This is a beautifully written blog by my friend and my educator Victoria Hiscock about her struggles with acne, it’s well worth a read and I hope it inspires you if you to are a sufferer,
as there are things you can do.
My sister always wanted to follow in our mum’s footsteps. Mum is Jane Hiscock, the author of the VTCT Beauty Therapy NVQ. I was never interested in therapy, I was creative. I did A-Levels in Photography, Art, Fashion and English Language for Journalism. I was adamant I was going to work for a glossy magazine. One day, during my A-Level final exams, I woke up with a huge boil on my left cheek. ‘oh well, it’ll be gone in a few days’ I thought.
I was wrong. I was so wrong.
The boil soon became two. Two became four. Four became eight across both cheeks and within weeks I had gone from never having had a spot, to grade 4 cystic acne. I felt my confidence and self-esteem depleting in direct correlation with the number of new, fresh, painful spots that arrived each morning. I started to wear my hair down every day in an attempt to cover my ‘pizza cheeks’. I felt so ugly. I thought that the puss coming from my face was disgusting. I got to the point that I almost never looked in the mirror and when I did, it was for consecutive hours of inspecting, picking and probing.
My friend told me that she had a sunbed and that it had helped clear up a few of her little pimples. So, I gave it a go. I signed up for a course of 200 minutes on a sunbed for a decent discount and after a few sessions on what I now know to be cancer causing, age accelerating radiation booths, my acne actually started to improve. So, I bought two courses of sunbeds. 400 minutes for the bargain price of my health and safety against carcinomas.
Although the sunbeds seemed to be clearing up my spots, my skin was still so oily and even when I used my shower gel and soap, it didn’t get rid of the oil. I found a solution. Washing up liquid. It was the only thing that truly got my skin squeaky clean. I couldn’t quite understand why my skin then started to get so oily during the day but I pressed on, sometimes washing my face with Fairy Liquid three or four times a day. The combination of treating my skin like a dinner plate and sundried tomato every day quickly turned on me.
Spots started to turn into marks, new spots were still coming through thick and fast and. I was starting to see scars, brown spots and wrinkles. My skin was so tanned I was purple. Something had to be done.
I went to my GP. A quick referral later and I was sat in front of a dermatologist who after listing a never-ending list of horrible side effects from taking Roacutane including depression, no control over scaring and excessively dry skin, bones, gums, lips was shouting impatiently “well, are the spots gone or not!?”. I decided to explore my options and went for a skin analysis by a sweet and smiley girl behind a well-known department store beauty counter. As I wondered of the exact shade of orange her tan was, she slid a silver lever up and down a chart of symptoms to align with the complaints I had told her about and the nifty little toy announced that I in fact, had acne. I politely and patiently pointed out that I had told her that the second I arrived at the counter and she proceeded to excitedly tell me all about some Tea Tree products that would be “soooooooooo good” for acne.
I asked a number of reasonable questions that included “where does acne come from?” and “how does tea tree work?”. She looked at me with a huge, frozen smile and wide eyes for what seemed like minutes before she replied, “I don’t know, but it smells reeeeeeeeeeeally nice”.
I thought about getting some advice on the internet. I put in the password and listened to the whimsical tune of the computer dialling up. Dad shouted up that he was waiting for a phone call so could I wait for 20 minutes. When I eventually got onto an acne support website I read stories of people using bleach on their face, using sandpaper on their skin and one girl had set her face on fire. And I understood their desperation.
I had got to the point that I could not bring myself to eat with people as I was certain that my face would put them off their food. I made my excuses and ate alone. I refused to go on a night out and the idea of attracting a boyfriend was beyond me. I ended up feeling so isolated and lonely.
I could see my mum’s heart was aching for me. She tried so many times to help me out. To educate me. But, being a stroppy teenager, I wasn’t interested. She said at the end of summer, after creative college “if you aren’t going to university and you are going to have a gap year, why don’t you do a part time beauty course? It would only be two mornings a week and by the end of it you will have a vocation. Worst case scenario, you have a career to fall back on if you don’t end up taking Anna Wintour’s job and best-case scenario, you learn about your skin, you cure your acne, help others with their skin, you travel with it and you have a career for life”.
Wise ol’ gal mum and you can tell which path I took.
I wasn’t interested in nails, waxing didn’t excite me much but the skin… Oh, the skin. I could NOT believe what I was hearing! How was it that I had been to see everyone I could think of and no one had told me that we had four layers of skin!? How come no one told me that oil is made in the hair follicle and the hair follicle is the exact same thing as a pore!? My mind was blown. I understood the delicate difference between oily, dry and dehydrated skin. I realised how poorly I had been abusing my skin.
I swapped the washing up liquid for a pH balanced, Sodium Laureth Sulphate free gel wash. I swapped the 20-minute daily sunbed for an antioxidant serum and I ditched the camouflage cake mixture I called foundation for a breathable mineral foundation and I’m not joking, within three months, my acne was almost gone.
I couldn’t believe how the poor treatment of my precious face had led to the very thing I was trying to wash/scrub/scrape away. I felt like I had to spread the word and I left to travel the world at 20 to work as a skin specialist. My mission was to educate as many people as I could about the skin and anyone that crossed my path got a lecture about cell turn over, the protective acid mantle and the fascinating double agent that is the hair follicle AND the pore!
Because of my passion for educating about the skin, I hit my targets every week and was promoted to trainer within six short months. From that day I have been educating skin sciences, continually surprised, fascinated and spell bound by the skin and its many personalities. When I returned at 27, I opened a medispa in my hometown of Southampton with my sister who after qualifying went on to specialise in energy based technologies. Together we helped to change people’s lives and I fell in love over and over again with the power of good skincare. I use a carefully selected range of ingredients to keep my acne at bay whilst correcting the scarring, pigmentation and premature aging that came hand in hand with the sunbeds. Good skin is a life-long hobby and it’s one that I’m very dedicated too.
I’m asked all the time about my skin journey and what I would say to anyone who is suffering now.
I would say don’t despair, and don’t do anything without careful consideration. Roacutane can be a god send if medical intervention is required, but know your options. Skincare, the internet and the NHS’s attitude to acne have changed significantly since I was seeking help. Dermatologists are now concerned with facial aesthetics and the end result of treatment. There is a plethora of treatments available such as chemical peels, laser treatments and microneedling that are affordable and accessible. You are not alone, there are plenty of people that can help.
Go for a free consultation with a credible skin care professional and learn about the function of your skin. Learn about the ingredients in homecare that will help, like salicylic acid and retinol. Learn about different treatments and how they work and most importantly, invest in yourself.
Invest in good skin care, a good diet, good treatments and stress management if you need to. We only have one face. It’s so very precious we must take tender care of it for all our lives.
I’m proud to say that I now get no more than zero spots a month. My scarring has been dramatically improved, my pigmentation is almost gone and I regularly post photos on social media with no make on. Not only that, I have come full circle and now take photographs and write articles for a number of aesthetic and skincare magazines and blogs. Who would have thought it? Watch out Anna Wintour!
Please do get in contact to discuss your skincare goals and needs
Love the skin you’re in