From when I was 12 to 21, I struggled with cystic acne. Also known as the most severe form of acne vulgaris, and it’s just as horrible as it sounds. Not only is it physically painful, but it’s emotionally damaging as well. Having severe acne made me feel ugly and super insecure, like I had a deformity. I felt judged by everyone, even if they weren’t looking at my skin.
I’ve taken every medication that exists for acne treatment. I’ve tried holistic methods. I’ve done laser treatments. After everything else failed, I finally resorted to Accutane in college. It’s a serious drug and a tough treatment. I was tired all the time, achey and had terrible headaches. But it worked! And for the first time in my life I heard, “Caitlin you have amazing skin!”
But my newly clear skin didn’t last long, and six months later I found myself back in my dermatologist’s office crying my eyes out. I was part of the unlucky few who don’t get “cured” after the first round. I went on a second, more aggressive round of Accutane. The second round was easier for me since I already had one under my belt so I was more prepared for the side effects. Mentally, I kept my fingers crossed that I’d never have to do it again.
My skin looked amazing during my treatment. But my acne came back once, and I was convinced it would come back again. When I took my last dose, I wasn’t excited.
The six month mark came, and I broke out a little. Someone else wouldn’t have thought it was a big deal, but to me it was. It meant that I was going to deal with this forever. I was exhausted. My dermatologist, bless her heart, held my hand and said that it was going to be okay. We were going to figure it out.
She was also very real with me. A third round of Accutane was not the solution. For my body type I was on an extraordinarily high dosage, and I was essentially on it for two years. I couldn’t handle another round, and my acne was at a point where it was manageable, which I had never experienced before.
My acne comes from a hormonal inbalance. Basically, my body overproduces testosterone which overproduces oil and my skin can’t keep up. It usually wasn’t as horrific when I was on birth control, but since my issues with the pill, I can’t take hormonal birth control or hormone supplements, and my IUD is not ideal for women with a history of acne because it can cause breakouts.
My dermatologist suggested Spironolactone, which is a blood pressure medication that at the right dosage reduces the effects of testosterone. It’s more complicated than that, obviously, but that’s the gist. She also gave me several topical treatments to use along with it. And with the pills and the creams, I’m finally at a place where I’m happy with my skin.
I’ve realized that acne is unfortunately not something I will ever grow out of, but I don’t spend hours over-analyzing my face anymore. I don’t wash my face and then cry at how horrible my skin looks. I don’t sit at home with a mud mask instead of going out with my friends. I don’t avoid putting my hair up in fear that my whole face will be exposed.
Whenever I breakout now, I still cringe a little. But I’ve accepted that this is something I have to deal with on a regular basis. My skin and I have come a very long way, I just have to love it and care for it more than most people.
Do you struggle with acne? How have you dealt with the emotional side of it? Tell me in the comments!