Acne, It’s the Worst

As an acne sufferer through the majority of my life, I can tell you first hand it’s not easy to deal with.

From the prepubescent pimple on your nose to full-fledged cystic acne, the average acne sufferer has gone to countless Dermatologist appointments where they’ve been prescribed lotions, creams, strong scented liquids and pills, all to get rid of the constellations popping up on their face and body.

My Acne Story

When I first started to break out in pimples, I started with a product that I’m sure we’ve all used at one point in time, the infamous Oxy Pads. These thin pads came in a little jar that you couldn’t open under your nose without inhaling fumes that could probably melt your nose hairs. Each pad was extremely saturated in an alcohol base and salicylic acid. Each morning when I woke, I would wash my face with water, dry it and wipe the pad over my whole face. If I had gym that day, I would use it after gym class. Before bed, BAM oxy pads.

Until one day I woke up with a beet red face that was raw and severely peeling. It dried out my skin to such a degree that made me humiliated to go to school and want to hide in my room forever playing video games until I’m 30. And my acne was worse, way worse than how it was when I started using the pads.

The Dermatologist Visit

At my first visit to the Dermatologist in grade 7, I was asked a few questions. My skin was briefly looked at and a prescription was handed to me with the instruction to take this pill everyday and see if it helps. 6 months later at my next appointment, my doctor saw that it only got worse and prescribed me another. And then again 6 months later another pill and a cream to go along with it. After taking Minocycline, Tetracycline, Tri-Cycline, Clindamycin, Birth Control Pills and Patches and in conjunction applying topical creams such as Retin-A, Benzoyl Peroxide and BenzaClin on my acne over the span of 6 years; my doctor finally accepted that none of these products can help my acne. Then the Accutane talk began.

Accutane

Accutane or Isotretinoin, has been around since the 70s. It contains a very high concentration of Vitamin A that is taken orally in the form of a pill with the dosage adjusted to your age and weight. It is the “last resort” most dermatologists will prescribe to a patient that has had no success with any other treatment. Before taking Accutane, you basically need to sign over your life. Isotretinoin comes with a release form that each patient must sign before administration of the pill. This form makes the company not liable if you develop:

-          Depression or suicidal thoughts

-          Heart disease or high cholesterol

-          Osteoporosis or bone disorders

-          Intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s Disease

-          Diabetes

-          Asthma

-          An eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia

-          Liver Disease

And if you become pregnant, your child will suffer severe, life-threatening birth defects.

While taking Accutane, you:

-          Must stay out of direct sunlight as it thins out your skin and can cause you to burn easier

-          Cannot do any type of body waxing as the wax may rip off a layer of your skin with it

-          Must drink lots of water, like 2 litres of water every day, as it can severely dehydrate your body

-          Buy a good lip balm and use it religiously, since your lips will become so dry that they can crack and bleed from stretching your lips while smiling

-          Must invest in a good body cream to keep your skin from flaking off like a snake shedding its scales

-          Cannot drink even the slightest bit of alcohol as you can go into liver failure

Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “who in their right mind would consider taking something so dangerous and clearly harmful?” Many, many people have taken this pill to finally have that clear, gorgeous, acne-free skin that’s on magazine covers and I was one of them.

I was told to take 3 pills, 3 times a day and once a month to make a visit to a medical lab to have my blood taken out and checked. Some of the symptoms I suffered were severely chapped lips, red, blistered, peeling skin, a huge gain in weight, worsened acne, fatigue and insomnia (figure that one out) and severe headaches. I got so fed up with it that after 1 month of it’s use I booked an appointment with my Dermatologist and said I want to stop taking Accutane.

I know a handful of people that have suffered through all of the above and worse. Some have developed life long problems such as Crohn’s Disease, Depression, Seizures and Obsessive-Compulsive Tendencies. But they got what they initially wanted, acne-free glowing skin.

Cold Turkey

It wasn’t until stopping Accutane that a simple thought crossed through my mind. What if I stopped everything, stopped using all skincare products all together? Every cleanser, toner, serum and cream and only washed my face with water every morning and every night before bed. I mean, it couldn’t get any worse could it?

After about a week passing, my skin began to improve. My pimple count was down and my skin had a natural glow without being too oily. How was that possible?

My appointment with the Allergy Specialist

I had an appointment made with an allergy specialist to see if any new allergies had developed. Before I got scratched at and poked, I asked the Specialist if it was possible to be allergic to synthetic ingredients found in prescription cream and lotion bases. I was tested for most preservatives found in any lotion base as well as medical creams and the result was just as I suspected: I was allergic to all of the products I was putting into my body or onto my skin. I wasn’t suffering from acne or a hormonal imbalance, I was getting a rash from using products my body was trying to expel because of an allergy.

As I aged, only washing my face with water wasn’t enough for my skin. I began to steer clear of any products that did not come from a natural source and I began using essential oils, botanical extracts, herbal remedies and teas. After a few weeks, my skin became more balanced and now I only break out around my menstrual cycle.

Could this work for you?

I want to start off by stating, I do not recommend stopping any medications your dermatologist or doctor has prescribed you to use. This can be very dangerous. Keep in mind, if you suffer from the P. Acnes bacteria or have a hormonal imbalance, even using countless essential oils is not going to work miracles. These can only be controlled with antibiotics or medications that can be prescribed by a dermatologist.

Making the switch

If you are considering making the switch from brand named products to the natural alternative, products that contain Tea Tree Essential Oil, Neem Carrier Oil, Turmeric Carrier Oil and Aspen Pine Bark Extract are great products for balancing the skin’s natural oils while helping to naturally eliminate any bacteria that may be on the skin. These oils and extracts are very concentrated and overuse of these products can over-dry the skin. If your skin becomes dry, opt for a natural butter like Chamomile Butter. Not only is it a cool, blue colour, but it works wonders on skin irritations, dryness and it’s non-comedogenic (does not clog pores).

 

IMPORTANT: Before using a new essential oil always do a patch test to make sure you have no reaction to the product. Some sensitive skins may not be able to handle strong essential oils and may make the skin itchy and red. Discontinue any use of products that your skin reacts negatively to immediately.