Seven: Acne, Anxiety & Me

Question: Which came first: the acne or the depression? 

Answer: fuck knows.

Many mental health sufferers become experts at hiding their true feelings within. But one place they cannot hide… is on your face. When one hits their teens it’s a tough time both mentally and physically… quite frankly one doesn’t help the other out.
Being a teenager caused deep distress, name-calling and anxiety of new levels. Being a teenager with severe acne breakouts made this transition even worse.
Acne on the face.
Acne on the chest and upper arms.
Acne on the back.
Zits, spots, blemishes suffocating the skin. The GP tried every treatment under the sun; antibiotics, contraceptive pills, topical creams… nothing got rid of the fuckers. Then using savings and a private referral a dermatologist prescribed the sweet, sweet roaccutane that would finally conquer the beastly whiteheads once and for all.
Acne has long been linked with depression and anxiety. As has roaccutane. My opinion on the matter is, if you’ve suffered from acne, its likely you’ve been depressed by it. Roaccutane – despite all it’s controversy over the years – actually probably saved my life a few times. Always consult a doctor and discuss your mental health issues before commencing treatment. It’s different for everyone.
The pus retreated, the scars faded and the villagers rejoiced.
The dry skin and dramatic side effects were all worth it and short sleeves could be worn again. The bouts of depression remained but at least my skin looked good.
Recent years, the roaccutane’s effects started to wear off and my oily skin returned. My chin broke out first, the cheeks followed. Now on a vicious cycle, they come and go every few weeks. The joy of hormones. Luckily no where near as severe as before, but the return of the sore, pus-filled cystic lumps (oh god, gross – sorry if you’re eating your lunch…) made my self confidence plummet even lower than it already was.
Scars have returned and left some lovely shades of pigment across the lower half of my face. For many reasons I am not going to bored you with, a new round of roaccutane is not feeling like a viable option
So, instead I began my mission to try and keep on top of infrequent eruptions and – more importantly – accept my face for what it is. I also have ditched the concealer and thick foundation, letting my skin breathe makes me feel less ashamed and disguised. I’ve taken to trying to see the pock-marks on my face as battle scars, they tell a story (a fairly boring one admittedly, but it’s my story so fuck it).

Things I’ve tried:

Anti biotics
These didn’t work for me. Other’s swear by it. Go figure. Short term either way.

The Pill
Worked, but the pill is the pill and mood swing hell. I prefer having bubble wrap texture skin to being the devil. 

Retin-A (Tretinoin Gel)
Given to me as an overnight ointment. Didn’t float my boat and left a funny film over my skin that peels overnight leaving a flaky texture all over my face for the morning. Imagine trying to impress boys or girls on sleepovers with that look.

Duac Gel
Works, but have to endure rough, red skin after.
I don’t have an air brush. There is no miracle cure. But a little bit of time and investment in my face makes a big difference inside as well as outside.
Products don’t have to cost the earth, thanks to recommendations from much savvier friends, I’ve discovered my acne regime. I won’t claim it’s a miracle cure for acne, but it might help make you feel less greasy, less sore and more on top of it.


  1.  Wash face with gentle cleanser
  2.  Apply toner
  3.  In palm of your hand mix one drop of The Ordinary’s Buffet serum with an oil-free moisturiser
  4. – For the lips – apply Elizabeth Arden’s Eight-Hour cream 


  1. Remove the day (and make up) with a micellar cleansing water
  2. Wash face with gentle face scrub
  3.  Apply toner
  4. On acne-prone/effected areas: apply thin layer of The Ordinary’s lactic acid (to reduce appearance of scarring)
  5. Rest of face: apply The Ordinary’s Buffet serum
  6. Generous layer of Elizabeth Arden’s Eight-Hour cream  on lips
Taking care of my skin every morning and evening is now a very important part of my day. No matter how low my mood is or how shitty the day was; those calm quiet moments in the bathroom, taking the time to care for my skin feels like a tender moment of self-love, something many of us forget to indulge in.
I’ll never be rid of acne for good, but hopefully trying to love the skin I’m in will help soften the blow. The ability to get into this mindset won’t always be possible, but like my skin, nothing is perfect.

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