If you follow me on social media you may remember I had posted about Alisha suffering with acne - she’s really been through it the past few years! We have literally tried everything! Because she’s been through so much, we thought it would be a good idea to share her acne journey to help other people and share her experience, as others who had been through it had helped her too, (special thanks to Lucy McGuire. Also Nadine Baggott who has been there right from the beginning and her skincare advice has been invaluable.)
She is just coming to the end of her course of Roaccutane, (it is usually a 5 month course and she has a month left.)
Firstly heres a little bit of info about the drug -
Roaccutane is also known was Isotretinoin and its a medication used to treat severe acne. It is one of the very few medically proven treatments for acne and the results can be incredible! However, the side effects can also be terrible and worth noting. Over the counter treatments are more often than not, mild and useless. Roaccutane is like a full on acid peel! It is extreme, intense and certainly not for everyone.
It is actually derived from a natural source, (Vitamin A), and part of the same family as Retinol. It can only be prescribed by a Specialist and only prescribed when everything else has been unsuccessful.
It is an anti-inflammatory drug that reduces/shuts down the sebaceous glands, (the bits that make oil on your skin). The combined effect of this and reduced inflammation all help prevent acne. It has an 80% success rate when given for 4-5 months.
Your skin needs to have the following present for it to be prescribed - Pimples, painful lumps, cysts and scarring.
The side effects make include - very low mood and depression or even psychiatric disorders. It can also aggressively dry out your skin resulting in cracked lips, very dry/scaly skin, itching and fragile skin. It can also make you very sensitive to the sun and so more likely to burn, so wearing an SPF everyday is a must, (and a good habit to adopt now and throughout your life.)
Because of the side effects and strength of the drug, you will need regular visits to the Specialist, so taking the drug requires serious commitment! Plus, you will also need to take the contraceptive pill, (even if you are not sexually active), as it can cause serious harm to a developing foetus, so it's a legal requirement, (a bit of a double edged sword really!)
I compiled some questions for her (below) and we both hope it helps someone.
Alisha’s agreed for me to post photos of her when she had acne and the blog is very in-depth. She’s been through so much, she’s a tough cookie 💪 I am so very proud of her and how she has coped with everything. She is my biggest inspiration, (with and without acne!)
We hope you find it all interesting and helpful...
At what age did you start suffering with acne? - About aged 12-13
What treatments did you try? - I tried many treatments, if not all! I must have tried every skincare range specifically targeted to help acne but never had any luck. I also tried antibiotics from the Dr and various creams, which only proved to dry out my skin and cause my skin to get used to it, then the spots eventually returned, often worse. The antibiotics never worked, spots always seemed to stay, or be too aggressive to get rid of.
For your Prom when you were 16, what was your skin like then? - My skin was very red and blotchy. I used to pick and squeeze my skin wherever there were any blocked pores/blackheads/whiteheads - anything that made my skin bumpy; I used to squeeze in an attempt to get rid of it. I was obsessed with having smooth skin. I hated the feeling of washing my face, or putting makeup on, only to actually feel the many spots/bumps which just made me sad. Although, double edged sword : squeezing spots created scabs and dry patches, sometimes weepy which made them difficult to cover with makeup. However, somehow I believed this was better than seeing spots "attempted" to be covered by thick makeup. I was more conscious of it when I was younger, as I was more insecure about it, (I am now 19.)
Did you wear makeup for school? - I used to yes, , but only concealer on my spots and some mascara to sort of balance out my face. Because I was so conscious of it, I became a perfectionist with my makeup, making sure it didn't look obvious that I was wearing any, because I envied girls that didn't have to wear any.
What age did you start wearing makeup for everyday? - I probably started wearing makeup everyday by the age of 14, but I didn't enjoy the process. I remember being really into vloggers like Zoella and idolising her 'effortless' look, when in reality it took me about half an hour just to do a bloody 'messy bun'!
What style of makeup do you prefer? - I don't think I have a particular style of makeup. It's just however I feel. Some days I'll wear barely anything or nothing on my face if I can be bothered, but other days I'll go full face with eyeshadow and lipstick. Saying that though, I don't like heavy makeup. I do think it is empowering to be able to change my face to correspond with how I am feeling now, not worrying about how I am presenting myself so to conform with feminine expectations!
What age did you try Roaccutane? - I went on it earlier this year at the age of 19 because I was so desperate for it to go. I felt like this was the final thing I could do to help my skin, to prevent it from getting worse and scarring it further. I was fed up, depressed and severely lacking confidence. In terms of affecting my mental health, I found myself crying whenever I would see my skin without makeup or constantly putting myself down if anyone gave me compliments. I even used to apologise to my parents when I was in the house with my skin in its natural state. I had been on different contraceptive pills in the past, but they only seemed to make my moods worse - crying when I came home from college or seeing friends, even though I'd been happy in the day. Having acne made me a really nervous person, very anxious in social situations. Yet, when I started college I found it refreshing to not really know anyone so I used this to my advantage, in an attempt to incorporate my acne into my appearance as a whole, and gain confidence so i could deal with my self-loathing at home, not let it hold be back elsewhere. However, I found this the most difficult part, and I still suffer with anxiety today. Yet listening to music, reading, going out more, getting a weekend job, etc, gave me little steps in forcing myself out of a comfort zone which I had built up for so long. Anything to get my mind off my appearance and build myself up from the inside, because I realised the acne was a superficial factor which could improve as time went on. Nothing lasts forever.
Would you recommend people to go on Roaccutane? - If you are considering it (or on it already), be prepared for the worst outbreaks at first, even worse than you have previously experienced! It will get better though, 2-3 months into the treatment and all of my chest and back cleared up and my face skin began to settle. Even though I was quite lucky with side effects, I would say keeping moisturised is the most important thing to tackle the dry skin. EVERYWHERE (and I mean everywhere) gets dry, especially your lips -rosehip oil, Bioderma, Sudocrem and a mixture of Vaseline, Glossier and Aquaphor lip balms have been absolute essentials! I do suffer occasionally with low mood but I think most people do, so I don't worry about that and I always know I can talk to my parents or good friends. I know never to bottle anything up, ever. Going on it is a big decision, but for me, it was the right one.
What advice would you give to anyone suffering with acne regarding skincare and makeup? - Do whatever makes you feel comfortable and don't care what anyone else thinks! People will give you lots of advise but you have got to follow what you think is right yourself. Acne makes you feel worthless. It is good to take some advice, (obviously I have my Mum!) Take it onboard and interpret it to make you feel as confident as you can, as acne can make you feel rock bottom. When your skin gets bad, don't feel guilty about going out in public without any makeup on, although I wouldn't say it particularly helps heal your skin, so don't believe that myth! If you feel you need makeup on to make yourself feel better, do it! but if you've lathered it in moisturiser I would say to leave off the makeup as it won't last.
Always make sure your makeup is non-comedogenic and oil-free. Apply as much as you feel comfortable with, its about your comfort zone and how it makes you feel. Don't worry or care what others think.
What products helped you when you had acne? - As I have said, I have tried nearly every brand, but I really liked Paula's choice products, they do a great "Clear" range and I used to use their cleanser, 2% BHA liquid exfoliant and Clear oil free moisturiser with an SPF 30. I also loved (and still use) NARS Radiant creamy concealer, Bobbi Brown Weightless foundation/Foundation stick as these are non-comedogenic, (doesn't block pores). I used to set this with a light dusting of loose translucent powder, I remember using a Daniel Sandler one which was very good but I use whatever I can get just to set my makeup, as long as it looks natural. I just use a big, fluffy powder brush to apply. I really rate using a damp Beauty Blender sponge too for foundation and to blend in concealer, (keep it clean though!) Moisturiser wise, (when on Roaccutane), I like Bioderma SPF 30 (a matte one) but now its clearing I like Heliocare SPF 50.
How has social media affected the way you think about your skin and what are your thoughts on it? - I found myself unfollowing a lot of accounts on Instagram, not particularly because I was jealous of the way they looked, but because I found myself forming comparison. I urge you to unfollow anybody you find yourself comparing your skin or body to. When you are struggling already with self confidence, seeing images that make you feel worthless will not help at all. At the same time, make sure you talk to people in your support network if you find yourself feeling this way. My friends and family have been so important to me during these years, and taught me that anything you feel is totally normal and will always pass. Talking is the best medicine, I cannot stress this enough.
I posted up one day on Instagram, a video me showing my acne with a contrasting image of me with makeup on. The post reads, "I am not usually someone to vent about personal things on here but aye here we are - My skin has been the BANE of my life for the last few years. Above are unedited examples of me with and without makeup. I have always used makeup to hide my acne, believing that covering it up would make me feel better about myself, and doing so still helps my confidence so much, but I feel like flawless skin is constantly expected and for women to have an idealised 'perfect' appearance 24/7 is still ridiculously promoted and advertised. It is a constant expectation and we shouldn't have to feel pressured to cover up who we are, and that is why I wanted to show my face natural because it's boring and tiring spending hours sorting your face just so you feel like people won't judge you or feel comfortable. Now I wear makeup for myself, not others. I never feel like there is enough visibility for people with acne and maybe this is pathetic to some, but it can seriously affect mental wellbeing aswell as physical health, so if we can be kinder and consider what others are going through, we can solve bigger problems. If there is one person (I can guarantee I am not the only one here), that can relate or feel better about themselves because there is someone else dealing with feeling like this, then this was worth it. Struggling particularly with this over the past few days, so thought I'd share as wish I had seen something like this to take as a sign n get out of my pit of self loathing sooner lol, so hope this helped someone."
Do you think having acne has affected you or changed you as a person? Has it had a negative/positive impact on you? - Initially obviously it had a negative impact on me as I lost my confidence and was very nervous. I was terrified about what others thought, I developed a bit of a complex. I then realised that that pressure came from unrealistic expectations and when I stopped caring it got easier! I even went to college makeup free to test myself. It felt good as I wasn't worrying about whether my makeup had come off. It really helped me as I literally "faced" up to it - head on. It made me stronger going through it and you teach yourself that you can cope. It has become a positive experience in the long run and I would not change anything that has happened and you appreciate everything so much more like people who support you and how not to take your skin for granted, also realising that when you have nice skin, not to put loads of foundation on. Makeup is there to make you look like you have good skin, not mask it. When you have clear skin you don't need to wear much makeup, if at all.
What advice would you give to yourself, looking back, going through acne? - Looking back, I don't regret anything! It was all part of the process. Always keep in mind it will go, even when you feel low. It is not forever, that is very important. It is a temporary thing.
What do you think causes acne? - I think it is caused by hormones and thus the oil production caused by this, a bit of both. I tried lots of different ways of eating. I drank lots of water, (still do), I eat healthily and even tried dairy-free, but the acne remained!
What do you think people's perception of acne is, when they see someone with acne? - I don't know if people actually think that it is as gross as you believe yourself. A lot of people are quite accepting, as lots of people go through it and with social media there is a lot of pressure to look a certain way. Remember if any accounts make you feel insecure, UNFOLLOW as they are unrealistic!
From a Mum's point of view -
Alisha suffered from acne from such a young age, it was awful to watch her go through it. As a Mum, I felt helpless, (even though I had all of the knowledge, tools, makeup, kind words, support and hugs going) there was still nothing I could do, which (any Mum will tell you), is heartbreaking, to watch your daughter/son go through something you have no control over. I just wanted her to be happy. The teenage years are hard enough without thinking you are worthless, all because of having bad skin.
I spent hundreds of pounds on skincare and even paid private to see a specialist in Hull, nothing worked. We would all do it for our kids wouldn't we. I suppose, being a Makeup artist I could help her chose the right products and over the years, she had gained knowledge of what makeup to use and how to apply it correctly, (she has very porcelain skin but getting the right shade was easy - I had always used Bobbi Brown and so it matched her skin tone exactly plus it toned down the redness from the acne.) Obviously as acne is bumpy and sore, there was nothing I could do about that, but I always knew that makeup is a very powerful tool, and what a time to discover it, but then Alisha also discovered her strength came from herself, and not the makeup. When her acne was at its worst, she thought, "Bugger it!" and she left the house make-up free and was liberated. It actually gave her more confidence I think actually having the acne, as she showed to herself how little she cared of what others thought about her, and I was so, so proud of that and her, she is an amazing young lady, (yes I know I would say that, but really she is!!) She does love makeup, but she uses it for herself and not for others. I also love the fact that her aim is to not wear foundation since having the acne, she just yearned for wearing moisturiser with maybe a bit of concealer. She is currently loving her skin, even if there are a few little scars, (Rosehip oil is helping from The Inkey list.)
It was tough also putting her on the pill when she first had acne, as she had only just started her periods and I felt like it was robbing her of her childhood in a way! However, the pills did not work. It was such a long journey from 13-19! It had started quite bad from a young age, but we wasn't offered Roaccutane until recently. I guess she had to try every avenue first. It was such a difficult time.
Being on Roaccutane - the first week I guess was the worst, as Alisha had a bit of a melt-down and said she didn't want to continue on the medication. I had to talk her through everything and support her. She came to the conclusion that she wanted to go though with it. I guess with being on the pill wasn't helping her either.
I stocked up on lots of good moisturiser, lip balms and nasal sprays and had researched everything, so knew we were in for a bumpy ride, but ultimately, it was Alisha actually going through it, plus she was just finishing her course at college with her final exhibition! so not good timing at all! - anyway, she nailed it and...finished the course with distinction!
She has about a month to go now on Roaccutane, and her moods have been up and down, I do keep a very sharp eye on her, but she always knows she can talk to me about anything, or if she needs her space, I respect that totally, (I just wished in that space she would learn to hang her clothes up haha...)
There is a chance the acne could come back apparently, so if it does, she could have another round of medication. Hopefully, it won't come to that though. For the last month the dosage is increased, so I am hoping everything will be ok.
I am pleased that Alisha is beginning to enjoy her skin and have fun with makeup...(although I wish she would stop nicking my makeup now...including my £30 Surratt brow gel!!!)
Thank you to everyone who has been so kind and supportive on social media and if you know someone who is going through this, then feel free to share this information, we hope it helps them.
Thank you for reading
Alisha and Tina x x
(Fast forward to now - here is a photo of Alisha)...