Thursday, 8 April 2010

Not Hitting the Spot

There are two types of people; those who get spots and the bastards that don't. I'm in the former camp. Here in Camp Spot you're never truly free of spots, even when you have none, because you know that one might rear its ugly (white) head at any moment. I started suffering in my teens and went through the gamut of treatments offered by my GP, which went something like this...

Topical antibiotic cream 
Didn't work. Dried out skin. Bleached bed clothes.

Contraceptive pill (Dianette)

Didn't work. Caused tension headaches.

Tetracycline antibiotics 
Didn't work. Made skin sun sensitive for YEARS after.

I had to insist on being taken off Dianette (which is an old-fashioned high-dose pill) and have since discovered you're not supposed to be on it for over a year (I took it for two). After trying all of these treatments I also had to insist on seeing a dermatologist. The doctor would have preferred to palm me off with a few more useless treatments, while I suffered, spotty and self-concious. My experience is that GPs try to avoid writing letters wherever possible; it's so much easier to write a prescription.

Months later I attended my dermatology appointment at the hospital. I had in mind that I wanted Roaccutane, but I was persuaded to try another drug first. Can't remember which one; doesn't really matter as it didn't work. By this point I was either 19 or 20, in my second year at university and had suffered spots for about six years.

On my follow-up appointment I was finally given Roaccutane: from the moment I took the first pill I didn't have another spot for weeks. The horror stories of depression and terrible dryness never materialised. My skin and the inside of my nose became dry and I had a few more nosebleeds than normal. My eyes were sometimes a bit dry too. I would've put up with those symptoms and worse in order to have clear skin, and finally I did.

After a four-month course of Roaccutane I had relatively clear skin for several years. Once I stopped taking the contraceptive pill my skin got even better. Finally I could enjoy playing with makeup, rather than spending ages on foundation and concealer.

But that was then and this is now. Since January little tiny bumps have been mysteriously appearing on my chin. They're sometimes like small spots, and sometimes just red bumps. They are dry and red and look awful without makeup and awful with. I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something at first, but the only thing I'd changed was my diet, and that was for the better! After researching on the internet I diagnosed myself as having Perioral Dermatitis. A mysterious and little-understood skin condition. BRILLIANT!

I am back to square one and can't tell you how frustrating it feels. I went to the doctor (who was 12), told her what I had, listened as she suggested all the wrong things (and corrected her), explained to her the possible solutions and waited as she read from the exact web page I'd just looked up at home. 

The treatments are the same topical and oral antibiotics as listed above, except I asked the doctor to give me a different topical lotion than I tried when I was young. If this cream doesn't work I know I'll have to go through the exact same rigmarole as I went through in my teens. To all those of you with dodgy skin, I feel your pain. My mum and brother have similar skin issues to me so I guess it's hereditary. This spring/summer I'll be mainly wearing a very large scarf. 


  1. I feel your pain! I was left on Dianette for 8 years! I'm surprised I don't have a handlebar moustache and a tail by now! Tried Topycycline, antibiotics and various other vineger scented lotions too. Not allowed Roaccutane. I just want a face transplant now. Am seriously over it too. Yours, hideous, Katy x

  2. Good lord! You poor thing. I hope it didn't give you horrid headaches like it did me. I'd still be on it now if the GP had her way! I'd pay more tax for a guaranteed dermatologist each. PS You're lovely, not hideous. x

  3. Hello,

    Browsing twitter and beauty blogs I just came across this post, and couldn't help myself for wanting to recommend a fabulous (not very well known) product I know of, simply called "the gel". Its maker is a friend of mine and she does little to no marketing as the product sells itself (and has been for 30 years) and the website is desperately in need of some TLC! But if you're interested, here it is:

    the magic ingredient is cesium chlordide which stimulates the immune system (works like accupuncture, sans the needles).

    Hope this helps!


  4. How very mysterious. 'The Gel'... I'm kinda scared but I'm also kinda hopeful.

  5. I had severe acne (several cystics included) for over 6 years, I spent so much on skincare, feel like I tried nearly every brand I could get my hands on. The only thing that work for me was going on the pill, I still have a lot of scarring and bumps left over but feel so much happier now, people treat me a lot better now which is a bit sad really, I dread getting them back again. I really hope you find something that works for you.

  6. A subject very close to my own heart... Having been fobbed off with every ineffective prescription cream / gel / lotion and antibiotic for years since the age of about 12, I then went on Dianette when I was 18.

    This worked quite well for me - never had perfect skin, but it was certainly a lot more under control. I was on it for 12 years. Many doctors were horrified by this - not me - and kicked up a fuss about it. I would simply find myself a different doctor who would prescribe it. I really got on with Dianette - no side affects at all really.

    Anyway, after 12 years, and several stroppy doctors, I decided to come off Dianette (age 30), and oh my actual lord, my skin erupted in ways I only though possible with the aid of some sort of CGI animation. There I was, age 30, with the most aggressive acne I'd ever experienced, which no amount of money spent in Space NK could get rid of. I have tried every cosmetic acne product under the sun. None of them work enough to justify the price tag.

    So now I'm on Roaccutane, and even though I do get side effects, I don't know why I never tried this years and years ago. I get quite bad headaches, my eyes can ache because they're dry, and oh my god, the dry skin - when I walk, there's almost a haze of dry skin flakes surrounding me - I am my own version of the volcanic ash cloud - but it is all worth it. I've never had such good skin. Got a week to go on Roaccutane, so the end is in sight.

    The main thing I've benefited from, this time round of treatments, is hindsight. When I was 17 years old, going to see my GP about my skin, I was embarrassed by my spots and believed everything the doctor told me, and wasted so much time using treatments which weren't working.

    This time around, they tried to fob me off again – but I was ready for them. I demanded to be referred to a dermatologist, I was armed with my internet research, and they couldn’t explain to me why the ineffective prescription drugs would work for me now when they hadn’t worked first time around. They don’t want to prescribe Roaccutane because it’s expensive, - but the people who are of this mindset have obviously never had acne. I realise that it’s not the best choice for everyone, but it certainly has worked for me.

    Anyway, I’ve been going on a bit, but just wanted to share one product that helped me through the dark days – Estee Lauder Maximum Cover foundation. Amazing coverage, without having a heavy or thick texture, blends in really well - this was my absolute saviour.

  7. I´ve a similar skin-history to yours...fortunatedly with a happy end...: Microdermabrasion. Your skin gets literally sanded - you´ll look horrible for two days - but from that on better every day.

  8. Update: Thanks for everyone's comments. I know that skin problems are such a tricky and horrid problem to have to deal with. I ended up not using the topical antibiotic the doctor gave me but instead started taking a B Complex supplement. I'd read that a lack of B vitamins might be related to perioral dermatitis and also that to be deficient in one B vitamin (in my case folic acid from my arthritis drugs) was to be deficient in them all as they have to be balanced. Within a few weeks my skin was loads better and now it's totally back to normal! I only took the B Complex for about two months. I also recommend Cetaphil cleanser to those with problem skin, ie dry, spotty etc. My skin is finally clear! xxx


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