My Acne Journey

Let's just get something straight - acne is not the same as a few blemishes. It is a skin condition, sometimes caused by hormones in your adolescence and sometimes it's just your skin. If it is just your skin and doesn't go away after your teenage years, don't worry, something will work for you - I never believed that at the time but I do now.

So I started getting acne at around the age of around 10-11 years old. I am 6ft1 and I've always been tall so I hit puberty a lot younger than most people. Everyone told me my acne was just part of being a teenager but I was always so jealous of all of my friends who had perfectly clear skin and especially as we got older, god forbid they got one blemish and their life was over! I hated photos of myself because I had such red skin and so many horrible blemishes, I hated my face. Almost every photo I have of myself at this age has been edited to be black and white so you can't see the redness on my face and by the time I turned 12, I was wearing a ton of make up in all of my photos (good old Dream Matte Mousse which was 4 shades darker than my skin tone!) 

I tried everything - Clean & Clear, Clearasil, Boots Tea Tree & Witch Hazel, Freederm, Proactiv (back when it was £60 for a few bottles) and probably a lot more than that. I would try anything that claimed to leave you with blemish-free skin, but nothing worked. Not even a little bit. I would say at its worse, it was moderate - severe acne. It wasn't the worst I've seen but it wasn't far off.

When I was 14 years old, I had my first ever photo shoot and I met my first ever make up artist - Carlos Freitas. I'm giving him a shout out because this man literally changed my life (dramatic I know). Carlos was doing my make up and asked me "have you ever been on medication for your skin?". I didn't even know you could go on medication to clear up acne at this point - bearing in mind this was before the time of YouTube and social media and I had no friends who had acne. Carlos told me that he had also had acne and that there were loads of treatments available that might help me. This inspired my mum to take me to a doctor who referred me to a dermatologist.

After seeing the dermatologist, at various stages, I was diagnosed with cystic acne and rosacea and I was prescribed 3 different types of antibiotic type tablets and 2 different types of acid creams. Even those didn't work. Every time I thought "I'm going to wake up soon and have clear skin" and it never happened. The dermatologist told me the last resort before having to consider things like laser treatment that removed the top layers of your skin (which meant you couldn't go out into sunlight for 6 weeks), was Roaccutane. This is a controversial drug as it's been reported in the media as causing depression and suicidal thoughts as well as lots of other risks. You have to have a blood test before you can go on Roaccutane to check your liver and kidney functions, you have to do a pregnancy test and confirm you are on two forms of contraception, because the drug could cause harm to a foetus. Roaccutane basically dries out your skin, but to the extreme. Everything is dry - your skin, your lips, your mouth. BUT, it worked. My acne went from moderately severe to a few blemishes - my redness never truly went away and I never had clear skin. I was also left with a lot of scarring on my cheeks. But it was a damn sight better than it was.

Fast forward a few years, when I was 17-18 years old, it started getting worse again. 
I considered going back on Roaccutane. But then, my ex boyfriend's mum (Kay Keld) who is a beautician and hair dresser, was sorting through a few beauty bits and generously donating them to me. She gave me a set of Dermalogica miniatures - the Clear Start range which is around £25 to buy (just in case you're interested). This stuff just worked. It cleared up my skin and even took away some of the redness. I realised there was a key ingredient, Salicylic Acid. After doing some research, I realised a lot of acne prone skin responds really well to this stuff and it's actually in quite a lot of products. Still to this day I use Dermalogica Clear Start products (I've inserted my favourites down below) and a whole array of face masks and skincare products that I've found really work for my skin (I've got blog posts on my favourite face masks and my skincare routine too so check them out if you're interested).



(you can order the Clear Start range from Dermalogica or from the John Lewis website)

Foaming Wash - 177ml - £13.10
All Over Toner - 118ml - £13.10
Daytime Treatment - 59ml - £16.15
Overnight Treatment - 59ml - £16.15
Emergency Spot Fix - 9ml - £13.10
Matte Moisturiser - 59ml - £16.15 (I forgot to include this in the photo) 

These are some of my favourite individual blemish treatments are listed below; these are the best treatments I have found for clearing individual blemishes pretty much overnight or dramatically reducing the size and redness of blemishes (I've tried a LOT of products and these are the best). 


Avon Clear Emergency Instant Spot Treatment - 15ml - £4.50
Dermalogica Clear Start Emergency Spot Fix - 9ml - £13.10
Boots 100% Tea Tree Oil - 10ml - £4.99

Another three of my favourite day to day products are this scrub, this overnight treatment and this moisturiser. I use the moisturiser daily before applying my make up and I use the scrub once or twice a week. I use the overnight treatment in rotation with other treatments (including those mentioned in my skincare routine and Body Shop products review) and it is a new product from Superdrug. This contains Salicylic Acid and for the price, it is amazing. It really helps to keep my acne under control. The moisturiser also contains Salicylic Acid and is oil free. 



Clean & Clear Dual Action Moisturiser - 100ml - £3.25
Superdrug Deep Action Anti-Blemish Overnight Serum - 50ml - £2.69
Boots Tea Tree & Witch Hazel Charcoal Facial Scrub - 150ml - £4.69

So for me, my acne didn't magically go away when I turned 18 and became an "adult" (I use that term loosely!). I still have blemishes every now and again and the odd actual breakout but as long as I keep to my skin care routine and use the products that work, it's completely under control. The scarring on my cheeks is pretty non-existent now (something I was told would never happen) and I think this is down to regularly exfoliating and using all of the special products I own! As for the Rosacea, that hasn't gone away and I don't think it ever will. Some days my skin looks brighter and has less redness, but other days, it looks horrific. I'm not going to pretend that I'm okay with my skin now - I very rarely leave the house without make up on, I hate people seeing me with no make up on and I lose the little bit of confidence I have when I'm not wearing make up. I would never wear a sheer foundation - I always choose the highest of coverage. But I think that's okay, make up makes me happy and I do my best for my skin but I'm just not someone who is blessed with a flawless complexion.


General Tips for Acne: 
  1.  Make sure that all of your make up is removed properly before you go to sleep (Micellar Water is great for this) 
  2. Try to give your skin a break from make up at least 2 days a week. 
  3. If you find that silicone based primers break you out, avoid them. 
  4. Make sure you moisturise your skin with an oil free moisturiser - it's still important that your skin is hydrated. 
  5. Make sure you deep clean your make up brushes and beauty sponges regularly. 
  6. Anti-bac your phone regularly; you hold your phone against your face when calling people and you don't want to spread bacteria on your face. Studies have shown mobile phones can carry as much bacteria as public toilets. 
  7. Try to touch your face as little as possible throughout the day and do not pick or squeeze blemishes! It can leaves scars or it can spread the bacteria. 
  8. Try to eat healthily, avoid alcohol and sugary foods and drink lots of water. 

If you are struggling with acne or Rosacea, don't give up hope. Even if you find a product that makes it a bit better, you will feel a hundred times better than you do now. Your skin doesn't define who you are or how attractive you are. There are so many products now that can help or cover it up and there are so many beauty bloggers that have come out and shared their stories and showed you their faces. "My Pale Skin" is a fab YouTuber who was made famous by a video she made on her severe acne and pale skin. "ThaTaylaa" is another YouTuber I absolutely love who is super pale and has very acne prone skin. You are not alone in your acne journey and I hope you find what works for you and clears it up if you're struggling. 


Sarah (aka. Pale Princess) x