When teen spots carry on beyond your teens, ‘it’s not fair’ comes to mind. This thought seems, however, less justified when you do a bit of research and discover the large population also suffering from adult acne. So for those of us with spots in our twenties, thirties, forties or fifties, is there a really any skincare saviour we can turn to?
I first encountered spots at about the age of 13, they came in waves, sometimes one offs, sometimes full face breakouts. I came to the end of my Clearasil, Clean & Clear, and Tea tree & Witch hazel tether at the end of my GCSE’s and went to the doctors. Within a month my prescription of antibiotics and PanOxyl 2.5 Aquagel were working wonders – that is if you ignore my dry red face caused by the peroxide; but for me it was a welcome exchange.
But the waves did not stop here. A few months after the antibiotic course ended, the spots crept back. The PanOxyl Aquagel dried out a few, but it was no real match. So back on the antibiotics I went. Again, soon I reveled in my clear skin, loving the lack of concealer dependency and my make-up-free beach face that I felt comfortable to share with the world. Alas, it did not last, and short of staying on antibiotics permanently and risking the formation of all sorts of resistant bacteria, I was more or less back to square one.
I battled on with the PanOxyl Aquagel with varying success depending on who knows what other factors. Mostly I carried on in fear of what might happen if I stopped using it! This was until a fateful day when I discovered I could buy it no more – Stiefel, the company who make PanOxyl, could no longer source ingredients, and manufacture had stopped. My skin at this point, for whatever reason, did get worse. So, armed with my laptop (and a face of acne) I took to the internet.
One thing I am sure of is that skincare is one of the most personal things out there. I have friends who have suffered or suffer from acne and know that the same treatments have effected all of us differently. So in sifting through countless reviews, testimonials, and recommendations I knew no amount of reading could be anywhere near full-proof. I was aware by then, of course, of the common active ingredients used in facial spot treatments, such as Salicylic acid and Glycolic acid, but had no idea what might be the best punt for me.
Hours passed (well, actually days if I’m completely honest), and I concluded a few things.
One – There are so many Salicycic acid-based treatments out there. But having tried Salicylic acid based treatments before with little success this would not be my first port of call.
Two – Some people advise completely against using acids and peroxide on your skin as it could cause ageing in some cases and could be damaging to overall health in others. But I was not convinced that my erratically spot-prone skin could do without.
Three – It’s hard to get rid of your spots when you have no idea what causes them, and I have no idea. Therefore, clear skin could be a tricky goal to achieve.
The possible causes of my breakouts range in my mind from stress in everyday life to bacteria on pillow cases. In terms of topical treatments, the bacteria would be the easiest avenue to address here. And, having used peroxide for years I’d like to stay away from products that might bring on wrinkles earlier where ever possible. This, eventually, led me to two products: Eau Thermale Avène TriAcnéal and Manuka Doctor ApiClear Skin Treatment Serum.
Now, you may have noticed by now that I’m focusing on gels and serums as opposed to face washes. This is a completely personal thing, as I have found with my skin if I use anything too harsh with which to wash my face (as those that say they will battle spots often are) my skin simply responds by producing more oils, leaving my face glowing in completely the wrong sort of way. My face is already a lot more oily than I would like, and so in trying not to aggravate this I exfoliate three times a week (to avoid becoming blackhead central) and the rest of the time use Elemis Pro-radiance cream cleanser, which is the most gentle and least face stripping I have found.
So which spot treatment did I pick? Well in the end I delved into my bank account, bit the bullet, and bought the 30ml Eau Thermale Avène TriAcnéal costing £23. My decision was based on the quantity of positive reviews, the notion that French doctors have recommended this to acne-prone patients, and the promise that it would work to clear scarring as well as existing spots. As well as the fact that Manuka Doctor’s range contains bee venom, and having never been stung, I would hate to find out via my face that I’m allergic.
The first two weeks were a nightmare. For the first time in a very long time I had full blown acne, a mixture of every type of spot you imagine (or probably more accurately, would prefer not to imagine). I’d read reviews, I’d heard of ‘purging’, but most of all I didn’t feel I had any other choice than to persevere. Equipped with concealer, foundation and some persuasion to leave the house, I rode these few weeks out. And my skin, within about a month, did begin to clear; only TriAcnéal would now have a whole fresh batch of scarring to try to clear as well.
But as you may realise, I’m not raving about my new found radiance. My skin’s usual waves of ‘I’m so spotty, and it’s painful and not a pretty picture’ to ‘my god I think I can only see one or two at the moment!’ have continued. I can’t help but feel lifestyle factors must play a role in this – I can hardly presume it a coincidence that after my university exams finished I went through a clear spell, and a following run of late nights saw it break out again, or that the clear skin seen whilst enjoying long, sunny walks in the Lake District was down to increased effectiveness of a topical nighttime face treatment. And so, picking up my now empty tube of Eau Thermale Avène TriAcnéal, I find myself today in the same predicament that I was in three months ago – will anything really work? Will I buy another tube for fear that my skin will get worse without? Or will I spend a pretty penny and try something new in the hope of miracles?
When it comes down to it, I know that a stress free lifestyle complete with perfectly healthy diet, regular exercise, and early nights would probably see me clear and glowing (in the good way). But with a year of two dissertations coming up, whilst juggling writing, applying to internships, trying to earn some money and presenting and producing various radio shows I know I’ll be on the go. I’ll love it all I’m sure, but I’m not sure my skin will. So in my quest for a spot-free complexion I’m left pondering over what to try next. If I have a light-bulb moment I can promise you I’ll send it your way, and if you have any ideas do send them mine.