Always so emotional when I sit down & brainstorm what I am going to write next for my acne journey. I want my story to be as raw and as realistic as possible. This is going to be a long post, so grab a drink or snack and here we go! 🙂
Since I was a teenager I always have a couple of zits during time of the month but it did not affect my well being. Until when I turned 21 it is where the nightmare begins. Many years ago my mother persuaded me to visit the dermatologist but I was very skeptical. I always thought I can take matters in my own hands and solve it by myself. Doing research online and reading reviews made me even more skeptical about visiting a dermatologist because all they are going to do is to have a quick glance on your skin, and send you home with a bunch of antibiotics and facial treatments.
But on July 2017, I was desperate. I was at that point of life where I gave up and I do not know what to do with my skin. Even though a huge part of me was still very reluctant to go to the doctor’s, but I told my mum I couldn’t take this any longer and off we went to visit the dermatologist. Trust me, the journey there was nerve wrecking. I was so nervous and mostly super insecure with my condition. But I am so thankful that my dermatologist was understanding and patient.
I wouldn’t want to use the word “diagnosed” because it is such a strong word. But basically my dermatologist told me that I had inflammatory acne/active acne and a lot of comedones aka clogged pores/under the skin bumps. And as expected, I was prescribed with two weeks worth of antibiotics and a bunch of facial products to use. She also recommended me to do a few rounds of chemical peel to speed up the process. I apologize because I forgot the dosage of my medication but I was first prescribed with doxycycline, twice a day.
Note: If you are currently on doxycycline, make sure to always take it after meal and not before because it may cause upset stomach. Do some research about this antibiotic because a lot of people out there experience some side effects.
I am not going to lie, the first few weeks taking medication and using the facial products prescribed by my dermatologist was the hardest. Basically what the antibiotics did was to push out all the gunk deep from your pores so that it will speed up the process. And the facial products I was given were pretty strong and stripping for my skin. I was not allowed to use any form of moisturizers. At this point I also underwent my first round of chemical peel treatment. Trust me, every methods from the dermatologist was against my principles. I knew my skin the best. I knew it is going to make things worst when they are stripping all the oil and left my face raw and bare.
But I’ve decided to go to the dermatologist, and I think I should give her a chance and to trust her. It is very important to seek professional consultation from a doctor you are comfortable with. I was lucky because she explained to me my situation and how she is going to help me. Even though the whole process was really terrifying because clearly it was against my own skincare principles, but I endured and went through with it.
First two weeks:
My skin was super dry and flaky as expected. I was so disgusted to wash my face every morning and night because my face was literally covered with inflammed acne and bumps. When I work the cleanser across my face all I can feel was hard bumps everywhere. There wasn’t a single area of my face where it was smooth. I was even more disgusted to look myself in the mirror because I do not recognize this face anymore.
I was also advised to stay home for a couple of days and not allowed to swim after my chemical peel treatment. If I was not mistaken my first treatment was a salicylic acid peel. When the aesthetician swipe the acid on my face, trust me, it burns like crazy. At one point I thought my skin has melted off lol. It was required to leave it on for about few minutes. And it was definitely the longest few minutes of my life. 🙁 I was also told that my skin will be peeling and flaky for the next couple of days.
When I was almost out of my prescription two weeks later I definitely noticed an increased breakout. I think it was because the antibiotics has kicked in and doing its thing. Pushing out all the gunk from my pores. At this point I did not notice any side effects, just dry, flaky and redness of skin. Not to forget, super disgusted with myself because I was a hot mess physically and mentally.
Two weeks later,
I went back to my dermatologist once my prescription ran out. My dermatologist was absent that day so I switched to another doctor. I was given another two weeks of doxycycline again, twice a day. And underwent second round of chemical peel treatment. But this time I was given triple acid peel and was told that it is a stronger treatment than the previous one. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember the name of this treatment. I was terrified when I heard it was a triple acid peel because my first chemical peel experience burns like crazy, and I cannot imagine the pain I am going to experience. Fortunately I met the best and most patient aesthetician. She was very kind and went through each process explaining to me what she is going to do next. And surprisingly this time it does not sting as bad as the first time.
As per usual, I was advised to stay home and not allowed to swim for a few days.
I did noticed slight improvement on my skin. Even though my skin at this point was still actively breaking out. But I definitely noticed the antibiotics and my chemical peel treatments are working. I also want to mention that my jawline was not a happy bear the entire summer. So I researched and found out through acne face mapping that this area was strongly co-related to hormones. Which looking back I think it is pretty accurate. I noticed my skin starts to act up when the weather gets warmer. I think my pores just find it hard to adjust to the extreme weather change. Considering I fly from Moscow back to Malaysia and the weather difference is extreme. So clearly my hormones fluctuate because my body cannot cope with it so it is out of whack.
Unfortunately there is nothing I can do about it and it always terrifies me when it comes to weather changes.
Anyway after doing hours of research over the internet, I finally told my mum that we should try out evening primrose oil. The pharmacist advised to take 3 capsules a day for the initial 6 weeks. Then twice a day after that. I bought the brand Efamol because it contains 33% more Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) than other brands. It comes in 1000 mg per capsule. Even though price point wise it is more expensive than other brands, but you know you are getting quality product.
The result/my experience with EPO has been incredible. My jawline literally cleared up in a couple of days. Of course it was not healed completely, but all the inflammed acne went away and all that was left are hyperpigmentations. Obviously I was really happy about the outcome even though my skin was not perfect. But at least there was progression. So I continue to take it 3 times a day together with my antibiotics prescription. Of course, day and night skincare routine with the products that were prescribed by my dermatologist too.
A month later,
At this point I have already ran out of my 4th week prescription and went back for another doctor’s visit. Unfortunately during my 4th week of doxycycline I started noticing some side effects. As I’ve mentioned the mechanism of the drug is to dry out your system. Even though I’ve been drinking 2 litres of water everyday but I still feel dehydrated, easily fatigue and I think this lead to mild depression. I was pretty emotional this time and often cry myself to bed. Basically the dark side took charge of me and it was the hardest time of my life. I also noticed I had diarrhea everyday.
So then my dermatologist decided to switch me to another antibiotic. I was given minocycline once a day. (sorry I cannot remember the dosage) But this time he told me to take it for 10 days and I do not have to take antibiotics anymore. Part of the reason was because I have to fly back to Moscow for my studies and at this point my skin was doing better so I do not have to be on medication anymore. He also saw improvements on my jawline because of EPO, and asked me to continue with my supplements.
Honestly, I was terrified once I run out my last prescription of antibiotics. A lot of people out there said that their acne came back worst once they stopped taking antibiotics. Fortunately my skin is doing way better than before, I still have couple of zits especially during time of the month. But fingers crossed they will not come back worst in the future. 🙁
Til to this day I am still loyal and stuck with the same skincare routine (now incorporated moisturizers because the weather in Moscow is very cold). And I still continue to take EPO but I’ve reduced my dosage to once a day.
Note: I took EPO 3 times a day for 6 weeks, Then 2 times a day for the next 6 weeks, and currently once a day.
What I’ve learned through my dermatologist visits?
- Yes, a lot of people are against that stripping your natural skin/oil glands is a bad thing. But sometimes you need strong treatments to treat the current problem so that in the future it is easier to manage your skin.
- I am no longer skeptical to visit dermatologist anymore. Each visit subsequently got easier. And I can open up myself more to my doctor.
- Incorporating acid cleanser into my skincare routine is not as scary as I thought. Yes, initially my skin was super dry and the cleanser really stripped my skin dry. But once my skin got used to it now I have no problem with my cleanser. It really helped to deep clean my skin and now I have way lesser breakout/clogged pores than before.
- Be patient and endure the process/routine. I have came to terms with myself that my skin is not going to heal overnight. And my dermatologist also told me that it is going to take time for my skin to heal completely. 4 months of same routine and still going strong. 😀
Like I said, I do not have pictures when my skin was at its worst. But I have a couple of pictures taken about 2 months after my dermatologist visits. These pictures are all unfiltered/unedited. As natural and as raw as you can get.
As you can see, even with makeup my active acne still shows through. You can still see slight redness on my skin. These pictures were taken on 9th September 2017. So it’s about two months since I started my regimen with my dermatologist.
This is a picture of me completely without makeup. It is bad but not when it was the worst. I have lots of hyperpigmentations and a few zits around my cheeks and jawline. Picture was taken on 14th September 2017.
These pictures were taken on 8th October 2017. About 3 months into my regimen.
And 4 months later from my same regimen, pictures taken on 8th November 2017.
This is how my skin looks like with makeup on natural lighting. A little hyperpigmentations showing through.
And this is how my skin currently looks like close up. Without any makeup whatsoever. These were taken on 17th November 2017.
So this sums up my acne journey part 2. In the future I definitely want to do a more in depth topic on my current skincare routine. As always, I hope this post manage to help somebody out there and brings slight relieve. Be patient, stay positive and stay strong. <3