My (Complicated) Acne Journey! Doxycycline, Benzoyl Peroxide, Retin-A and All my skin care Tips!

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I've struggled with acne for over 14 years. My...

I've struggled with acne for over 14 years. My mother told me when I was young that by 19 years old, I would be all done with acne and I could move on with my life. She was so wrong. I am 28 years old and still I struggle daily to control it. Finally I have found what I believe to be the perfect balance of treatment and daily regimen. I will try to share with you guys on RealSelf the details and steps I took to get here, the hardships I faced, and tips for dealing with the nasty side effects that come with any acne treatments.

Love you all!

So here we go.

THE LOW DOWN ON MY SKIN:

I have (generally) dry skin and an oily T-Zone. I have tried everything under the sun on my acne. I have inflammatory acne, which means my skin flares up and gets agitated, produces oil, traps it in my inflamed pores, and causes lesions on my face. They can be deep, they usually hurt, and they leave red pigment scarring as well as some small pitted scars behind. I tried over the counter solutions: cleansers with salicylic acid, blackhead scrubs, toners that burn like hell, pore strips, drying masks, serums, etc. A lot of these over the counter acne solutions are really strong. Since I have dry skin, I found them overpowering and they used to strip my skin of moisture, causing more inflammation, and more aggravated acne. Also, as I get older, I find that my skin is different than when I was a teen. It responds more sensitively to harsh treatments. I had to try something else.

I reached a point when I was 27 years old, where I couldn't bear to look in the mirror. I had been keeping the acne under control for a while (an by under control, I mean plenty of zits, just not anything hugely painful). All of a sudden, nothing worked. I used aggressive over the counter solutions to try and fight it and it just blew up. I went to see my doctor.

I did 3 things:

- I went back on the hormonal birth control pill to help control menstrual cycle related breakouts. If you are a woman with acne on your chin that is cyclical and reoccurring, it is likely affected by your cycle. Talk to your doctor about treatment.

- My doctor put me on doxycycline (50mg, 2x daily..or maybe 3x, I forget) and also gave me a tube of benzol peroxide.

- Referred me to a Dermatologist whom I would visit after 4-6 weeks of current treatment (so I could see some results to compare at my appointment.

I have added some photos of my progress during that time. This is pretty hard for me to share these, acne comes with a lot of shame and embarrassment. People tend to view skin issues differently than other biological characteristics. The general reaction (even if not voiced) is usually disgust. "Why don't they wash their face? It looks infected!", "That's gross", "I wouldn't wan't to get near that", "She should really fix her skin". If only they knew how hard it is to do just that!

2 week update

These photos are from 2 weeks into treatment with 50mg daily oral doxycycline and topical benzoyl peroxide 0.5%.

I started with lower doses of each to see how my skin would react. I wanted something gradual and sustainable and to not have a severe reaction that would persuade me to give up a potentially great treatment.

Warning to those using doxycycline: It is an antibiotic, so take probiotic supplements to restore the natural flora in your tummy (I'm talking pills, not yogurt). It causes pretty bad constipation, as well as some nausea about 20 mins after taking the pill (remember to take it with food!). Some people quit doxy because of the nausea, I would suggest lowering the dose if you started out at 100mg, it might be tolerable.

4 week update

Some photos from my treatment 4 weeks in. The breakouts are starting to get a little more controlled.

10 week update

Some photos 10 weeks in to treatment.

It is important to be consistent with treatment. I never skip a day of cleansing my face, taking my meds, etc. Skipping only sets you back, honestly. If you ever feel like skipping it, ask yourself if you want to start all over from the beginning. The answer, 99% of the time, is no.

14 week update, saw my dermatologist

Finally the skin in between my acne is getting some relief and feeling less aggravated.

In mid-December of 2014 I went to see my dermatologist for a follow up. She increased my dose of doxycycline and gave me retin-a to use. I would be using the retin-a every second day, alternating with the benzoyl peroxide.

STOP EVERYTHING! I'M PREGNANT!

I had no idea I was 5 months pregnant when I walked into the doctor's offices in December of 2014. I had no symptoms and was on another medication that can cause irregular or non-existent periods. I conceived while on contraception (IUD). The chances are pretty rare, less than 0.01%.

I went in to get an ultrasound for what they thought might be a hernia, but it was a 5 month old baby in there! It was scary, because you're not supposed to take doxycycline while pregnant and I didn't know. I had been taking it the entire time. After some testing and research, my baby and I were in the clear. He is a healthy and happy, bouncing baby boy.

I obviously stopped all treatment while pregnant and only resumed some form of acne treatment a few months after giving birth (not doxycycline anymore).

Resuming topical treatment (10/10/2015)

I resumed using benzoyl peroxide only at this point.

4 week update after resuming topical treatment

Benzoyl peroxide (0.5%) and retin-a (0.025%), alternating nights of application.

The Retin-A took about 4 weeks to adjust. EXPECT dry skin shedding and some redness. It is your skin adjusting to the chemical exfoliation process and it will pass. My skin no longer sheds terribly or gets red. IT IS WORTH STICKING WITH! Battle it out, you won't regret it. You MUST use it regularly, no skipping and being lazy, as it rewards those who put the effort in. It's not a product for laziness or inconsistency, if you are not applying it as part of a regular routine it will not work for you.

My skin has responded SO well to Retin-A. I have NEVER had skin so smooth and shiny (not from oil, from smoothness!). I still get zits but they are way down in number and severity. My saving grace! I will keep updating you on my results :)

6 week update

Kaiser Permanente dermatology

a-OK!

4 out of 5 stars Overall rating
4 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
5 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
3 out of 5 stars After care follow-up
3 out of 5 stars Time spent with me
3 out of 5 stars Phone or email responsiveness
4 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
3 out of 5 stars Payment process
5 out of 5 stars Wait times
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