Insight into my skin story and how I managed the mental, emotional, and physical side effects while not letting it deteriorate my self-worth. From my first pimple to when I began Accutane.
I remember my first breakout. I was in the fifth grade and a boy came up to me and said “what’s on your face?” From that moment I became insecure about my skin. To start breaking out from such a young age really impacted the relationship I had with my body.
Fast forward to seventh grade, middle school in the States, I was continuing my struggle with acne but it reached a new level. I was breaking out to the point where I had to go to a Dermatologist. I was prescribed a topical treatment and chemical peel pads to use nightly. These products were extremely harsh on my sensitive young skin. My dermatologist at the time recommended microdermabrasion treatments, which caused my skin to peel uncontrollably, not the type of complexion that helps a seventh-grader boost their confidence.
The following year my acne did not improve and my mother knew that this dermatologist’s approach to treating my acne was not right for me. I decided to go to a prestigious New York City-based dermatologist, whose identity will remain anonymous to protect their identity. After a blood test, the records showed that I had high cortisol and testosterone levels, leading to an increase in oil production in my skin and making me break out. I was prescribed an oral medication called Spironolactone, which is typically used to treat high blood pressure. I was finally seeing results after a few weeks on Spironolactone. How this medication works is that it’s an androgen blocker, which minimizes the number of androgen hormones by blocking the receptors that bind with Testosterone since I was tested for a higher amount of testosterone compared to estrogen in my body — typical for thirteen-year-olds going through puberty. Although I finally had the clear skin I dreamed of, this medication made me feel sad often and was disrupting my menstrual cycle.
By the time I was in high school my basic plan of attack for my skin was getting weekly facials. My mom, of Korean descent, believed that going to weekly facials would help control my skin and it did help my skin calm down. I also was prescribed antibiotics, tetracycline, minocycline, doxycycline, and clindamycin, all of which helped clear my skin but was ruining my gut health. Come senior year I knew I needed a more permanent solution since being on antibiotics for long periods of time is terrible for your gut and microbiome, plus I would be going to college soon and would be unable to go to my weekly facials. So I was prescribed birth control to keep my skin in check. Luckily birth control balanced my hormones and I was finally living with clear skin, enjoying my life and not letting it hold me back.
Then we took a detour. Up until last Fall, of 2018 I changed my method of birth control from the pill to a non-hormonal copper IUD and this was where I went wrong. October of 2018 my skin flared up again and I knew something was going on internally. I tried dieting, eliminated dairy from my diet and even went vegan! Nothing I tried even helped in the slightest. My skin continued to get worse so by the time January came I decided to go to an Endocrinologist to see what was going on internally. My Endocrinologist believed I was suffering from PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, which impacts women with infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods and or an excess of male (androgen) levels. I was dealing with hair loss, acne, continuous yeast infections with the IUD, daily painful menstrual cramps, faint and dizziness. It was a lot for me, just a twenty-year-old to handle. I was not just struggling physically, my emotional health was deteriorating. My doctor advised me to take out my non-hormonal IUD and I was prescribed a birth control called Yasmin, known to help those with PCOS, although it unfortunately did not help. My acne became worse, actually severe and to the point that I didn’t even want to go to class. I became depressed and obsessed with my skin. I was so embarrassed to even look in the mirror and was no longer able to look people in the eyes. I hibernated and knew something needed to change. I then told my Endocrinologist I want to go back on my first form of birth control called Minestrin and hoped for the best.
In March I reached my breaking point. I finally came to the point of going on Accutane. I tried every option, topical creams, chemical peels, antibiotics, spironolactone, weekly facials, non-hormonal IUD, dieting, and going vegan, yet it all was not enough. My dermatologist told me I was the perfect candidate for Accutane but the hardest part was having to wait the month to be approved by the iPledge program. Finally when the day came, April 1st, 2019, to begin my Accutane medication, I was completely overjoyed.
Fast forward to today, a year later, I am currently acne-free. I have been on a long and arduous journey but I still would not change a thing. I have learned to listen to my body and nurture my heart and soul, not just my skin. I truly believe I was meant to get acne so I could learn to grow and lead with kindness and positivity.
Dealing with acne from a young age began the long and hard journey of self-love. I believe that my acne journey has impacted my mental health and emotional health. Acne is beyond a skin disease. Acne impacts more than your appearance and can take a major toll on one’s emotional health. How can a young woman cultivate confidence if all she wants is to hide her face from the world? Feeling blemished hurts and impacted the relationship I had with my body. I felt bad for the people around me and was in the never-ending cycle of embarrassment. It felt like the cycle would never end I came to the point of giving up, not smothering my face in makeup and just embracing what I was going through. I learned that the best source of healing for me was to have an outlet to express myself and share what I was going through with others. Thank you all for supporting me and embracing me.
I am so grateful for you all. Thank you for reading my story and allowing me to share my journey with you.