MY JOURNEY DEALING WITH HORMONAL ACNE
NOTE: This post discusses skincare and health information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute or replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Ever since I was in middle school, I’ve had acne. While my acne has fluctuated in terms of severity over time, ultimately it’s never really gone away. Even when I moved to New York for my first job after college, I was still dealing with acne. All I could think was… seriously?! Helloooo I’m an adult now, this phase of my life should be over! I’m not a teenager anymore!
During most of high school and college I used topical medications prescribed by a dermatologist to treat it. As I got older though, one of my goals was to find a solution that didn’t rely on medications since they can be expensive. However, whenever I tried going off of my prescriptions in college, my skin would break out almost immediately. It was embarrassing! My first few years of living in New York, I tried numerous over the counter solutions in hopes of taming my acne. From Benzoyl Peroxide washes at the drugstore to pricey Rodan & Fields products, I was willing to try almost anything, but most over the counter solutions were only effective to a certain point. Out of desperation, I decided to try going to the dermatologist. However, the experience was frustrating and unproductive. When I went to pick up the medications the dermatologist prescribed at the pharmacy, they were insanely expensive. Suddenly, I found myself back at square one without a solution.
A funny thing I’ve noticed along the way is that everyone, and I mean everyone, wants to give you advice about how to deal with your acne. I’ve definitely met a few strangers who were overly eager to dish out advice. Of course all of them swore that their recommendation was the ultimate “cure”. Unprompted, a lady at the salon told me, you just need to drink aloe water to get rid of your acne. I’ll admit I did try this, but to no dice. Another time, out of the blue my old roommate pointed at my face and said, “You know what will clear that up? Drinking two glasses of warm water every morning.” He wouldn’t leave me alone until he saw me actively microwaving a glass of water to drink. Since we weren’t that close it was a little surprising and invasive. Unsurprisingly, this also didn’t work.
One lesson I’ve learned is that you don’t know what solution will work until you try it. A certain amount of patience is necessary because dealing with acne is a process and generally doesn’t clear up over night. However, on the flip side not all advice is good advice. Often times the solution that works best for you is very personal, and it’s important to understand what is the root cause of your acne: stress, hormones, etc.
Fast forward to this past Fall, when I tried another round of potential acne solutions. If you’ve been following my blog, you may have read about my experience of going to Skin Laundry. One of my friends recommended it to me because she said it helped clear up her acne, so I decided to give it a try. Nearly $300 and several facials later, I still had acne. It would subside temporarily (appearance wise) after a treatment, but it was not sustainable nor effective enough for me. Around the time I finished the Skin Laundry treatments, I stopped wearing makeup. Ultimately, this experiment of not wearing makeup happened unintentionally. There was one week when I ran out of makeup and didn’t have time to buy more, so I went without it. To my surprise, my skin started to clear up. For as long as I can remember, I wore makeup to school or work every day. It had never occurred to me to take a break because I was so self conscious of what I looked like without makeup. While not wearing makeup helped my skin more than anything else I had tried, it did not completely stop the breakouts. So I caved and decided that the only thing left to do was try going to a dermatologist again.
After doing some research on ZocDoc, I finally found a new dermatologist to see. I was crossing my fingers that my experience would be better than the last time. During the appointment, my dermatologist identified the acne as hormonal because of the breakouts on my jaw line. Ultimately, she said that the acne was being caused by higher levels of testosterone in my body. The fact that she identified my acne as hormonal was a major development because I had never been told that before.
For the next month I used the topical medication she prescribed in the mornings and Differin Gel in the evenings on top of my normal skincare routine (face wash with salicylic acid, toner, and non comedogenic moisturizer). After using the prescription for a month, the dermatologist had me come back in so she could assess the progress. Upon coming back, she was concerned the topical treatments weren’t doing enough to minimize the breakouts. So she suggested that I also start taking an oral medication to control my acne. Since I have been taking an oral medication over the last few months my skin has improved significantly. From time to time I still have breakouts (which you can see in the photos above), but overall I have seen an significant improvement. While this solution has been working for me, it may or may not be the right solution for you. It’s important to talk with a dermatologist or healthcare professional to determine what treatments might work best for you.