Up until my early twenties, my skin behaved itself. I somehow managed to dodge the dreaded teenage acne and made the transition to adulthood with blemish free skin. Little did I realise at the time that my non-problematic, clear skin was likely down to taking Dianette – an OCP (oral contraceptive pill), often prescribed for acne. When I hit 23, I came off the pill to give my body a break and within the 4thmonth of being pill-free, I started to get big, painful cystic spots all over my cheeks and jaw-line and this is when my on/off relationship with acne began.
My first port of call was of course my GP. I was prescribed antibiotics, which I was told to take for 8 months (that’s a hell of a long time to be on antibiotics!). The antibiotics failed to provide any relief and so I went back on Dianette yet again.
Within 3 months, my acne had cleared. Yep, there’s no denying that this particular pill worked wonders for my skin. I was acne free and that’s all that mattered. It impacted my confidence in a negative way and somehow made me feel dirty and unhygienic! Those of you having had experience with acne will understand this feeling only too well. I also worked as a model and my acne flare-ups would often stop me from going to castings as I was convinced I would not be booked due to my bumpy, inflamed skin.
So this little dance of on-the-pill-off-the-pill continued for another 5 years and each time I came off it I’d hold on to the hope that the acne would not rear it’s ugly head again however, like clockwork, just after the 3rdmonth it would be back again with a vengeance. Further investigations took place and during this time I was sent for various scans to look at my ovaries as my GP suspected PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). Although it wouldn’t have been ideal to have PCOS, I was so desperately seeking answers that I was almost hoping for the diagnosis. At least it would provide a valid explanation around what was actually causing my acne. I was not diagnosed with PCOS and so the guessing game continued.
My GP put me on another pill called Yasmin. I was told it did not come with the same long-term risks associated with Dianette. After a month, when I hit my first menstrual cycle I discovered I was allergic to Yasmin and had a terrible reaction to it. My body was covered in hives and the itching and burning was unbearable. Needless to say, I came off it straight away and decided my time with the OCP must come to an end.
I then waited as my body adjusted once again and BOOM hello acne! Yes, I was only too familiar with this cycle.
I then had 3 years of chronic acne and rarely had a day spot free. One would go and another would appear and so on and so on. Although my acne was considered mild on the acne grading scale, it was pretty relentless in it’s pursuit to stick around. It was incredibly frustrating not knowing the real root of the problem and what was truly causing it.
I went back to my GP and they referred me to see a dermatologist. Again, I was hopeful that they would present me with a ‘miracle cure’ however I left the clinic feeling even more deflated as they sent me on my way with zero sympathy, a prescription for antibiotics and a tube of benzoyl peroxide! At this point I decided to book an appointment with a private endocrinologist (hormone specialist) who put me on a medication called Spironolactone.
Spironolactone is usually prescribed for patients with heart problems and high blood pressure and is not specifically indicated for acne however, due to it’s anti androgenic properties it can work as an effective treatment for acne patients. It works by blocking the androgen receptors, reducing levels of testosterone – a key player in the formation of acne! I took this for the next 3 years and it cleared my skin beautifully. I was thrilled, however I knew it was not ideal to be on medication long term and I knew it was simply masking the underlying problem. It was also accompanied by a few unpleasant side effects. My blood pressure became quite low, I had dizzy spells and I passed out on a few occasions – not ideal!
I then decided at this point that enough was enough and I needed to explore a more holistic approach to addressing any imbalances. I had always been aware of the benefits of good nutritional choices and considered myself to have a healthy & baIanced diet however, I started to pay more attention to the relationship between diet and skin health.
I started researching natural alternatives to healing acne, reading any books, blog posts and research papers I could get my hands on. I made several adjustments to my diet and paid particular attention to my gut health. The copious amounts of antibiotics I’d taken over the years had left me with a severe case of gut dysbiosis and diagnostic testing confirmed this was the case.
I won’t go into too much detail here with regards to my exact protocol as I tried and tested many avenues to find what eventually worked for me. I recognise that we are all biochemically unique and what works for myself may not work for you. There are so many factors at play in the progression of acne and each case will be different. I wish I could say it was as simple as say eliminating dairy from your diet however it really is not. Nothing ever works in isolation therefore it is vital to address all the contributing factors and support a number of bodily systems to reach a state of equilibrium. It’s important to point out that patience is key here, my skin did not transform over night and it took a good few months before I noticed significant changes.
I’d always toyed with the idea of studying nutrition and it was around this time that I finally made it happen and enrolled on a 3-year course. I had a vested interest in skin health and I knew I wanted to guide others on a holistic route to address their troublesome skin.
It’s pretty empowering to learn that we are in control of our skin health and there are natural solutions available that are very effective. It just takes patience and perseverance. Acne is a condition that arises from imbalances deep within the body and the root causes need to be fully understood before healing can take place.
Finally, please know that you are not alone in your battle against acne and there are natural solutions that do work. I have been there before and I understand your frustration and constant disappointment. You are in the right place to receive support and I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions at all.
To read more about my Skin Nutrition Programs and how I can help – click here.