We all have our hang-ups and for many of us these include our skin. To help you resolve some of your issues and become more skin confident, Glowday has created the Skincare Diaries - a series in which we talk to the experts to get to know them and their skincare concerns, their journeys to better skin...and their advice on how to tackle problem skin.
First up in the series, I spoke to nurse practitioner - and all round fabulous lady - Shelley Folkes of Halo Aesthetics, Hereford. She talks us through her journey with cystic acne and red, reactive skin, and how getting a better understanding of her skin has really helped. Struggling to treat acne? Read on for some great advice!
Hi Shelley! What’s your main skin concern?
When I was younger, I had cystic acne, which mostly affected my chin, but sometimes my cheeks too. The pits were so deep and painful, and large, hard lumps would throb and would take up to three months to heal. I also developed reactive, red-prone, stupidly sensitive skin, which could also be extremely sore. I would break out in large red blotches, and using any kind of product, even water, was painful.
That sounds so sore! When did you first develop cystic acne?
The acne started when I was about 20 or 21 years old, and I think it coincided with a change in hormonal contraception. The red, reactive, skin started about 5 years ago and I think that was linked to developing an autoimmune disease called Hashimotos.
Wow! You've really been on a journey. How did you try to treat cystic acne over the years?
I tried everything. For the acne I went to every shop, tried everything I saw advertised, took every tip - and got nowhere. It would settle and flare, settle and flare. In the end, I used soap and water, as the only way I could control it was by drying my skin out to a crisp, which is actually similar to using the prescription treatment Roaccutane, in a way! I absolutely hated it and can’t tell you what it did to my confidence. Ultimately, I needed a course of antibiotics due to the depth of the repeated infections.
What have you found to be the best way to treat cystic acne?
I finally got on top of my skin through education and a better understanding of why skin behaves the way it does. I learnt the priority was to calm my reactive skin first, rebuild the lipid barrier and then aim to treat the acne. Understanding pore size, cellular turnover and the role of exfoliation was key. So, I started with skin peels, ditched the over the counter products, invested a bit more time and a bit more money, and within 3 months my skin felt like someone else’s - in a good way. I couldn’t believe it and was thrilled. My skin will always be a ‘diva’ but I now read it, understand the early signs of problems and adapt my skin care routine accordingly.
My skin will always be a ‘diva’ but I now read it, understand the early signs of problems and adapt my skincare routine accordingly.
It's great that you've managed to get it in check. What advice would you give to anyone with cystic acne?
See a skin practitioner and get some professional advice. You may need to see your GP or an online doctor if you need antibiotics, but it’s essential you get advice from a practitioner that knows skin as well. Knowledge is power.
Once you understand the triggers and can ‘hear’ what your skin is telling you, you will feel much better having some control.
Also, ditch the face wipes! Ditch the over the counter products and invest a little time into researching the products you use. Check out the app ‘Think Dirty’ and see how toxic your products are! Get regular in-clinic treatments such a a chemical peel or light therapy once every 4-6 weeks. These are so good for all skin types - but particularly if you have acne. Just know, you will probably always a have ‘problem’ skin but once you understand the triggers and can ‘hear’ what your skin is telling you, you will feel much better having some control.
Thanks so much, Shelley! Great advice.
Looking to sort out your acne-prone skin? Find an aesthetic professional in your area now, and get glowing!