Acne was a big part of my late 20s. It took years to understand and find the right approach to overcome it. It was a huge learning curve in my life and while I was searching for the solution, I found my passion and belonging.
Acne comes and goes. For some, it was only a teenage problem. Others experience it for the first time in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond. In adulthood, women are most likely to experience it due to hormonal fluctuations. Acne is rarely straightforward, hence why it took me a while to start writing about it and sharing my journey.
Acne, lifestyle and emotional state
My acne exploded when I was 25. Yes, I would get an odd spot there and here, but in my mid-20s is where the real battle started. Inflamed, red, itchy, uncontrollable breakouts kept my cheeks, and lower parts of my face monopolised. I used to count them for reference, but then I stopped because it was hard to keep track. My skin was excessively oily. I had enlarged pores and blackheads. As soon as one spot healed, another appeared. It was distressing. I kept trying topical solutions, opted for salon treatments, manual extractions, kept switching my routines and was desperate to find 1 thing that would save my skin and self-esteem.
But, this didn’t come out of anywhere. When acne peaked, it was probably the lowest point of my life in very fundamental aspects. I just finished an unfulfilling degree, which I studied for 4 years, and it never brought any joy. Years of working in hospitality and retail, partying, accompanied by smoking, drinking, having irregular and unhealthy meals, disturbed sleeping patterns, toxic relationships, also played an important role. I was changing jobs, searching for a place to belong, stressful city life and multiple unfulfilling careers, accompanied with unresolved family and friendship issues, played a huge role in how I felt, physically and emotionally. I was constantly unwell, and my immune system was weak. I would catch some cold nearly every month before my period. Eventually, I have noticed signs of anxiety, insomnia (I wouldn’t sleep for days) and then severe depression, diagnosed by my GP.
I was constantly unwell, my immune system was weak. I would catch some sort of cold nearly every month before my period.
Questions, digging and the beginning of formulating
I was a curious patient. I kept asking questions, but nobody really wanted to listen or answer them due to the tight schedules. Thankfully, the NHS referred me to do Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which was a good start. To help with my acne, I was suggested a topical cream to use for two weeks and then advised to go on antibiotics. To my question on how long I will be taking them, I got a cold reply, “anything from 2 months to 2 years,” which is without any tests or dermatologist visits. I politely refused and thought it was insane. At that time, I was already doing my research and wanted to know more before starting any treatment.
Working with the psychologist helped a lot, although I didn’t go as deep as I should have at that time. When it came to treating my insomnia, the doctor prescribed a sleeping remedy. I do not remember the name. I remember struggling to sleep one night, so I reached out to take the pill. But then I stopped and read “to be taken only under strict supervision and as prescribed”. I haven’t read this sentence on any over the counter sleeping remedies I have taken before. This shook me. I think it was an epiphany moment for me. After that, I decided to listen to my inner wisdom, understand the root cause and try alternative ways to regain my health and my skin back. By no means, I say you should stop your medicine, and you shouldn’t without consulting your health practitioner. I am just sharing my personal experience.
I decided to listen to my inner wisdom, understand the root cause and try alternative ways to regain my health and my skin back.
This was the beginning of digging into the world of re-education and learning. I started to take holidays off work, not to go away, but to study and attend courses. I studied everything that sparked my curiosity, from organic skincare formulation to fundamentals of nutrition and herbalism. I slowly started to put a picture together and realising that so many aspects needed to be considered to heal.
I have learnt not only how to read the ingredients on the skincare products and to navigate through all the marketing jargon, I learnt to formulate my own, using the most powerful yet gentle natural ingredients. I also understood the importance of a nutritious diet, detoxing and decluttering my environment (my personal care, cleaning products at home, water, toxic and draining relationships). I turned to nature to rest and rejuvenate, and I became very selective of my people I spend my time with.
The emotional burden of acne
The emotional toll that acne takes is hard to explain. Anyone with a persistent, visible skin condition on their face or other visible parts of their body will know. So many times, I said no to social events with friends or pictures. I spent hours picking my face in the bathroom and then crying for hours, hating my skin. Moreover, when you don’t choose the conventional treatment (contraceptive pill, antibiotics, Roaccutane), you get questioned a lot. I was hesitant to share that I am making natural products and finding my passion for holistic health because I was embarrassed I still had acne. Natural treatment and lifestyle change can take anything from weeks, months or years because you are trying to address the root of the issue instead of treating the symptoms. But on the way, you can doubt yourself so many times!
When patience paid off
Slowly, in my case, after so many experiments (and meltdowns), I started to see how my skin’s barrier improved. My face was less oily, less congested. Spots still appeared, but healing took twice less than before. I was slowly regaining my confidence, and some days would even leave my house without any makeup! Other days, I would conceal angry spots, leaving the rest of the face untouched. I started to love seeing myself in the mirror but wasn’t fully there yet.
I was introduced to a functional practitioner, we met up, and she had a very similar story to mine and tons of experience behind her. We bonded and started to work together. She didn’t promise an overnight fix. Instead, she promised that we would find the solution together. At that point, I already understood a lot of nutrition. I was interested in hormonal and gut health. I was a geek on ingredients in skincare, house cleaning products, food and environmental toxins. What I loved about working with a supportive practitioner is the knowledge she was sharing with me and how much I was learning and connecting all the dots.
I completed lengthy forms, consisting of all medical history from my birth to daily habits. We did comprehensive stool tests, which uncovered gut dysbiosis, candida and bacterial overgrowth. I followed several protocols, we amplified my nutrition and supported detoxification, etc. I learned that a lot came from what I put into my body and my state. I was still learning how to destress and was carrying a heavy emotional suitcase with me. I learnt about meditation, breathing, and I started to do regular exercises while building my own brand (whilst still working full-time elsewhere). It wasn’t easy, but soon I started to see the transformation, not only in my skin but in my energy levels and my confidence.
Coming through the other side
I didn’t meet my 30th birthday with the “perfect” skin I then wished for. But I certainly had more strength, learnings, confidence, gratitude and a very few occasional breakouts.
Now, my skin finally glows from the inside out. Even when I have a small flare-up, I know my triggers and how stress affects me. So I take it as a message to slow down and check in with myself. I even had an experience with fungal acne (which is a different story I must share). My acne-prone skin is not a mystery to me, it was running in my family on the female side from my grandmother, mother and even my mother’s twin sister, which is important to consider.
On this journey, I realised how important it is to be kind to yourself and treat acne as the body’s way to communicate with us. Skin is a mirror of our wellbeing and internal state. I also learned that simple yet effective natural skincare could transform your skin, optimising its natural healing abilities. So I no longer treat my skin as an enemy. Instead, I am listening to its needs. Healthy, more balanced habits are not a quick fix, is a commitment, and it is a lifestyle you choose. And when it comes to persistent skin conditions that don’t fully heal by changing your skincare routine, we must seek deeper—no wonder why scientists are now focusing on the gut-mind-skin axis.
This by no means is a blueprint to treating adult acne. But I hope it served as a good insight and provided you with some guidance on approaching it holistically when acne doesn’t go away just by switching your skincare routine. With any complex and persistent skin condition, we must have an open mind. Your triggers may be different to mine, but it is so important to get to the root of the issue to finally get the confidence, knowledge, and tools to keep it at bay. And remember, acne does not define you, your beauty or your value. It is only temporary, and it can be a blessing, which will allow you to learn more about yourself and provide you with the tools to thrive!
DISCLAIMER: The information of this post is intended for information and education purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or substitute qualified medical advice. Before implementing any changes, work with your healthcare provider.