beauty

From cystic acne to post-pill blemishes: What I've learnt about having perfect skin.

Everybody wants perfect skin, right? That beautifully glossy, glass-skin look with zero pores and not a pimple in sight. I know I did and believe it or not, I actually made it happen. But now I see "perfect" skin a little differently. 

From cystic acne, to two rounds of acne medication, to stopping the pill; let me tell you what I realised about having "perfect" skin. 

Of course, genetics are a huge factor when it comes to skin, but believe me, I was not blessed with the perfect skin gene (thanks mum and dad). 

Growing up, I had regular teenage skin with hormonal spots here and there, but nothing that ever really affected me. 

Instead, I was one of the lucky ones that got to experience painful cystic acne in their young adult years. 

Image: Supplied. 

This cystic acne came as a result of stopping the pill in my early 20s and as a result of my hormones being controlled by a tiny pill I consumed every night, my skin freaked out when I decided to stop taking it. 

Within weeks I had large nodules on my jaw and cheeks. They were those kinds of pimples that are so big they have a heartbeat of their own - you know the ones? If you don’t, you’re lucky. 

Believe me when I say I tried everything I could think of. I tried medications, prescribed topicals, off-the-shelf skincare, in-clinic treatments, diets, facials, painful invasive procedures, and the list goes on. 

Nothing seemed to work for my stubborn acne and I was at the point where my mental health was low and I would cancel social outings due to embarrassment. 

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I finally decided to book an appointment with a dermatologist; something I had put off for years due to the cost, which is ironic because I spent thousands on products and procedures that never worked for me. 

Immediately I was placed on acne medication - a strong oral vitamin A which is currently the closest "cure" for acne. It is a very, very strong drug that dries out and sensitises your skin, can give you some scary-sounding side effects, and requires you to be on birth control while you’re on it. 

If you’ve experienced cystic acne, you’d probably understand the mindset of trying anything to fix it; and so, I agreed to the medication. 

Image: Supplied 

So there I was in 2019, on acne medication and back on the pill (the thing that caused my cystic acne in the first place). 

Unfortunately, clear skin while on acne medication didn’t come overnight as I had hoped. It actually took three months of purging and a total of seven months altogether. 

After the course of medication, my skin looked amazing. Like, it looked photoshopped... but it wasn’t. 

It was amazing to no longer have painful acne and to be more confident to go out with friends and family. 

Image: Supplied 

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Then the pandemic came around in 2020 and volcanoes started to pop up on my cheeks, to which my dermatologist took one look and said "let’s do another round of acne medication". 

So, another seven months go by and I have perfectly clear skin again and all seems right in the world. The only problem is that I’m still on the pill and I’m terrified to go off it. 

I knew that I couldn’t be on the pill forever as I may want to have kids one day and come off it, but I’d also been on (and off) the pill since I was 15! That's give or take 10 years of taking a tiny pill filled with synthetic hormones every night - and that kind of scared me. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the pill for birth control, but at this point, I was just using it as a bandaid for my acne. I started to feel trapped because I knew I didn’t want to take the pill anymore, but I was scared that my painful acne would come back. 

I realised I was stuck between relying on all of these medications to achieve this perfect skin, but I also wanted to do right by my body and stop taking anything I didn’t feel it needed anymore.

So in 2021, I bit the bullet, and I stopped taking the pill. 

Of course, I mentally prepared myself for my acne to come rushing back, but it didn’t. At least not as full force as it did the first time. 

Yes, I get hormonal breakouts and blemishes here and there, but I don’t rely on any single pill to control my acne and I can’t describe to you how freeing that feels. 

It’s amazing to know that my body still functions as it should without the assistance of the pill and that my hormones are now balancing out. 

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I understand now that blemished skin is still healthy skin, and it's normal to have pores and spots especially when Aunt Flo comes to visit every month. 

Skin is an amazing thing and to have healthy, radiant skin rather than unattainable porcelain skin should be something we aspire to have instead.

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Looking back, I realised how desperate I was to achieve this golden standard of "perfect" skin and what it took for me to achieve it.

It pains me to think of how social media, advertising, and the overuse of face-tune and photoshop has engraved in our minds that pores and pimples aren’t pretty. 

It made me realise that all of these other people who are unhappy with their skin may be trying to achieve something that is essentially unachievable without the influence of a dermatologist or drugs.

Image: Supplied. 

So here I am today, in 2022 loving my perfectly imperfect healthy skin - and I hope you can all learn to love yours too.

For more from Nissie, follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: Supplied/@nissie-bungbrakearti.

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