I guess if I were to pinpoint a fear from this experience, it would have to be an irrational fear of breaking out in cystic acne again. Because even though my skin has cleared up, when I breakout now I tend to get very paranoid. Then I take all measures to make sure it goes away quickly. (Daily Prompt: Fear Factor)
Like Tracy from The Love Vitamin and Jill who recently guest posted from Heal Your Face with Food, I am also a former acne sufferer.
My history with acne started from my late teens until in my early to mid-twenties. The acne was not just a couple of zits but it was the severe kind. If you have experienced this before, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I hope you never do because it does things to your confidence and self-esteem. That was my battlefield during those days.
Currently, by a change of lifestyle and food and a couple of other factors as well, I’m happy to say my skin has greatly improved. It is not perfect and not completely “clear”, but I am happy with my skin now 🙂 I do have scars, but no more cystic acne and any kind of inflammation which I used to have previously. Alhamdulillah.
When I was in secondary school I didn’t have acne. I only had a few zits at my forehead when I was stressed. It all started when I was 16, after my O levels. Secondary school had ended and I was waiting for my O level results.
I started working in a factory producing spare parts for machinery. So I was part of a factory line and I had to wear a jumpsuit and shower cap, the works. I worked for 10 hours a day and we had to meet a certain target by the end of each day. It was during this time that my acne started to flare up. My skin started to get inflamed, I started breaking out like crazy and getting cystic acne (I didn’t know that was what it was called then) on my forehead, cheeks and chin. I reckon the heat and stress levels were the main factors that affected my skin.
I tried everything to make it go away. I relied on over the counter products like Oxy and Clearasil but it didn’t work for my skin. Benzoyl peroxide helped me dry out the acne, but it ended up making other parts of my face dry. At that time, I didn’t really know about moisturizers and what I know about skincare today, so I just did what I thought was right (but not realizing how wrong they were…).
Then I got to polytechnic and well, since my acne did not clear by then, I wanted to cover it up. I went to the nearest pharmacy and bought a face powder from Clean & Clear which claimed to improve my skin as well. Biggest mistake of my life. Okay, it’s not the biggest but it was not the right decision. Instead of improving it, it made things worse. I came back a couple of weeks after and unfortunately, the saleslady who suggested the powder to me in the first place, was not much help at all. Like, thanks? And for the record I never use any C & C products anymore. None of the products has ever helped me with my skin and never shall I touch any C & C products anymore.
At this point my skin was becoming from bad to worse. Especially at my cheeks, sadly. My mum didn’t know how best to help me and brought me to this beauty place called BML. I was diagnosed with oily skin and then that was when I had my first facial. “Painful” does not even describe it, it was excruciating. They recommended me some in-house products which I eventually bought and also made a second facial appointment. Needless to say I did not go to that second appointment.
Among the products, which were not cheap by the way, may God bless my mum, was this lotion that I had to put on daily. This lotion aimed to peel off my dead skin and had a peeling effect. The thing is, it’s not the non-painful peel-off mask kind, but this was really powerful, in a not so good way. It truly did peel off my dead skin, but I was still in school and walking around with peeling skin is not something fun to do. When I got home, I had to continue with the series of products. The face soap, which contained sulfuric acid made it more painful that I had to soothe my face in front of the fan to cool it off the first time I used it. That’s how bad it was. The products aimed to clear up my skin by stripping off all moisture from it including the essential oils it’s supposed to have. My skin was red all over and I was not feeling that great either. So I stopped using them also.
In the meantime I continued experimenting with other less painful cleansers such as those with salicylic acid. My acne started to improve in my final year when my father suggested me to try this cleanser by Herbalife. It had a gel-like consistency and contained lemon and chamomile which calmed my skin so much. My skin became less inflamed by then. And to me it was like a God-sent product because it was so good and it worked! My breakouts started to slowly disappear and even my cousins saw the difference. At this point also I had begun making some adjustments to my diet by drinking more plain water and inculcated it more daily in my diet.
But my diet was still not very healthy then, because at that point I didn’t know that food had a huge impact on my skin! I had been told it was hereditary and even hated my family a teeny wee bit for this. But now, I hate it when I hear that acne is caused by your genes and there’s nothing you can do about it. Because it is NOT! And you obviously and jolly well CAN do something about it. No grudges whatsoever towards my family now.
Even though my acne was still there but seeing some improvement, I had also started building a healthy social life and made friends through joining various clubs and societies. My acne was bad, but fortunately God surrounded me with awesome people. I also picked up rockclimbing and running. I read and educated myself on skincare and beauty knowledge and treat my skin and body better too. Alhamdulillah, my skin is happier now too I believe. Currently my forehead is clear, and so are my chin. I do have some scars on my cheeks but I no longer have huge breakouts. When I do breakout now, I know the cause as well as how to treat it.
Fast forward to today, I’ve learnt that having clear skin for me is a combination of factors. They are:
1. Eating the right food. More plants; fruits and veggies especially leafy dark greens. Less red meat, more white meat and fish. Smoothies work best for me.
2. Water, water, water. If your body does not receive enough water, it will strip off the moisture from your skin and that’s when you get dry skin which results in acne.
3. Sleeping properly. By 1 to 3 AM I must be asleep to ensure my liver is detoxed completely. If not completely detoxed, the un-detoxed properties will go to your skin, hence the acne.
4. Exercise. I rarely rock climb now but mostly run, jog and take long walks.
5. Healthy mind and healthy social life, being in happy, healthy relationships.
6. Last but not least, good skincare does help but most importantly be gentle with your skin. For daytime, I now use The Body Shop’s tea tree cleanser (also has a gel-like consistency which works best for oily skin), a toner with witch hazel, and a moisturizer with SPF. At night, after cleansing and toning I use tea tree oil to combat any breakouts (I still get the occasional breakouts sometimes but they are nowhere near my previous acne times) and Raspberry Roots Sleeping Mask (it’s a gel-like overnight mask) from The Face Shop. I scrub and put on a face mask once a week.
Wow, what a long post! If you’ve managed to read this far, I thank you! I didn’t expect to write this long but reading Jill’s article motivated me to share my battle with acne over the years. I’ve probably also cried as much as her too. I understand the physical and psychological effects that acne brings and I hope this has been helpful in any way.
This post is also inspired by Daily Prompt: Fear Factor.