If there’s one thing I have going for me right now it’s that I’ve had a skin transformation that even I don’t believe sometimes.
Although I’ll never be ashamed of any experience I’ve walked through in life and have always stayed true to sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly on this platform, it does not take away from the fact that this post was difficult to make.
DISCLAIMER: The photos I’m sharing are deeply personal- not only does my hair look absolutely mangled in 99% of these (I never thought anyone but me would ever see them) but were taken at some pretty low points in my life. These are probably some of the most raw, vulnerable and real photos I’ve ever posted publicly. The photos I chose to share with those who are reading this are the furthest from appealing, but to tell my story holistically I think it’s 100% necessary.
I think taken me awhile to be totally open about my entire experience because of what caused my face to get so bad in the first place, but I think it’s important to normalize not only acne (especially in women), but also the act of prioritizing mental health- whatever that may mean to you. My hope is that I can help even just one person out there reading this to find some peace in their own situation whether that situation is exactly the same or they are even just dealing with insecurities about something similar.
I want to preface this post by saying I have never had beautiful skin. In college I barely had a skincare routine; constantly sleeping in makeup on gross frat boy pillows (lol), washing my face with whatever random products my mom had sent me to school with that semester, and also drinking like 10 oz of water a week lmao. Although never beautiful, my skin was never bad or high maintenance. I never really had any breakouts that couldn’t be covered with makeup, a filter, or cleared with a sheet mask. I regularly left my house without makeup almost daily- not because my skin was flawless but just never really something I was thinking twice about. Bottom line, I was pretty lucky to have such average skin during that time in my life, and something I definitely took for granted back then.
In the fall of 2019 just a few months after I graduated, I was going through a super dark, borderline scary time in my life. During this time, I made the decision to go on an anti-depressant by the name of Lexapro. About three weeks into taking the drug, aside from the many other side effects that come with going on a medication like this, I started to develop an intense breakout throughout my jawline. Not only was I shell shocked by the sudden change in my skin, but also in a TON of pain from this cystic, super red skin I had to walk around in.
A few weeks passed and the acne, symptoms, redness, and pain only increased daily. At this point, the medication that was supposed to be helping my depression was really only making it worse. Image is NOT everything but let me tell you, trying to be happy while walking around with that much pain was almost impossible.
At that point, I had called my doctor and explained to her what was going on which prompted her to suggest that I switch medications. She put me on Zoloft and for a moment I thought things were going to get better- unfortunately, they got much, much worse.
I tried practically everything. Every claimed “acne product” on the shelves at Sephora has probably found a home in my bathroom cabinet, I washed my pillowcases every other day, I tried overly washing my face, under washing my face, I tried masks, peels, facials, Clarisonic Spin brushes. For Christ’s sake, I literally spent all my money on an electrotherapy kit hoping that would work. At one point I got really good at covering it up but realized the makeup irritated my skin even further, so I stopped wearing makeup with added fragrances- then I stopped wearing makeup altogether. I cried so fucking much and skipped so many social gatherings all because I was so fucking sad, embarrassed, and hurting all at the same time.
After the holidays I pretty much hit a breaking point. If I could have crawled out of my own skin, I think I would have. At that moment in time, I realized that the medication I was put on to help my mental health was only making it worse. I’m not a doctor, and I’m not an anti-anti-depressant advocate, but for me personally, this drug did so much damage to me externally that it was affecting me internally as well and grew to be something I could no longer justify being on for much longer.
I made the decision with my doctor to wean myself off of the drug in the month of January and decided to finally get into therapy and finally make a legitimate effort towards fixing my mental health all while somehow beginning to try to fix my face.
January 23, 2020, was the worst “before” photos (below) I ever took. These photos are something I look at frequently just to remind myself how far I’ve come both mentally and physically.
It took about a month for my skin to stop looking so inflamed, but I was left with a ton of scarring from all the mindless picking I would do and still quite a bit of irritation. I decided to go to a Dermatologist for the first time in my life and see if I could find some answers as to why my skin reacted the way it did and to hopefully find a way to help heal the battle wounds that were left behind from this terrible reaction.
The first Dermatologist experience I had was almost as bad as the reaction itself. This psychopath basically told me I was crazy and that she had never heard of anyone experiencing acne like this due to a reaction from an anti-depressant. The hundreds of threads I followed on Reddit with the exact same situation begged to differ, but she poo-pooed me into believing I was just another millennial who believed everything she read on the internet. This doctor left a horrible taste in my mouth, but I was desperate and wanted more than anything to look and feel normal again. She prescribed me a topical lotion to apply at night that would help with the scarring I had and sent me home with a sample. Right after my appointment, I scurried over to CVS to pick up my new prescription. As I was pulling into the drive-thru I received a call from the Dermatology office I had just left from… The nurse on the other line asked me one of the most bizarre questions I have ever been asked by a medical professional: “Hey… so exactly HOW allergic to Sulfa are you?” for those who don’t know Sulfa happens to be a semi-popular ingredient in a lot of antibiotics that I just so happen to be deathly allergic to. I quickly answered this woman to let her know that upon ingestion of a drug containing Sulfa, I would go into anaphylactic shock almost instantly… She then explained to me that the topical that I was on my way home with had a main ingredient of ~Sulfa~ and that I should dispose of the sample I was given immediately and to not fill my prescription.
At this point, I wanted to ram my car into the side of the pharmacy because not only was my skin still shitty but I just left an appointment where not only was I basically told by my “doctor” that I was batshit insane but she also tried to kill me lol.
Long story short I took a full U-turn out of the CVS parking lot and blocked all further calls from this murderer of a Dermatologist.
When I was in high school, I was misdiagnosed by my pediatrician and ended up having a grapefruit-size tumor on my pelvis that was rapidly growing on its way to being cancer. Due to this, I am and always have been a strong advocate for my own health (which everyone should be) and will always believe in the luxury of getting a second opinion.
One of my very close longtime friends had been seeing her Dermatologist for years and has one of the most beautiful complexions I’ve ever seen. She suggested I set up an appointment to at least see what a different doctor would have to say.
In the first ten minutes of my first appointment with Dermatologist #2, she told me she had seen multiple cases of patients having the exact same reaction to an anti-depressant just like I did (talk about feeling seen). In my head I did a mental “fuck you” to the doctor I saw previously and finally felt relief for the first time in months. I was finally about to get somewhere!
My new Dermatologist set up an entirely new skincare regime for me that included the following:
Step 1: Clinique Acne Solutions Cleansing Foam
Step 2: Clindamycin Phosphate Topical Solution (Prescribed)
Step 3: Moisturizer/Sunscreen
Step 1: Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser
Step 2: Epiduo Forte Gel (Prescribed)
Step 3: Moisturizer
…That’s it. No trendy serums, no face masks, no spin brushes, no expensive brand name luxury products. I took a one-way ticket STRAIGHT back to the basics and slowly but surely, I started to see changes.
Although the new skincare regime did wonders for the first two months, the severity of the reaction I had started with, called for an extra push. I was prescribed an antibiotic by the name of Seysara that I would have to take over the course of several of months. Considering the effects that antibiotics have on your gut it was also crucial that I paired this medication with a probiotic so I wouldn’t destroy all the healthy bacteria that my body was regularly producing. I took this medication from the beginning of July all the way until the end of November. There are many opinions circulating the online world on whether or not antibiotics help everyone’s case when it comes to acne. There are speculations that antibiotics act as a bandaid and just mask the issue for the duration a person is taking the drug. Many people think that in terms of long term success rates, acne just ends up coming back once the antibiotic is no longer being consumed. Due to the nature of my acne being brought on by a reaction, this medication not only cleared everything up, but I have not taken Seysara for almost three entire months now without a single hint of anything ever coming back.
In August, to further along the healing process, my Dermatologist prescribed monthly Chemical peels which SLOWLY made all my scars seemed to vanish into thin air.
This entire skin transformation journey has been something that has been just that- a journey… lol and something that I could never thank my Dermatologist enough for. It goes to show that we truly do know our bodies the best and we have all the tools to make informed decisions when it comes to our health both physically and mentally.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a similar issue my DM’s at my Instagram: @sexandthesuburbsblog are open and encouraged to slide into.
I am super proud and elated over how far my skin and my mental health have come this year and I owe it to the person I was a year ago to become a resource for anyone who resonates with anything I’ve spoken out about in this post.
Thank you for reading my story.
Until next week,