I would never ever say I had great skin, but I definitely had good skin for most of my life. With the exception of PMS breakouts and a rough 7th grade, I was mostly in the clear. Literally.
And then one day, a few months shy of my 30th birthday, I woke up looking like a Proactive “before” picture.
I am not exaggerating—acne erupted on the bottom third of my face out of nowhere. And I’m not talking little zits, like the tiny flat harmless kind that can be covered with makeup. I’m talking monster zits, apocalypse zits, the kind of zits that are gigantic and painful and cannot be covered whatsoever even with eight pounds of concealer.
No time to waste, I ran to Target and bought every acne-clearing potion on the shelf. The acne shopping spree was followed by
three eighteen hours of online research, which was both ironic and alarming considering that when my kids have a rash, I do one quick search on WebMD before diagnosing them with “nothing too worrisome.” I do not ever research illnesses or symptoms online because—more often than not—it leads to diagnosing myself with a brain tumor, and also anxiety.
But acne? I researched that subject to death. Every night. For HOURS.
What causes acne?
How do I get rid of acne?
How do I cover acne?
Acne before and after
Do I need Accutane?
Does Accutane make you depressed?
Which is worse: acne depression or Accutane depression?
Acne celebrity regimen
How hormones affect acne
What is hormonal acne?
How do I cure hormonal acne?
And so on. And so forth. Like I said, I did this for hours.
Based on my research (and the fact that I had just gotten my first period after Carson and was in the process of weaning him), I was 90% sure I had hormonal acne, but I also didn’t want to have hormonal acne because everything I read online said over-the-counter treatments would not be able to treat hormonal acne.
Let me set the record straight. I am an over-the-counter type of gal. Doctor appointments and dentist appointments fall somewhere between “scrub the toilets” and “check voicemail” on my to-do list. Ain’t nobody got time for that. (Well, I suppose responsible adults who are successful at life and self-care probably have time for that but I fall into neither of those categories). I have not been to the dentist in a very long time. Because I would need to book a babysitter to go to the dentist and that feels super lame. Doctor: same. Eye doctor: same. Chiropractor: same. Dermatologist: same.
I have fantasies of my children going to elementary school where I can finally catch up on years worth of self care and responsible adulthood. Massage Monday. Teeth Cleaning Tuesday. Workout Wednesday. Thank-you-card-writing Thursday. Facial Friday.
Doesn’t that sound like a dream? I only have three years to go until this is a reality for me (if we don’t add another baby to the mix, oof). Hopefully I don’t gain fifty pounds and lose all my teeth before then.
But I digress.
Normally I’m an over-the-counter girl. If I can order it on Amazon prime, consider it done. And oh I ordered! I ordered so many things. I tried just about every over-the-counter acne potion on the market and they did NOTHING. Actually, that’s a lie. I think they made the acne angry.
(And in case you’re wondering, I also started washing my makeup brushes/drinking more water/cleaning my phone/washing my pillowcases/cutting back on dairy, and 12 other ideas from Google, all of which made not a lick of difference.)
Which is why, when my sweet friend Hilary from MOPS e-mailed me out of the blue one day offering to give me a complimentary facial at her spa, I almost cried.
“YES OH MY GOSH MY FACE IS EXPLODING AND I NEED HELP AND I HAVE NOBODY TO TURN TO AND CAN YOU HELP ME?!” was what I wrote back.
And my facial was amazing. I walked into that spa on a regular Thursday night half-asleep after a long day with the kids and walked out feeling like a queen. Hilary was fantastic. We talked all about my acne and she reassured me we would figure it out together. I loved her. She was like my acne midwife.
I was still hesitant to see a dermatologist, partly because the optimistic side of me believed the acne would clear up on its own and partly because when could I go to the dermatologist? I can’t even make it to the dentist twice a year.
But the acne didn’t clear up on its own. And I started to feel…..depressed. My face was making me sad. I never wanted to see anyone. I could not leave the house without eight pounds of concealer all over my chin, and even then, I was incredibly self conscious. I didn’t want to be in any pictures. It was all so dramatic and lame and I confessed to my friends how horrible I felt, both about the state of my face and the fact that I could let something as dumb as acne bother me so much.
But man…..when your face is covered in tiny volcanoes, it’s really hard to ignore.
I finally caved and booked a dermatologist appointment at the Laser Skin and Surgery center. If Hilary (my esthetician) was like the acne midwife, the dermatologist was definitely the acne doctor. Acne midwives hug you and listen to you and smile at you and reassure you that it’s going to be okay. Acne doctors are no-nonsense. Acne doctors write prescriptions. She examined my face, asked me ten questions, and made a formal plan in two minutes (antibiotics! topical gel! retin-A! new skincare regimen! new makeup! new birth control!).
It was…..a lot. But I was at the end of the road and willing to try anything, so I took my little prescription sheets and paper bag full of instructions and ran out the door with a smile on my volcano-covered face.
HOPE. At last.
Sure enough, 10 weeks later, I was mostly cured. And today, my face looks like this:
(Pardon my crappy grainy cell phone pic, but you get the gist, yes? I wish I had had the forethought to take a “before” picture, but I didn’t, so just google “hormonal chin acne” and you’ll get a good idea of what I looked like three months ago.)
DERMATOLOGISTS ARE MIRACLE WORKERS, YOU GUYS.
My skin is not 100% clear or perfect, but I have seen a 1,000x improvement from where it was. Other than a few tiny blemishes here and there, I haven’t seen a single monster zit in over a month.
This was the plan that worked for me:
*Three months of antibiotics (doxycycline)
*Acanya topical gel on breakouts
*Retin-A before bed (note: my face shed like snakeskin for a month adjusting to this)
*Off the mini-pill; start ortho tri cyclen (note: this made me nauseous the first week)
*Skincare routine: cetaphil morning and night; CeraVe AM / PM lotion
*Makeup overhaul: replaced everything in my makeup bag with new “oil-free” options.
Current makeup favorites:
Obviously, I hope this goes without saying: your skin is not my skin. Your face is not my face. Only your dermatologist can make a plan that’s right for you. If you’re looking for a dermatologist in Sacramento, I cannot recommend the staff at the Laser Skin & Surgery Center enough. Ask for Rebecca (acne doctor) and Hilary at the MediSpa (acne midwife). I OWE THEM MY FACE. And my confidence. If you tell them I sent you, they’ll give you 25% off a deep pore cleansing acne facial. Treat yourself!