First I started out with all of the OTC (over the counter) products. Clean and clear, Clearasil, Aveeno, Biore, Clearskin, Dove, PanOxyl, Neutrogena, Proactive, sulfur soap, basically anything that I could get my hands on. Some of the products would work temporarily, but then the redness and cysts would come right back, almost as if they were destined to be a part of me. Thankfully my mom got a new job and I was covered under her insurance, so she immediately made me an appointment to a dermatologist. He prescribed me with Retin-A and tetracycline (an antibiotic). I started with a low concentration and it was effective. At first. Then my skin got used to it. Over time the percentage was increased. I have gone through several levels of Retin-A and antibiotics including clindamycin, erythromycin, tetracycline, and Solodyn. I have used creams, toners, taken pills, done chemical peels, and had my face zapped with lasers. I bought a $225 skin brush that I thought would help. I sleep with my hair pulled back off of my face. I wash my pillowcases twice a week. All of this for clear skin, which to do this day I still don't have. Don't get me wrong it could always be worse. I have seen people with acne worse than mine and I feel for them.
After I graduated from college I was dropped from my moms insurance and my skin reflected this. I was pimply, red faced, and stressed out by my appearance. Your face is the first thing that people see and mine was not telling a good story. I hated going to job interviews or meeting people, feeling like an overgrown teenager.
I hate being the only 28 year old in the room with acne. It has scarred me physically and mentally. I hate the way people look at it. They think that acne is a result of not being clean or taking care of yourself. Little do they know that I have gone to great lengths to clear my skin. I have even tried birth control pills in an effort to balance out my hormones, with unimpressive results.
Both of my parents suffered from acne as have several other family members. I believe that it is genetic and hormonal and both of those things are beyond my control. I eat healthy, drink tons of water, and exercise regularly and none of that has cleared up my acne. I have eliminated alcohol, sugar, dairy, and meat from my diet and I never saw a difference in my skin.
Covering up my acne and acne scars is a whole other issue. Finding oil-free, non-comedogenic products that actually offer coverage is a mission in itself. Lancome Teint Idole 24 hour foundation makes my skin look amazing! Although my mom took Accutane several years ago, her acne has reemerged, giving me a glimmer of what's in store for me. It may never clear up and I try so hard to accept that. Then I see someone who doesn't eat well, stays up all night drinking, doesn't exercise and their skin looks amazing. Isn't it ironic?
One of my most expensive endeavors was going to Dr.Rispler at the Laser and Dermatology Institute in Beverly Hills. I kept hearing about them on the radio and seeing their billboards so I figured I had nothing to lose with the free consultation. The office was modern and clean, with fashion magazines and flat screens showing before and after videos of previous patients. In the waiting room, there were people with acne of all intensities. Some with a sprinkling of pimples and others with severe scarring and dark pigmentation from previous pimples. I fall into the latter category. My skin tone is olive and no matter what I do, anytime a pimple finally clears up, it leaves a red or brown mark on my skin. I had high hopes and an open mind. As I spoke with a "consultant" he explained to me that he used to have acne and acne scars. His skin looked amazing to me and of course this was a result of the lasers that they used on him. He said I was such a pretty girl and that I didn't have to live with my acne. Three maxed out credit cards and $8,000 later I was set up with an appointment for non-ablative laser sessions (including the Fraxel). They explained that the lasers would damage the surface of my skin, allowing the deeper layers to "unearth" themselves. I was sold. My severe acne was so severe that I had to come in for steroid injections to shrink my cysts before they could laser my face. No one explained to me exactly what that entailed. Next thing you know I am on my back getting injections in every pimple on my face. I do not have just a few. It was very painful and I think I even let a few curses out during the process. In addition I was put on Ziana (a retinol mixed with clindamycin) and Solodyn (a heavy antibiotic). I assumed that this was the magic combination that would clear my skin. Dr.Rispler brought in some students and showed them my skin and that it was a result of me picking. I almost started crying. Me pick?? That's the last thing I would ever do. Everyone knows that picking introduces more bacteria into your pores and spreads acne. That's the last thing that I want! The first two sessions were spaced about 6 weeks apart and I did notice an improvement. I was ecstatic! The last treatment was the Fraxel. It caused my skin to burn and turn brown. They told me in advance that I'd probably want to stay inside for a few days after, and to definitely stay out of the sun. All of the skin on my face sloughed off like snakeskin and I was the proud owner of a new face. Sort of. My skin was clear and most of my scars were gone. I continued the antibiotics and using the Retin-A. The results were short lived. Within a year my skin was back to being broken out. Most acne is caused by hormones, particularly my adult acne. Lasers can't do anything about hormones. I was naive and hopeful and didn't know. I was still paying the $8,000 on my credit cards while new pimples were forming and scars were restaking their claim on my face. Talk about timing.
All of the money, energy, and time that I have spent on clearing up my skin has taught me at the very least that some things really are out of my control. If you're suffering from acne I want you to know that it's OK. My nieces and some of my students have pointed out that I have dark spots on my face and while I am extremely self-conscience of my skin, I know that kids are overly honest and were just pointing out what they observe. I hope that my nieces skin stays beautiful and clear, but knowing that my brother also suffers from acne, that is probably unlikely. Instead of focusing on that, I focus on teaching them that everyone is different and that's OK. Explaining acne to a 5 year old is difficult to say the least. Finally, I'm realizing that each new acne scar and pimple is beyond my control. Complaining or stressing out has never changed my skin for the better, so I am going to focus on the bigger picture.
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