My Acne Journey: Topical Treatment! (Part 1)

This post has been a long time coming and as I announced last week, I am sharing a Skincare Saturday series for the month of June. I promised this post a long time ago and this is only part one because my journey has been a long one.

From the age of about 12 years old, I have pretty bad acne. I remember getting ready for school and then I would wait in the conservatory - the best lighting - after breakfast for my mum. She would come and put on Bare Minerals Light Foundation. It was a powder and probably not the most full coverage but it used to give me at least a little bit of self-confidence. I was so worried about my skin. I absolutely hated it. My mum tried to be supportive but looking back, I think that maybe having make-up be the first point of call instead of trying to teach me to love my skin probably made it worse.

With my dad as a dermatologist, he used my skin as examples of bad acne and after trying everything over the counter, I resulted in seeking medication from my general practitioner for stronger, prescription based medicine. I started with topical retinoids. I used a range of these over a number of years and although I felt like they did work, they never got rid of the acne, just reduced it and it resulted in my skin become somewhat used to it and therefore it was no longer effected.

In all honesty, I can't remember the exact time frame or even order in which I started the specific treatments but I know I started with topical retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, followed by oral antibiotic tablets, before starting roaccutane which I will share in future posts. The combined oral contraceptive pill was also discussed but first of all, I can't have the combined pill because I have migraines and therefore it's contraindicated, but I also wasn't sexually active and therefore I didn't want to take something that may ultimately effect my fertility for acne.

Benzoyl peroxide works as an antiseptic to reduce the number of bacteria on the surface of the skin, which in turns helps to reduce the number of whiteheads and blackheads, and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Topical retinoids work by removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin (exfoliating), which helps prevent them building up within hair follicles.

The important thing to note about all the treatment is that it increases the sensitivity of your skin to UV radiation so you must always wear sunscreen on treated areas. Ever since then, I've always worn at least SPF 15 on my face at all times, usually more. Also, it's really important to use it in small quantities because it can cause irritation. Plus, it does bleach materials so be careful. I always used to put it on 30 minutes before going to bed to ensure it had dried in first.

All the topical treatments I used, only at night time. I think for some of them, you could have used them twice a day but my skin although oily, had dry patches and I wouldn't leave the house without makeup. Benzoyl peroxide is usually available as a cream or gel. It's used either once or twice a day.

I used a lot of different products from the ages of 14 to 20. It was at the age of 14 when other students at school started to point it out to me. They used to ask me what was on my face - not bullying as such - but I felt awful all the time. I felt so uncomfortable, I used to chew the sleeves of my school cardigan so I could cover my chin, which was the worst part, and that just worsened the problem in terms of acne and germs, but also bringing more attention to the area. It also didn't help that I'd moved from a school I'd been at since the age of 3 years old, half way through year 8 and only knew one person.

As I've said, I can't quite remember all the different agents I used, nor the order, but the topical ointments took up the majority of my journey. These included Retin-A gel, Retin-A cream, Zineryt, Differin gel, Differin cream and Epiduo. Out of all of them, I probably liked Epiduo the most but it did make my skin the driest and I absolutely hated Retin-A gel. Retin-A gel was the first product I used and I just remember feeling sticky for a long time afterwards and then scaley every day at school. Differin cream was the one I used solely for the longest, but I did use Zineryt on and off for a number of years, using it as a spot treatment to try and reduce redness.

In the end, I still had acne and it was getting worse. Come back next week to find out what happened next?