As a teenager, I had the clearest, smoothest skin/face even with a barely there/minimal skincare regimen. I could use basic drugstore products and not breakout in a mess and was generally fresh-faced.
The picture above was taken a day before my 18th birthday, I’m not wearing foundation, just white powder [which was my staple at the time]. The horribly thin eyebrows are a dead give-away and I don’t know what that open mouth pose was about. LOL.
So imagine my horror when in my mid 20s I noticed that my usual “Aunty flo is in town” – one zit a month face had become a full jawline of what felt like a carpenter’s sandpaper and grew increasingly worse by the day. All of a sudden, I was constantly covered in zits and would react to everything. Stress! Having acne as a teenager is normal with all that hormone surge, but when you’ve crossed the dainty age and the acne hasn’t cleared; it has instead gotten even worse, then you have what is called Adult Acne and that is an entirely different kettle of stress. However, be it teenage or adult type, acne is stressful condition to deal with especially for females. It’s on THE FACE!! That’s the first thing people notice and it can make for some very uncomfortable/awkward conversations that even though may be well-meaning, leave you feeling like you should just go home and never show your face in public. It is especially embarrassing because some people wrongly assume that having acne is a sign of poor hygiene. Not true.
Acne typically forms either as black or whiteheads which then get inflamed, filled with pus and usually leave spots and scarring. It is mostly seen on the face, back and chest [all three for people who have it really bad]. There are several causes for acne but the most common are – hormones , stress, skin sensitivity, food/diet and sadly hereditary. Some people are just genetically pre-disposed to having acne. Good news though, whatever the cause, acne can be treated and helped.
In general, I obsess about anything that’s out of place on my body; my face even more; so you can only imagine me having zits the size of a mini black eyed pea. It was so bad that I didn’t like going out and would constantly cancel plans because of breakouts which would pop up in crazy numbers overnight. The more I obsessed, the worse it got. I did everything to make it go away. LISTEN! I TRIED EVERYTHING; from normal topical creams that made my bathroom counter top & bedroom vanity table look like a mini pharmacy; to the fancy/expensive holy grail stuff, to the downright bizarre – rubbing alum on my face and cleaning with my first morning pee – Yea! I even got glycolic peel treatments that cost me about the price of a couple decent designer handbags so I’m pretty sure I would have sniffed dry goat shit if anyone suggested it. I was THAT desperate. But the more I tried different stuff, the worse it got.
Let me mention that my typical day started by ordering McD breakfast at 4am and pizza at bedtime. In-between that; I’d walk around the mall eating cheesy hotdogs & pretzels, ice-cream, big apple frosty doughtnuts and be sure to bring back some for those midnight cravings. I always had a pack of snickers in my bedroom and all kinds of fizzy drinks to wash it down. Then to worsen matters, I lived in an apartment block that had a food court behind it so Pakistani biryani and spicy beef was literally a 2 minute walk ANYTIME; not forgetting the cheese naan served with condensed milk. Ugh! Self-control was rubbish. Life in Malaysia was ridiculous I must say, good thing I moved but alas! the damage had been done already.
In general, Nigerians don’t think acne is something to go the doctor over [at least not in my circle] so I didn’t think to seek professional help at the initial point. However, as the acne progressed from tiny sandpaper whiteheads to humongous boils that hurt so much it was a pain to wash my face, I decided to go see a doctor.
Luckily at this point, I lived in England and so NHS was a life saver; I made proper use of it. At my first consult, from seeing my face, the doctor was shocked I had waited that long to come see them and immediately put me on the strongest dose of a combination of antibiotics – Lymecycline and Co-cyprindol which I ended up being on for about 3 years. The doctor also asked that I change my pillow cases every 3 days and never wipe my face with my bath towel [I use disposable wipes/paper towels after a wash/bath till this day]. The acne cleared almost immediately but even then, I knew it was too good to be true. It was too fast!
As anyone would tell you; 3 years is waaaaaaaaaaaaay too long a time to be on any antibiotics treatment, let alone one THAT strong but I was desperate and scared that the acne would return if I stopped. And it did when I moved back to Nigeria and couldn’t access my meds as easily. I’d get the random help here and there when I could but on the whole, lymecycline & co-cyprindol aren’t available in Nigeria so I had to come to terms with the fact that the acne was indeed going to resurface. Even though I had temporary respite, I knew that it was a temporal solution because will I be on antibiotics for the rest of my life? It didn’t disappoint. After about 8 months of being back in Nigeria, the acne started showing up, slowly at first until I was back to pre-treatment stage PLUS jara. Just look –
My desperation hit an all-time high and I got pure retinol which I used as a cleanser. It peeled my face and made people ask me if I had started bleaching [and if yes, why wasn’t I bleaching the rest of my body] lol…. So I was forced to stop. I was truly miserable.
Because I had no other choice at this point, I was forced to start doing some research and reading up on alternatives to acne treatments and the one thing kept being re-iterated and mentioned repeatedly – THE IMPORTANCE OF A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE, DIET AND EXERCISE – I think that deep down, I already knew this was a major factor but had been lazy and would rather choose the easier way out of popping meds while I stuff my face with bad food and make some generally unhealthy choices. However, I had noticed that whenever I was juicing and maintaining a sensible exercise and diet regimen, my breakouts would be less aggressive and the spots would clear out faster. I had to finally tell myself the truth – my severe case of adult acne had a lot to do with years of an unhealthy lifestyle, ergo, change was necessary. Now in the course of my research, I see some opinions that one’s choice of foods/lifestyle doesn’t have much to do with acne but I am a living proof that IT DOES! Why do you think some people eat roasted groundnuts or dairy products and wake up the next day with breakouts? In less than 24 hours? I am of the opinion that while topical products can help mild sporadic acne, chronic acne can only be treated from the inside out.
Now you may ask that if it was about my unhealthy lifestyle and diet, why didn’t I breakout in my teens & early 20s when I was at the time still eating horribly? I reckon this is because as one gets older, your body will force you to take note of and change certain things you could have gotten away with prior whether you like it or not and this was mine. So I set to work, CONSCIOUSLY.
WHAT AM I DOING DIFFERENTLY NOW? TIPS?
- I work out at least 4 times a week – run, T25, rope skips, zumba etc. anything to break a sweat works. Sweating opens up your pores and the benefits are endless. A 10-30 minutes workout for at least 4 times a week will do your body/system so much good.
- I’ve become a conscious eater. This doesn’t mean I now swallow air and drink water lol, I’ve just included a lot more fruits, veggies and fibre into my diet. I still have days when I decide to be badly behaved but they’ve become treats [and I try to make up with extra workout time]. See what I got up to just yesterday, I’m no saint.
- I have cut out refined sugar completely. Honey is now my got-to sweetener.
- I’ve really up’d my water intake. I never really had problems drinking water so this was easy; I even went steps further by doing more of infused water as often as I can. Try it.
- I have cut out all the frills with my previous complicated skincare regimen. In the past, I’d use so many products before and after a bath that my poor face will just dry out and breakout from too much. Now, I only use TWO products – my bodyshop tea tree range and Soap & Glory scrubs. When I’ve run out, I make do with Neutrogena pink grapefruit wash but I’m sure to always revert to my tea tree bodyshop wash.
- I wash my face only twice a day with warm water and tea tree face wash. I don’t use anything else on my face.
- I don’t clean my face with my bath/body towel; I only clean it with disposable wipes or paper napkins. Never to be repeated. I also change my pillow cases every 3 days, whether or not I’m also changing my sheets. My first dermatologist gave me this tip because apparently, pillowcases & towels are prime spots for bacteria transfer.
- I still struggle with not picking my face but I’m truly better with it nowadays. This is a terrible habit to have if you’re battling acne. Anyone who’s dealt with acne will tell you how hard it is to NOT touch your face. One day at a time.
- Aloe vera, cucumber and an ice pack are great for soothing the crazy itching that sometimes comes with aggressive acne. Whenever you feel the itch, do not scratch AT ALL, instead place slices of cucumber and/or an ice pack or rub aloe vera juice on the area. It really helps soothe it.
- A great DIY face mask is a mix of oats, honey and lemon juice. Oats has scrub properties; honey is a mosturizer while lemon is great for fading black spots. I use this combo often for home facials
- Moisturize! Moisturize! Moisturize! I cannot stress this enough! Having overly dry face/skin will cause breakouts just as much as an overly oily one would. In picking a suitable moisturizer, be sure to take your skin type into consideration – is it dry or oily or a combo? Pick accordingly.
- My mum gave me these Swissgarde supplements – Skin, Hair & Nails – which I’ve also been on. It’s 100% safe and completely herbal.
- Do not pile on makeup in a bid to cover the breakout. It does nothing to cover the bumps, instead it clogs your pores and aggravates the acne; plus there’s nothing more scary to look at than an overly caked face full of humongous acne. I know all about the urge to hide behind the makeup but trust me, at your worst, makeup is NOT your friend. Just chest the bare face [and stares] for a few days till the aggressive stage passes.
- In addition, do not ever go to bed with makeup on. No matter how tired you are, wash your face before you snooze, even in the afternoon.
- Do not aggressively wash your face one million times a day. Washing twice a day with warm water and mild products will suffice.
- Do not pick your face and pop your whiteheads, it’ll irritate the skin and cause inflammation/scarring. Also, picking it will cause the bacteria to spread as your hands are probably dirty anyways.
- Do not scrub your face at the aggressive stage of a breakout, you’ll just have angry acne on your hands.
- Maintain a proper face regimen, it’s not necessarily about the fancy products, it’s all about consistency
- Begin [and preferably end] your everyday with a cup of warm water and lemon juice [wedges]. This mix flushes your digestive system, stimulates your liver and kidney and does the whole body great good.
- Get to know your triggers. Some people breakout when stressed, some people can’t play with groundnut; get to know yours, if any.
- Be patient with the process. Serious acne cannot clear in a day or a week or even a month. It takes at least 8weeks for visible difference to be seen but if you hang in there, you’ll be smiling soon.
So what does my BARE face look like today? I’ll let the pictures do the talking
These pictures were taken just last night. Do you see the difference? Like I actually go out without an ounce of makeup on. Ha! *dougies*
When I now decide to rub pancake ehn…. *who’s that guuuuuuuuuuuurl*
Although this is an incredibly sensitive post for me to write, seeing as it meant posting unflattering pics of myself, I chose to write on this because it’s something a lot of women deal with and I’m hoping that by sharing, it’ll help someone jumpstart their own lifestyle change and hopefully see visible changes as I have. Guys, I kid you not, a CLEAN DIET coupled with a SENSIBLE SKINCARE & WORKOUT REGIMEN will change your lives in every aspect.
If you have any further questions, please ask me below. I’d also appreciate tips from you flawless women; share with me your skincare regimen/fresh face tips.