beauty

"Most days, I'd just cry." How microneedling helped Leah's skin when it changed overnight.

When I was growing up in high school, my skin was pretty normal. I’d get a pimple here and there, but it was never something I worried about. I never even wore any makeup until I was 16, I didn’t feel like I had to.

Since then, I’d say I’m a skincare junkie. From 17, I was all over my skincare routine and religiously went and got facials using “high end” products. This is why I couldn’t understand when in May, 2018, my skin changed overnight.

I’m not really a stress-head and I don’t let things get to me, and at that time in my life, I wasn’t particularly stressed. Nothing had changed, I had the same job, same diet and was using the same products. It literally happened that one day, I woke up with a pimple, and it got progressively worse every single day after. The acne was mostly on my cheeks and the pimples were painful, red, angry and irritated.

The Mamamia team tried the Glam Glow Glitter Mask and things got… weird. Check it out below, post continues after video.

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For someone who has always been confident and comfortable in her own skin – I’ve always felt comfortable with the way I am and the way I look – it really changed how I saw myself. I’d wake up in the morning and cry because I hated the way I looked. Most days, I’d just cry. It was terrible. Every time I looked in the mirror, I hated what I saw. It sucked. That’s not the kind of person I was before, and I hated what it did to my sense of self. I’m a headstrong woman, but my skin affected my mental health quite badly.

I know a lot of people have worse skin than mine and are struggling, but when I went from having great skin and a great routine to it changing out of my control, it messed with me. Sure, you can chuck on makeup and cover most of it up, but there were some parts I couldn’t cover. If someone was looking at me, I’d be paranoid they were looking at my skin. I’d always have my hand over my face and every time someone was talking to me, I’d feel like they were noticing how bad my skin was.

microneedling before and after
"I'd wake up in the morning and cry because I hated the way I looked. Every time I looked in the mirror, I hated what I saw." Image: Supplied/Leah Karam.
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microneedling before and after
"I know a lot of people have worse skin than mine, but it messed with me." Image: Supplied/Leah Karam.

I was so self-conscious and paranoid. I stopped taking photos of myself and learnt my best angles so you wouldn't be able to see my skin. I used more filters, and I hardly uploaded any photos from that time to social media. I was also single for most of that period and I freaked out about what my dates would think of my skin or if they'd have to see me without makeup. I'd make sure we were doing something I could wear makeup for (so no hiking or going to the beach), but I'd still feel really uncomfortable.

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My acne went from bad to really, really bad very quickly, so I tried everything - microdermabrasion, extractions and getting on expensive skincare routines. Although that helped a bit, it became obvious the problem was internal and couldn't be fixed with a topical treatment. Two months after my skin first flared up, I went to my local GP and he put me on a medication that did absolutely nothing, my skin just kept getting worse. I went back and he sent me to a dermatologist. Straightaway, she suggested I go on Roaccutane.

I knew what Roaccutane was because I'm the type of person who Googles everything under the sun, but by that point, I didn't care what the side effects were, how painful it would be or what it'd cost. I just had to do something. I was on a low 10ml dose of Roaccutane for two months and I got the typical Roaccutane dry lips and dry skin. Normally, I have very oily skin and would wake up with an oil slick over my face, but I noticed on the medication, I didn't have any natural oils at all.

Once I finished that round of medication, my blemishes and acne had completely cleared up, but no one tells you about the scarring. Technically, my problem was solved, but it was such a shock to be left with horrible, pitted scars that looked like holes cut out of my face. I also got hyper-pigmentation dots where the pimples had been. It was almost as bad as having the acne because I still wasn't comfortable enough in my own skin to leave the house without makeup.

microneedling before and after
"Technically, my problem was solved, but it was such a shock to be left with horrible, pitted scars." Image: Supplied/Leah Karam.
microneedling before and after
"If someone was looking at me, I'd be paranoid they were looking at my skin." Image: Supplied/Leah Karam.
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I tried all these natural things to get rid of the scars, like tea tree oil or spices (I'm Indian so my family say to put turmeric on everything), but nothing worked. Then, I watched a YouTube video from Bryan Turner about his experience with microneedling for his acne. It was so raw and real, so I decided to try it. I went to see Patti from Australian Skin Clinics but I had to wait six months after finishing Roaccutane to start having the treatments. Overall, I've had six microneedling sessions - one treatment a month over six months - and they sell them in packs of three, with each session costing around $250.

Patti had to calm me down before my first session because I was very nervous about microneedling. I hate needles and the thought of needles in my face was so scary. But she explained how it works, that they use very small needles and apply numbing cream beforehand, and after the first session, I saw a difference straightaway. I cannot, and I repeat, CANNOT recommend microneedling enough. It's the best thing I’ve ever spent my money on.

After the treatments, your skin goes a bit inflamed, so I used non-active products like a gentle cleanser and a recovery cream to reduce inflammation. I used the Ultraceuticals Ultra B2 Hydrating Serum. It's $95 for a tiny bottle, but it's my saving grace. I also used it throughout my Roaccutane treatment and it's the best thing I've found to really hydrate the skin. Eventually, I added a brightening serum into my routine to help with pigmentation, and I wear the Ultraceuticals SPF in the morning religiously.

microneedling before and after
"The biggest thing microneedling helped me with is the pitted scars." Image: Supplied/Leah Karam.
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microneedling before and after
"I will still get pimples, but I feel good about myself again." Image: Supplied/Leah Karam.
microneedling before and after
"I feel back to being free again. Being me." Image: Supplied/Leah Karam.
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It wasn't until I sat down to look at my progress photos that I realised just how much my skin has changed - how bad it was before and the difference now. For me, the biggest thing microneedling has helped me with is the pitted scars because you can cover pigmentation with makeup, but not the holes. I hardly ever wear makeup anymore and for those who have had acne before, you'll know how incredibly scary that is. Now, I only wear makeup when I want to and because it's fun, not because I’m scared people will stare at my skin.

From May, 2018, to now, I'd say I've spent thousands on my skin. With all the treatments I tried before microneedling and the expensive skincare I bought, I'd say all up I spent around $4K. I saved up in order to have the treatments and I probably could've spent that money on a holiday or put it towards something else, but investing in myself and my skin was worth every cent. The experience has taught me that I am beautiful and everyone is in their own way, and that we all care too much about what other people think.

This was really hard for me to write, but I wanted to share my skin journey on the chance it could help someone else struggling with something similar. I still get pimples and I'm still going to get pimples, and unfortunately every time I get one, it leaves a scar, so it will be an ongoing process of maintaining my skin.

But I feel back to being free again. Being me.

This is one woman's experience and shouldn't be substituted for professional, personal medical advice. If you're concerned about your skin, your GP or a dermatologist is a great place to start.

If you want to hear more about microneedling, you can listen to Kelly McCarren's experience with the skin treatment on the You Beauty podcast below.

Have you tried microneedling? What was your experience like? Tell us in the comments!

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