctor. This is just MY personal skin journey, and what I believe has caused my acne over the years. But if you’re struggling with acne and you related to my post, just know you’re not alone! So many woman have adult female pattern acne, and it truly sucks. My boyfriend, friends, and family always told me that they didn’t notice my acne and they thought I was beautiful either way. But my acne made me feel awful about myself and truly harmed my self confidence. I hope this post helped! Please DM me if you have any questions!
This is my current skin, and I honestly couldn't be happier! Stay tuned for next weeks post on my Accutane journey! I will be sharing my personal side effects, and must have products!
Here are some of my favorite Instagram accounts that are very informative on basically all things female- including hormones, acne, periods, and diet!