Emma Freedman: "The worst breakout of my life - and how I fixed it"

It takes a bit to crack my confidence.

I generally get by with a happy grin on my face. I enjoy the ups, learn from the downs, and frequently put myself in positions that challenge me and help me grow. I don’t really care too much about what people think of me – or so I thought.

It took a recent illness to realise that I am not superhuman, both in my physical and emotional capacities, and sometimes you just have to take stock and reassess.

Around two months ago, I wrestled a bacterial infection. I use the word ‘wrestled’ because it’s true – I didn’t let my body fight the illness with rest and recuperation. Being a stubborn little shit, I kept up the long work hours, multiple skim piccolos and Sunday arvo vinos for weeks. This affliction was keen on occupying various destinations in my body. Greedy sickness. From stomach, to head and even achy arms, no area appeared safe.

The final straw was a throat so awfully sore it felt like an episode of Game of Thrones was being filmed within the walls of my neck. It was brutally painful. Talking was difficult and since I could be classified as a professional chatter, I needed expert help. Ten days of antibiotics was prescribed (my first ever course) and I finally gave into the fact that I hadn’t just felt lazy, depressed and antisocial for three weeks – instead I had been sick. Yeah. Smart, aren’t I?

It was like the skin on my face wanted to tear away and shed like a snake. I was left looking even sicker than I did to begin with, but more importantly, I felt even worse.

While my throat gradually got better, I noticed some changes in my skin around my chin area. I’ll preface this by saying I generally have very good skin, a combination of lucky genes and a devoted skincare regimen. I get the occasional ouchy hormonal pimple in that part of my face, however it is generally clear.

These changes, though, were disgusting. They weren’t pimples, but weeping welts. Oh my, they were just foul. It was like the skin on my face wanted to tear away and shed like a snake. I was left looking even sicker than I did to begin with, but more importantly, I felt even worse. The little suckers were struggling to heal, makeup wouldn’t cover them and I was left feeling embarrassed and low on confidence. AND THE LOGIES WERE IN FOUR DAYS. Are you kidding me? I’ve always had impeccable timing if nothing else.

Panicked one morning, after a meeting where a colleague seemed to only stare at my red and pussy face for 60 minutes, I called my skin expert Kaye Scott at The Clinic. I have been seeing Kaye since the start of the year – she revamped my skincare and gives me these delicious scrubs every couple of months to rejuvenate my skin. Kaye told me to pop in straight away so she could assess the damage.

As well as looking like crap, I also felt like shit. I was a teary mess.

Kaye was surprised – these were not pimples. It appeared I had either had a reaction to the antibiotics (which was soon ruled out), or the bacterial infection was trying to escape via my skin. Admittedly, I had poked and prodded them a few times. Although this was a lesson that should have been learned in my early teens, I just had to try and investigate what they were. This no doubt made the situation worse.


As well as looking like crap, I also felt like shit. I was a teary mess. I was over being down in the dumps and unwell, and overwhelmed by a month of not feeling like me. Kaye sat me down and helped me take a deep breath.

Sometimes things, for no apparent reason, get too much. I needed to relax. I was almost forcing an emotional rollercoaster on myself. I needed to stop internalising everything and caring about what other people thought of my frequent social absences of late, and my less than clear face. I was putting pressure on myself that was beyond unnecessary.

After talking it all out, we needed to attack the external issues of my skin. The solution – a gentle but efficient cleanse, another visit to the doctor for a topical antibiotic prescription, but most importantly, the use of IPL.

Emma Freedman, recovered and looking stunning at the TV Week Logies earlier this year. Via Instagram

IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) can be used for a variety of conditions, but also to treat acne. Not only does it destroy the bacteria, it also assists with pigmentation, redness and healing. Basically it helped kill all the germs still in my skin and assisted the recovery process too. The result? By Sunday, while I still did have visible spots they were smooth, not infected and easy to cover in makeup. A month later, the pigmentation from the welts is still visible but nowhere near as bad as what may have been. I will definitely have another treatment to try and remove the pigmentation all together over the next month or so.

I am so grateful to have had Kaye there to help me fix my skin but also to calm me down. What a crazy person I was being.

Since then, I’ve upped the green teas and yoga, started taking a pro-biotic to help my gut immune health, scheduled in another course of IPL and stepped up time with my friends and loved ones.

Maybe I just need to chill the heck out a bit more and learn that even the most confident people have low times. And when they come about, in whatever form, stressing will surely not fix the problems at hand.

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