My skin isn’t anything to brag about, but it’s mainly low maintenance. Other than during the first trimester of my pregnancies, I haven’t ever had any serious bouts of acne. That changed this past summer when I started having severe, painful breakouts, and although it sounds silly, it took a toll on me. I want to share exactly what happened in case anyone else is dealing with a similar situation.
One of my goals for 2021 was to upgrade my skincare routine. I began using serums, oils, and creams regularly. I was optimistic about seeing my skin change (my main concerns were oiliness and hyperpigmentation). Then, in May, I went back on birth control, and my skin took a turn for the worst. I would wake up with clusters of pimples that hurt. One of my destructive habits when I’m anxious is skin picking. It took everything within me to not touch my face 24/7.
In the grand scheme of things, I know that my acne wasn’t that bad. But to go from having the occasional PMS breakout to wearing foundation and concealer every day to cover up painful bumps felt concerning. I spent a lot of time on Reddit looking for solutions, and I asked my friends what they recommended. Finally, I got the advice I needed to hear: Go to a dermatologist.
I was desperate for a doctor who could see me as soon as possible and found one way out in Zephyrhills. (Local readers — this is one of the few times I’ve happily gone to Zephyrhills voluntarily in recent memory.) She examined my skin, let me ask questions, and then made recommendations: BHA, tretinoin, and spironolactone. I was already using a BHA exfoliant occasionally — I swear by Paula’s Choice — but decided to commit to using it regularly. Tretinoin (synthetic vitamin A) and spironolactone (a blood pressure medicine used off-label for hormonal acne) are both prescription-only, so I picked them up the next day.
I learned of a medication interaction between spironolactone and one of my mental health medications, so I ended up not taking it. But between the tretinoin and BHA exfoliant, my skin started to improve in a matter of weeks. No routine is one-size-fits-all, but I was shocked at how well this works for me. I don’t have sensitive skin, so my daily routine is tretinoin four to five times a week at night and BHA in the mornings. ALWAYS wear sunscreen after these treatments.
I wish I could say I got enough sleep, cut out caffeine, and stopped spending hours a day on Twitter to help my skin. But in all honesty, skincare products did the job for me. I wager that stress almost certainly played a role in these flare-ups, but my dermatologist thinks the root cause was hormonal and I’m inclined to agree.
I haven’t added any of those fancy serums or oils back into my routine yet, but I plan to ease back in to a cohesive routine this year. If you’re also dealing with hormonal acne, talk to a doctor! My doc was so helpful, and it definitely helped me get on the path to feeling better.