Some of you may be aware that I have suffered from chronic cystic acne for 4 years, and this deeply affected my self-image for quite some time. My insecurities surrounding my skin and the pain of acne cysts drove me to explore the world of skincare. However nothing worked for the long run, it almost seemed that my skin would show signs of improvement and then flare right back up again, so it wasn’t a concrete treatment plan that’s for sure – neither was it easy on the purse strings.
Like anyone desperate for answers, I turned to the internet to try and find out if there was an answer aligned in the stars(!). Diets, exercise, water consumption, you name it I tried it.
My skin had always been a sore spot for my confidence as it hadn’t been marginally clear in years, and I constantly wanted to wear makeup to divert the attention of onlookers. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and now I can see that people were looking at me but not necessarily because of my skin; although it did look sore and inflamed because it was just that – however, they may have empathised with me rather than judged me. But my confidence had reached an all-time low and I didn’t want to go outside without makeup on, as at that time makeup was a mask and a way of concealing what I had perceived as the ‘ugly’ and trying to draw attention away from something, in hopes that it would disappear over time.
Surprise surprise it didn’t.
Therefore after much deliberation, I booked a doctors appointment to discuss if there was an answer as to why I was still not seeing any change in my skin after constantly trying and ruling out every single explanation that I could think of.
Our first course of action was to try a long term course of antibiotics as the doctor wanted to ensure I didn’t have an infection in my lesions (as cystic acne are prone to infection when they burst. Yummy I know(!)). Next, we tried benzoyl peroxide– which is a cream that breaks down the surface level of the skin in an attempt to chemically exfoliate the cysts so that they can be treated. When this didn’t work it was time for a retinoid cream to take to the stage. I found them to be okay for short term use but again they didn’t sustain their healing effect for too long.
So after that, we were left with one final course of action. Accutane.
Now Accutane has hit the headlines in the past as the side effects are pretty harsh. Although upon enquiry with my dermatologist, he assured me that blood tests were to be carried out routinely every few months to check my liver function and other important markers before they issued a new prescription. It was also imperative that I don’t become pregnant as the drug would cause severe birth defects in a foetus, and pregnancy would require termination. But this wasn’t a concern for me as I am in a monogamous relationship with a cis woman. However, for legal reasons, I did have to sign a disclosure form and take monthly pregnancy tests.
Mental health evaluations were to be carried out monthly and if the practitioner had any concerns about my mental state relating to the drug, I wouldn’t be given a new prescription until they could definitively rule out any qualms.
Personally, I haven’t found any correlation between my mood and the consumption of Accutane. This applies for any change in dosage. However, I wish to stress that if you are taking any medication and see a potential negative correlation between your mental state and the introduction of said drug, you must contact your doctor.
It can be argued that you shouldn’t feel the need to change something about yourself to boost your self-confidence, however, it isn’t just that I want to use a powerful drug to get rid of the cellulite on my thighs. These are angry, physically painful wounds which can easily contract an infection and scar your face. You can’t heal chronic cystic acne with topical (relating or applied directly to a part of the body) treatment, and there was no clear cause behind my susceptibility. Plus I have Ehlers danlos so my skin is like tissue paper and wounds take an eternity to heal.
Therefore my argument in favour is: why wouldn’t I try Accutane? For quite some time prior to trying the drug, I was averse to it, feeling like it wasn’t body positive, that my self-esteem with my acne was low because of some deep-rooted issue that a tablet wouldn’t fix.
I am here to tell you that these Freudianesque suspicions are certainly not shared with the dermatologists and nurses I have spoken to. Every single one has said how rewarding it is to see people grow in confidence as their acne shrinks in size, and I can attest to this as my confidence has increased greatly, but the main positive for me is that my skin is causing me any pain or discomfort. I no longer have to sanitise my lesions multiple times a day because they’re weeping. I can wear my hair down without it getting stuck to my cysts when I sleep, and my risk of contracting an infection has decreased massively – and as someone with a suppressed immune system, this is a real positive
Part of me wishes that I had taken photographs of my skin throughout the duration of my treatment so that I could show you guys just how much it has improved – but it seemed too exposing to do so at the time – which is contradicting considering I’ve literally talked about my bladder incontinence and accidentally weeing in a lift. But I didn’t, therefore, I can only show you some photographs of my skin now.
My journey with Accutane is coming to a long-awaited end, and to be quite frank with you I’m simultaneously relieved and nervous. Not because the drug is addictive or anything serious like that, but that a part of me fears that my acne will spring right back; as I’ve never had a treatment fully combat the problem. But I know that this is an understandable feeling, but something I have no control over – yet I do have complete control over how I react to this concern.
- I’m going to establish a skincare routine with the guidance of my dermatologist.
- I’m still going to wear makeup but never to conceal insecurity.
- I’m going to document the process on Instagram and this very blog, as I feel I have a unique perspective as someone with Ehlers danlos.
Throughout the duration of my treatment, I took it upon myself to actively seek out skin positive media and stop using derogatory language when addressing my acne in the mirror. But I didn’t really go into details about how I was doing this throughout my journey, and since I am now left with a pretty clear visage as it were, I would think it unnecessary to do so – although I shall share helpful resources and inspirational individuals with acne who did actively document their journey.
Mariah, Instagram @acnetain
Upon asking Mariah about her skin positivity journey and how broadcasting her journey has affected her she said
“the initial prospect of broadcasting your biggest insecurity and the bane of your existence online is ridiculous. It was daunting posting those first pictures of the state of my skin. I was ready to face a backlash of humiliation, and feel even worse about myself.
But I’m so glad I took the risk. I have received so much love and support. Empathy and understanding. This social media journey of mine has been very therapeutic and liberating for me. And has resulted in so much self confidence. The opposite of what I was expecting. Social media isn’t always the cyber bullying place is made out to be. Sometimes it can be quite tranquil.”
Grace, Instagram @anotheracnepage
Kali, Instagram @myfacestory
Kiana, Instagram @mysevereacneblog
After reaching out to the accounts I have mentioned I received a statement from Kiana, which I greatly appreciate. When asking Kiana how she would summarise her journey with skin positivity on social media, she stated
“Even with a public platform in the skin positivity community I feel safe it feels like another home. From my very first post, I felt welcomed and supported. I was introduced to tips and new products that have helped my skin beyond my expectations. I’m very grateful for the people who take time out of their day to review products and document their journeys so we can all learn and try things for ourselves. Like many I wish I had found it sooner; it has helped me calm my skin and my mind. I also feel more at peace with who I am with the knowledge I’m not the only person battling with something that’s common, normal, and frowned upon. “
I would once again like to thank Kiana for what she had to say, and I hope you guys can check out her Instagram profile to see the awesome content she puts out there.
Megha, Instagram @acnewithmegha
Want to get to know me? Why not check out the blog posts listed below to find out more.