(Subtitle – A very long essay on extreme acne treatments.)

I don’t have very good skin. I’ve discussed it before on the blog– I have eczema, allergies and sensitive skin. It’s been like this my whole life. When I reached my late teens, my body decided all this wasn’t enough – I started to suffer from acne. It got worse in university, I suppose as my hormones got worse, my stress increased, and my diet worsened. I felt really self-conscious going to interviews for jobs looking like a spotty teenager, and I feel even more self-conscious going to work with it. My skin was flushed, with red marks and red, inflamed, lumps (spots sitting under the skin) and little scabs from where ok, I picked, and the subsequent scars. I had clogged pores and blackheads. My skin felt lumpy and uneven.

Armed with a salary, I decided I wanted to do something about my skin. I wanted my acne gone. It would be an investment in my professional image, I told myself.

Unfortunately after visiting a skin clinic for a consultation I was told that they could only treat me after a doctor had officially diagnosed me with acne. I really didn’t want to go to a doctor for this, after terrible experiences with going to them for my eczema. It was for that reason I had gone straight to a privately run skin business as my first port of call. But I swallowed my fear and went to the GP to get my diagnosis. The doctor was nice enough, she agreed it was acne, prescribed me something, and I went home knowing I wasn’t going to use it. I do not trust doctors with my skin and nothing will change that. I went back to the skin clinic and ended up dropping a large sum of money on eight sessions of laser treatment. I had never spent so much money on something so…so…intangible in my life. And it was only on the chance it could work. Honestly, I spent nearly half a grand on hope.

But that was one of the reasons I decided I really liked the clinic; the esthetician was honest with me that it could improve things to any degree or not at all. That and their little forms detailing exactly what side effects could be experienced, advice on how to handle your skin when undergoing treatment etc. I felt that I had been briefed so well on this treatment and given all the right expectations for it. So I went for it.

Laser treatment started out painful and my skin never really got used to it, although I got used to enduring the pain. I would lie there on the world’s comfiest bed, the esthetician would clean my face, put on the special gel, cover my eyes, then place the laser around my face. It was like a sharp burst of stabbing pain, followed by another, and another. It hurt like hell. Especially on the sensitive skin around the nose and mouth. My eyes would water. I cried once. It was not a nice treatment. It was sharp and painful, afterwards my skin felt sensitive. I’d be smothered in sunscreen and sent on my way, and my skin would be bright red from the laser and slimy from the amount of sunscreen needed to protect it. (Bet I looked really sexy on the bus ride home.) I paid a further £100+ for some products recommended to use alongside the laser – a super strong sunscreen, a gentle every day exfoliant, a tougher weekly exfoliant and a clay based mask. My skin became dry, irritated. I stopped the tough exfoliant and started to moisturise more. Had more treatments. My skin…

Was clearing up.

I had a lot of painful spots that sat under the skin, red and inflamed. I had clogged pores. I had blemishes and blackheads. Scabs and scars.

I was left with flushed skin and blemishes. My skin felt smoother, looked less angry and red, and was less clogged up.

It was kind of amazing that it had done something, but still my heart sunk a little that it hadn’t been a miracle. It still wasn’t completely gone. My blackheads remained. I still had blemishes and scars. Was still too red. Even though I knew better than to have expectations for a miracle, I still wanted it so badly. You have no idea how much I long for beautiful, healthy skin. I want my face to have that translucent glow that the Korean celebrities have.

Following the laser, I took a little break, still using the products I’d been given, and then I started on a course of chemical peels.

This was a war and I was going all out. I’d already dropped over half a grand to go from spotty to blemish-y, I was willing to keep shelling out to see the next transformation. Please let there be another transformation, I thought.

I lay on the same bed, had my face cleaned, was handed a fan, then had a substance that smelled and felt exactly like nail polish remover dragged over my face. I didn’t understand why I needed the fan – the esthetician said it would get hot. How could that be?

I soon got it. The stuff sinks in and I could feel my face growing hot, then it began to get hotter, then it began to burn. The laser was a sharp, severe pain concentrated in a small area. This was an intense all over sensation of heat. It felt like my entire face was on fire. I fanned away at myself and waited for it to be over. After the first peel I had to go to work the next day and it was not pretty- my skin was peeling off in great big chunks, it was completely raw. What have I done?! I freaked out and went to boots and spent a stupid amount on an extra hydrating moisturiser, smothered myself in if, and after a few days, my skin emerged, smooth and trying to glow. Still blemishes, still scars, still so dry.

I had two more peels. One two weeks after the first and the last a month after that. My skin never peeled as intensely as the first time and I’m not sure why or if I should be disappointed by that.

During this time I started using retinol and it scares me a bit but it is working on that redness, the blemishes and the scars.

Whilst drying my skin out.

Even more. It was getting so dry. I was trying to moisturise but everything I used never seemed to be hydrating enough, whilst at the same time clogging my pores back up. (The money I spent on that supposedly super hydrating moisturiser from boots was a complete waste, I could have stuck with the creams I already had and been in the same position. They were all useless.)

Another break.

Then I went back for a facial. This was a startling experience. The same room, same bed, but candles and low lighting, and no pain. Afterwards my skin felt soft and soothed. My esthetician recommended me a moisturiser to buy to counteract the retinol without clogging my pores and I did – another stupid amount of money – and finally my skin felt calm.

It’s not red. It’s not spotty. It’s soft and not as dry. But I’ve got a couple of clogged pores (not as bad as before though, this moisturiser is quite good), a scattering of blemishes remain, and those scars, those stupid scars are still there. It’s better, but not completely gone and I’m almost a grand poorer and I want more.

What do I do next, I wonder? More laser? More peels? More facials? I think I want more facials, but I feel reluctant to ever go through laser or a chemical peel again.

I am thinking of focusing on skincare. Facials every few months paired with a strong skincare routine. Actually I’ve had a rigid morning and evening skincare routine for years now – but I still don’t think I’ve found what really works for me. I have a few products I love and a whole bunch sitting in my drawers, gathering dust because I can’t return them and don’t want to use them.

I first tried Korean and Japanese products, then I played around with more western products, then I tried more organic and less synthesised products. After it all I think my skin looked the best when I used Korean skincare, and and I enjoyed that the most. So I’m going back to that now. Well, I never really left it…but I was drifting away. I thought for a time that I was using too many products, because Korean skincare routines tend to involve many steps, which was causing my bad skin and so I tried to simplify. But that didn’t work. I tried to go even simpler, with products that were less synthesised the so called “natural beauty” but that really didn’t work. So I’m going back to the Korean layering approach. So more serums, more essences, more masks and treatments. I’m going to smother my skin with care and hope it responds.

As for other things? I’ve tried diet and drinking water…drinking green tea… and that does nothing. Stopping eating dairy has done me some good, except I still eat chocolate. I go a few months with no chocolate, then can’t handle it anymore and start eating it again, then go without and rinse, repeat. I would like to get a handle of that to see if full and proper no dairy for the longterm will really help. I do get flare ups around the time of month, which was an interesting discovery (I was so spotty before I couldn’t notice when it got worse cos it was always so bad. Now it’s milder it’s easier to tell when things are getting bad) but that one I can’t do much about that. (I tried the pill at one point, and I’m never doing that again. It didn’t do anything for my skin and it just made me feel angry and depressed 24/7. No thanks).

I will win this battle, somehow. And I fear I’ve stopped caring about the price. I really hope that in the long term things are going to work out for me and my skin, and I’m not just ultimately making it worse.

P.S Changed the no poo category to beauty and lifestyle! :o

Unexpected no-poo success: powdered seaweed

I’d never heard of using seaweed for the skin before, but my sister and I were at a food fair when we stumbled upon a small store selling powdered seaweed. I asked about using it for a dry scalp/eczema and the woman gave us an amazing sales talk, and let us try some on our hands. My sister and I were quite surprised with how nice it felt and how smooth it left our hands. Still, usually I would not be so easily led to purchase, what with no prior research and one sales talk, but as anyone who has eczema knows, desperation for a cure/for relief makes you an easy sell. I purchased the smallest tub, and then set it aside for a while, before eventually deciding to try it out. I was a bit nervous about using it, as I’m always nervous for trying new things – I don’t want to make my eczema worse, or mess up my no-poo routine after all!

I mixed it up with a little warm water to make a soft, spreadable paste and smothered my scalp in it, before shoving my hair in a disposable shower cap (collected from hotels by me and my sister for this purpose!) Then I had some left over, so I put it on my face down to my décolletage. Then I left it be for a bit. It stank. It was messy (both to apply and when rinsing.) It was ugly – if you live with anyone, prior warning would be needed before turning yourself into a green skinned monster. It didn’t feel that amazing on my skin. However, once I had rinsed it away I was amazed by the results.

So I’ll get it out the way, this is yet another product that I bought for the intention of healing my eczema which did not do that and yet did other great things which means I still like it. phew. I’ve taken to using it every couple of months now. I use it the same way- smothering my scalp in it, shoving my hair in a cap, using the leftovers on my face, neck and back. Leaving it for 10+ minutes to do its thing. It rinses out really easily, although clumps of it do somehow end up everywhere so you have to give the shower a good rinse as well after. It leaves my hair glossy and with a lot more body to it. It’s noticeably nice, for lack of better terms. My sister even complimented my hair after using it, saying that it was looking good. (My sister does not approve of my no-poo routine, so this is unusual.) It does not really have any cleaning properties, but it does not make my hair any greasier. It does not soothe the scalp really, but it does help cleanse flakes. As for my skin, it leaves my face feeling smooth and clarified. It’s really great for when skin is a little bit red and unhappy, a little sensitive, usually because of stress in my case. It calms the skin. It also makes my body skin soft. It doesn’t cause any irritations anywhere.

I think I’m even getting used to the smell now. Because it’s worth it. I’m really loving this stuff and am quite pleasantly surprised by the results. I use the Aalgo brand, and I’ve got tonnes left (this stuff lasts forever) but if I was running out I would repurchase.

*This is not sponsored. Purchased it myself with my own money, and all opinions are my own.