Unsolicited Acne Advice & Why I Am Done Apologising For My Skin

Anyone with acne I’m sure will agree with the pain that is unsolicited advice or unwanted attention because of their skin. I honestly don’t know what compels people to dish it out as some comments are downright insensitive. I appreciate they’re trying to help but I find it really difficult the number of people that make the condition of my skin their business. Particularly as acne varies so much from person to person and it can be incredibly complicated to overcome.

For me personally it isn’t as simple as some of the suggestions I’ve had in the past from strangers, friends and family. Ultimately no one would ever choose to have acne hence me trying topical prescriptions, diet changes, supplements, birth control and lengthy antibiotic treatments whilst riding an emotional roller coaster spanning 6 years and I still don’t have clear skin. It’s so complex and far from easy which people don’t seem to understand – all the things I’ve tried to clear my skin can be found here and I’m still trying.

Over the years without asking and sometimes out of the blue I’ve had products suggested, generally skin care but once this included laundry detergent along with a suggested sheet washing regime from a stranger in a supermarket. I’ve had people suggest I just give up dairy, eggs, caffeine, alcohol, anything. I’ve had a housemate randomly announce if I stopped washing my face with all those products then surely everything would regulate itself and I wouldn’t look like this anymore. Others without being close to me have criticised my diet for being too sugary and unhealthy or that I simply don’t drink enough water or poke my face too often. I’ve lost count of the number of random people who’ve offered miraculous solutions to me. Unsurprisingly unless they’re really out of the box I’ve probably come across them when hopelessly Googling “how to clear acne” or “how to get clear skin” and here we are still without 100% success.

The trouble with unsolicited advice is it can come across as insulting, as though we’re lazy and not trying hard enough to look better or that we’re dirty with poor hygiene for not washing our faces with the Clearasil someone recommended. It can easily make me feel like a failure for not winning the physical war with acne. Part of the problem with unsolicited advice is that unfortunately lots of people think that having a smattering of pimples in your teens, which is very normal, qualifies them to dole out acne advice – it doesn’t. Most normal, considerate people wouldn’t walk up to someone they didn’t know with dandruff and tell them to buy Head and Shoulders because it worked for their sister in law. Just like they wouldn’t approach someone overweight and suggest meal replacement shakes that worked for their twice removed cousin. So why do so many people often make my skin, or acne, their business?

Is it that people are that horrified at the sight of blemishes and scarring that they feel the need to try and impart some wisdom to correct it? Or that they feel sorry for me? It has crossed my mind. Nowadays I can leave the house without make up on which is something that would once have been impossible for me aged 20 and this is not out of vanity it was largely out of self-preservation. Yet if I were to bump into someone I know until very recently I’d feel like I had to apologise for my un-made up face thinking that if I didn’t acknowledge “I looked awful” then they’d do it on my behalf which always hurt that bit more. I’d say sorry for not having air-brush perfect skin when my foundation-mask was removed just in case the shock of my real skin offended them.

It’s been 6 years since the condition of my skin took a nose dive for the worse. The older I’ve got the closer I’ve shifted towards some sort of unwilling acceptance of my acne because I’ve realised as much as I might will it to clear up it may continue to affect me for quite some time as opposed to just “growing out of it”. Honestly I’m tired of carrying around the shame, self-hate, disgust and misery I’ve felt because of my acne. If I can learn to look in the mirror every day at blemishes of all varieties and scarring knowing that it can be upsetting and is something I’d never have chosen but at the same time that I am so much more than the condition of my skin, why can’t those who have to look at for a tiny fraction of time always just bite their tongue and accept it too? It’s my face, if I can learn to live with it then I’d sure as hell hope others can too as opposed to having strangers say things like “she’d be pretty if it weren’t for her face” or relatives saying “oh you’ll look ok when you cover it all up”.

I decided this month that I am done apologising for my skin from here on out? I came to the dramatic realisation that why should I apologise for something that isn’t my fault and for having less than “perfect” skin when I’ve given this everything I’ve got without ever quitting? I will no longer say sorry for having a bare face on days I decide I not to wear make up for whatever reason. I won’t text friends an advanced warning anymore that I couldn’t be bothered to put on foundation and “look like a troll” because I can appreciate now that acne doesn’t make me ugly. Those who cannot accept my skin are people I don’t need in my life and the ones making rude remarks are the ugly ones. I am determined to do my very best to win the emotional war with acne so me verbally insulting my skin will be a thing of the past. To those who said years back “she’d be pretty if it weren’t for her face” I would now be inclined to say that they’d be pretty if it weren’t for their personality as their insults say a lot more about them than me.

My wishes for change are that we all abide by the rule of never commenting on a feature of another person’s appearance unless it is something that can be changed within the space of a minute and that real skin, pores, scars, blemishes, redness and anything that isn’t air brushed are normalised instead of blurred filter edits.

Sensitive comments welcome.

Part 1 – The Cost Of 6 Years Of Adult Acne: The Physical Price Of All The Things I’ve Tried

I recently saw a video from Lou Northcote, the creator of the “free the pimple” hashtag promoting acne acceptance, about the expense of acne. This, along with a clear-skinned friend recently advising against antibiotic treatment without realising the extent of my journey prompted me to put together this list of all the things I’ve tried over the years to clear my acne. I can’t bear to do actual calculations and see how much this has financially cost me. This post also serves to prove just how complex acne can be to try and clear for those who don’t understand the condition and wonder why we don’t “just fix it” or choose as a last resort to take medication with scary side effects.

I dread to think how much I’ve spent on skincare and all the un-exempt prescriptions costing around £9 each. Many of which were quickly unsuitable, ineffective or had short shelf lives requiring frequent replacement. Good supplements aren’t cheap. Diet changes often involved more expensive product swaps than my norms, I tried these in 2015 before free-from products were as accessible which made it even harder. Within the lists I’ve put into bold italics the things that made any noticeable difference but appreciate acne is such a personal journey. Obviously the physical cost is only one side of the story – the other being the emotional roller coaster that acne brings which I’ll cover in another post.

Skincare:

  • Drug store brands including but not limited to: Garnier, Clearasil, Clean and Clear, Neutrogena, Simple, Avon, Cetaphil & Avene.
  • Pricier brands including: Tropic, Clarins, Mario Badescu, Clinique & Estee Lauder.
  • The Body Shop Tea Tree & Seaweed ranges
  • Clinique Anti Blemish solutions 3 step system
  • La Roche Posay Effaclar range – designed for acne prone sensitive skin.

Diet / Lifestyle Changes:

  • Caffeine free for 2 months
  • Lactose / partially dairy free for 4 months in 2016
  • Unprocessed junk food severely limited for 3 months
  • Giving up alcohol for 6 months
  • Washing towels, pillowcases, flannels etc. weekly on 60 degrees with organic non-bio products
  • Dairy free from August 2020

Vitamins / Supplements

  • HRI Clear Complexion Tablets
  • Hair, skin and nails multivitamins – own brand drug store products
  • Nature’s Best B5 supplements (too early to tell results)
  • Nature’s Best Maxi Hair (high strength multi vitamins minus vitamin A as I am using topical retinoids derived from vitamin A at time of writing – again too early to tell results)

Topical Medication:

  • Zineryt
  • Duac
  • At least 3 others I can’t remember the names of as it was 5 years ago.
  • Adapalene (helped make my acne better with minimal side effects – Jan 20 start)

Contraceptive Pills:

  • Microgynon 30 – COC
  • Norethisterone – POP
  • Lucette – COC
  • Brevinor – COC (actually caused breakouts to spread)
  • Marvelon – COC

Oral Medication:

  • Lymecycline – Oral Anti Biotics 3-4 weeks
  • Oxytetracycline – Oral Anti Biotics 6-8 months (cleared my skin for 12-14 months in 2016 but I began breaking out again 6 months after stopping my course)

Make Up To Help Me Cope With Acne:

  • Drug store concealer and powders. Brands including GOSH, Revlon, Rimmel, The Body Shop
  • High end foundations: Clinique Anti Blemish, Clinique Beyond Perfecting and Estee Lauder Double Wear – loved so much I dedicated a whole post to it (these 3 alone total over £100)
  • American imports like Hard Candy tattoo concealer
  • La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo+ Tinted (sadly too dark for my fair skin – I love the un-tinted Effaclar Duo+)

I realise in the UK we are so lucky to have the NHS meaning GP appointments and dermatology referrals are free, albeit hard to come by and often with very long waiting lists. A quick search online resulted in some private clinic quotes of between £200-250 for 30 mins in my local area with tests needing further payment.

Seeing this list shocked me as I knew I’d tried a lot over the years but have never seen the full extent like this before. In conversation with a clear-skinned friend this week I mentioned I was at my wits end for the 2nd time in my life with acne and considering antibiotic treatment again this year. I was instantly told she thought it was a bad idea and whilst I appreciated the concern I felt very misunderstood as I’ve been trying so many alternatives to avoid this. After putting together this list I showed her and instantly had more support so perhaps if you are in a similar boat with friends or relatives something like this could help.

This list also explains why I dislike being given unsolicited advice, especially from non-acne sufferers, hence writing all the things not to say to someone with adult acne. .

Sensitive comments welcome!

Things Not To Say To Someone With Adult Acne

I read and related to a brilliant article in Elle magazine in 2014 called “My Skin But Better” by Katie Mulloy. It covered how adult acne can affect a person’s life, things not to say to someone struggling with it and how all encompassing the journey to clear skin can be. The article, which sadly… More