OUTFIT DETAILS: Kenneth Cole blazer (gifted, sold out, but similar style here)) // Leone dress (gifted, love this yellow number) // Zara boots (similar style here) // Cafune bag (gifted) // Chanel earrings // Fendi sunglasses (gifted)
This is a long overdue post.
It’s not that I’ve necessarily avoided writing this post — it’s that, for the past year or so, I haven’t been fixating on my skin. Now before some of you start scratching your head, let me back up a bit.
Back toward the end of 2015, I was approaching a pretty drawn out battle with my skin — specifically with hormonal acne. And, much to the chagrin of my wallet and probably my sanity at the time, I tried EVERYTHING. The latest product lineup. Diet changes. Lifestyle changes. Exercise routines. Heck, I was washing my sheets pretty much EVERY DAY, people. And for the record, that’s saying a lot for someone who loathes doing laundry.
But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to get to the root of the problem. I was still breaking out — and not just common whiteheads/blackheads around my menstrual cycle — we’re talking painful, under the skin cysts along my jawline and cheeks, some of which lasted weeks. All of which, took a pretty nasty toll on my self-esteem — and I finally broke down in this post I shared with you all. For the record, I’ve never been someone who loves wearing makeup, but over the course of a few years, I suddenly found myself unable to go outside of my apartment without it — for fear someone might stare at me and my face and my latest collection of zits.
Now, before you start thinking today’s post is all doom and gloom — I’ll stop you there. It’s not. This story gets happier, I promise!
Cue the start of 2016, when I decided to up the game. I finally found a dermatologist I liked here in New York City — one that actually took the time to listen to me and more importantly, let me CRY with her — and I was put on a daily regimen of birth control pills (Yaz) and 100mg of Spironolactone. I’ll spare you all the details of how this went (because the details are here), but after 3 months, I was finally seeing a difference in my skin and my hormones were 100% the problem. I’m completely aware that both options prove to be pretty controversial amongst skincare and wholistic health purists, and I’m by no means trying to peddle drugs here. You should always consult your doctors first (a GP and a dermatologist) to see if these options even make sense for you given your hormone levels and blood work, but I can, without a doubt, sit here today and say, that they both made a huge difference for me, personally. And considering I was at the bottom of my proverbial skincare rope, it came just in time.
I stayed on both pills at the same dosage for the entirety of 2016, without a hitch. My skin cleared up dramatically, I broke out FAR less, and when I did, they were easy to handle, run of the mill pimples. Imagine that — I was just happy to see a normal pimple. Not a huge, mountain-like cyst. Finally, my dermatologist and I decided it was time to perhaps discontinue the Spiro (as I really wanted to manage things longterm without it), and despite what numerous online forums recommended, I went cold turkey. Off the Spiro. And off the birth control (but that was mainly due to my inability to remember to take it, so I decided to take a break from it as well, and rely on other methods of protection).
And you know what? My skin didn’t freak out. It surprisingly was fine. No flare ups. No initial breakouts. No OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?! moments.
Perhaps I was dreaming, but had my hormones finally decided to just cooperate with me? Had we all decided to just GET ALONG and play on the same team? Out of for fear of jinxing it, I didn’t want to assume anything, so I relied on the same morning and evening cleansing rituals and was mindful of what I ate and drank and committed to working out regularly.. The last thing I wanted was a delayed siege and for my skin to revert back to what it was.
For all of 2017, I was golden. Did that mean my skin was perfect? Far from it! I have plenty of hyper-pigmentation and leftover scarring that I was now focusing on fading, but overall, my face didn’t feel like a battleground anymore and that was reason enough for me to celebrate. For once, in a very long time, I finally felt FREE from worrying about my skin — I didn’t feel beholden to it.
But (you all knew a but was coming, right?), the end of 2017 hit. Back in December, I traveled for over a month in Australia, followed by another trip, this time back home to Reno for two weeks to help my mom recover from her hip surgery (and simultaneously pack up my childhood home so she could begin the process of putting it on the market to sell). I then returned to New York, had the pleasure of taking a Plan B pill after a broken condom and well, my skin finally decided to throw up a white flag. I was stressed, exhausted and inflated with a new surge of hormones and right after my birthday, I broke out. Along my chin (3 to be exact). Not terribly mind you, but they seemed deep enough that it reminded me of my zits of yesteryear — those uncomfortable, deep under the skin ones, that I panicked. Big time.
I don’t talk about this often here on This Time Tomorrow, but I’ve dealt with anxiety my whole life — my trigger points seem to just shift as I’ve gotten older. I used to deal with it in school (because I’m a perfectionist), I used to deal with it when I worked at Google (because I constantly felt the need to put in crazy hours) and finally, once my skin decided to revolt, I would obsess over the latest state of my face and anytime there was a shift, a new pimple, a new scar, a new ANYTHING on my face, I would halt in my tracks. For anyone who’s dealt with acne, especially adult acne, you know how socially crippling it can be — and doubled with my anxiety — I reached some pretty low lows when I was going through that first ordeal in 2015 and 2016. I was SO afraid of going back there and SO upset with myself for allowing it to happen. Simply put: I was getting too old for this shit.
Naturally, my anxiety enabled my panicking self to blame, well myself, and for the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with what I’ve affectionately dubbed phantom acne. I’m still broken out in a few spots but they’re no way near the severity as to how it used to be, but in my mind, they might as well be. I started to feel all the feelings, ALL over again — of wanting to hide my face, of avoiding social situations, of feeling ashamed. I started to feel this was the beginning of a downward spiral, that I would wake up tomorrow with 4 or 5 new pimples, because I was no longer in control. Naturally, this surge of stress was not helping the state of my skin so I booked an appointment with my dermatologist and my GP.
And for the most part, I have to say, I’m largely still feeling this way — hence why I’m writing all of this out. For starters, I recall feeling tremendously better the first time I shared my experience on here — because it made me realize I’m not alone (despite how perfect everyone might appear on Instagram). Secondly, I felt that this would be a great opportunity to document my latest plan of attack, with the intention to share an update in a few months time.
So without further adieu, here’s the lay of the land, with a very important caveat to note: I’m not a doctor. I’ve never pretended to be — nor will I start now. Everything I’m detailing here (if you’re still reading that is), is mainly for me to reference later, when I’m checking back in with my doctors and my progress. I highly encourage any of you, regardless of where you are with your acne journey, to start first with the best dermatologists AND your GP, who can be really helpful in helping you get to the bottom of what your hormones may or may not be doing.
Birth control but NO Spironolactone.
This one is two-fold for me. I think a lot of my hormonal imbalance this time around is due to the Plan B pill I took at the beginning of February. For most of my life, I’ve been off and on different BC pills, the most consistent period being more for my skincare routine than it was for sexual protection. That said, I’ve always felt more comfortable with two forms of protection, which reminds me to tell all of you, if you’re ever with someone who makes you feel bad about wanting to use a condom, even if you’re on the pill and you’ve both been tested, LEAVE THEM. No partner should EVER make you feel bad or uncomfortable about that — and the right person will be happy with whatever decision makes you feel the most at ease. End of side rant.
The second reason for going on it was there are similar androgen-suppressing properties in birth control pills as the spironolactone, and since this time around, my hormones didn’t seem to be as out of whack as before, I’ve decided to forgo the spironolactone (even though I did take a few pills initially, again, because I overreacted). It’s been about two weeks now on the birth control and the state of my skin seems to be slightly in flux, again because so many things have been happening to it. I’m hoping after two or three months, we’ll have adjusted fully and normalized somewhat.
It is important that I give these pills enough time to work, as sometimes they may just take a while to fully kick before I start to see some positive results. But it’s not just acne that birth control pills can help with. They have also been known to help ease period pains and its flow, as well as the obvious, preventing pregnancy. My friend has told me that she goes to Southwest Care for this type of thing and can’t recommend it enough. Unfortunately, I don’t live in the area so I’m going to have to stick with the pills that I’m currently taking in the hopes that they work.
More fiber! Drinking more green tea, less coffee.
My diet up until this point has relatively followed the same principles since the start of 2016: reduced dairy intake, reduced sugar intake, increased water intake, opting for fish and omega-3 rich foods whenever possible, and increased fiber, all of which has made a huge difference in my energy levels and overall skin health. I’ll admit, much of 2017, I wasn’t policing my diet either, meaning, I made a lot of effort to make responsible, healthy decisions MOST of the time, but I also wasn’t going to beat myself up over having a burger and fries here and there.
This time around, I’m focusing on incorporating more green tea. Why green tea? Well, aside from all it’s miracle antioxidants, it’s been shown to reduce insulin levels, which means the skin produces less sebum. Of course, green tea has caffeine, which in turn has been shown to NOT help in the fight against acne, so everything within moderation, I suppose. I’ll aim to have at least one cup per day, in lieu of an afternoon coffee.
Working out more.
This is where I really need to tackle my anxiety and reduce my stress levels, because MAN, I can quickly become a ball of stress, if left to my own devices. I’m not currently signed up for any marathons, which I prefer honestly, as they come with their own set of unique stress — but I’m following a typical marathon training schedule at the moment. When my acne was at its worst, I remembered feeling much more in control of something if I could just manage to get out and run every day. And my overall happiness increased.
For the acne that has popped up, most are relatively normal pimples (read: not tender, under the skin cysts), but they’re more stubborn than usual, hence my concern. After a bad bout with tea tree oil a few weeks ago (I’m one of those sensitive skin people), I picked up a highly recommended acne repair kit from Mario Badescu. Now, to be clear, I’m definitely one of those people who tends to roll her eyes at products that are dubbed as “miracle” treatments, because I’m immune to marketing statements like that. I will say, after consistently using both the drying lotion and the buffering lotion, as overnight spot treatments, I did notice a significant reduction in the size of the pimples and their tenderness. Until things even out around here, I’ll be relying on these spot treatments religiously. As well as using drying lotions, which is great to help reduce the size of your spots overnight, the use of oils as spot treatments work well too. Just like with Tea Tree oil, where you apply a tiny amount to your problem area, you can do the same with many other oils. Similarly to Tea Tree, products that contain cbd oil or in liquid form works just as well too, especially when it helps to target inflammation, which is what anyone who suffers with acne wants. It might help you start this process off effectively by looking into something like the best CBD oils in 2019 (reviewed by a Doctor). Plus, as the advice is given by a doctor, you know you’ll be in safe hands. When it comes to dealing with acne or any sort of skin issue, it can become a massive part of your life, but it is important to not let it consume you. Of course you’ll have good days and bad days, but remember, there are worse things happening in the world that puts dealing with acne into perspective. But this sort of realisation comes with time.
Chemical peels (both in office and at-home) and upping my Vitamin C serum usage.
As someone with darker, more olive-toned skin, hyper-pigmentation naturally becomes more of a concern than perhaps for my more fair-skinned friends out there. Simply put, I have more melanin in my skin, which makes getting rid of acne scars that much harder, because they’re darker. During my last consultation with my dermatologist, she felt an in-office chemical peel would best address my scars, most of which are discoloration and some more textural in nature. Hopefully after a few months time, once my acne flare ups calm down, I can book one of these treatments and report back with a review.
Additionally, I’ve been reading a lot about Vitamin C serums when it comes to helping 1. clear existing acne because it helps reduce inflammation and 2. it helps promote collagen production, to plump out skin and even tone. As well as using Vitamin C serums, I have also started using tea tree oil too. If it wasn’t for my friend mentioning that I should find Tea Tree oil Online, I don’t think I would have added this step into my routine. It has worked wonders. Another one of my good friend Keiko (who is a skin guru — she has the most beautiful skin ever), recommended one by Skinceuticals, which I’ll begin using, once it arrives.
And there you have it — I’m not introducing anything crazy product-wise, which has always been my MO since meeting my dermatologist. While expensive skincare products can really help your skin achieve it’s full potential, my focus right now is to just normalize things with consistent and thorough cleansing routines (I use a gentle face cleanser by CeraVe, again, recommended by my dermatologist, followed by a solid 30+ SPF, moisturizer and now the Vitamin C serum lineup) and better diet choices. Much cleaner diet choices. And a little BC.
Wish me luck. Expect an update on June 12 — hopefully with some good progress!
Photos by Nora Varcho