Did you know that there are more than 3000 skin conditions known to Dermatology with acne being the most common?
In this feature we wanted to share something a little different…and personal. Abbie Hurrell, our Society Director was just 12 years old when she started developing severe acne. No one knows why or what brings it on and, like vitiligo, there are suggested treatments but no cure.
Whilst the symptoms and appearance of acne is completely different to vitiligo, there are similarities in how the condition can affect someone mentally and physically.
Here, Abbie shares her story in her own words…
“I’ve lived with acne since I was 12 years old, hormonal acne, adult acne and finally cystic acne (don’t google that last one while eating dinner!).
As my skin got worse through my late teens I came quickly to three conclusions which then drove my slightly questionable decisions for the next few years:
- Everyone else has perfect skin
- Everyone is looking at my skin and thinking how bad it is
- I’m going to have to find a boyfriend with acne, because no one else will ever love me
I tried every cream and diet the TV/my friends/the internet suggested
My phone clearly listens to me, because every time I spoke to someone about my skin condition, suddenly 101 ads for acne treatment popped up everywhere I went online. Because it felt like a cosmic problem I felt guilty about going to a doctor so I began my journey by spending a small fortune on everything the internet offered me, without success.
I tried every cream, pill and treatment the NHS had to offer
I’ve seen countless doctors and been prescribed more treatments than I can remember. Sometimes they worked for a while but, much like the Terminator, the acne always came back.
I turned my face into a sun-burnt tomato
‘Dry out your skin in the sun’ was a common solution all my friends came up with. And the great thing about a totally sunburnt face is that at least for a few painful days my skin was all one colour! Unfortunately sweat clogs pores and after a couple of days looking like a lobster the acne looks worse than ever – not a solution I would recommend for anyone looking to blend skin tone.
So then I got a REALLY big tattoo
You can see my logic? Acne on my face was one thing, but when it invaded my back this was something else. So it seemed sensible just to cover over it with a massive tattoo (an eagle, in case you’re curious). However as my acne was still very much active over the years this resulted in my eagle looking a little potted as spots came and went and left their mark. The newly found tattoo addiction continues to bankrupt me to this day.
Next came the industrial strength concealer, which I smothered on like butter
Don’t get me wrong concealer can be great, but when your skin tends to be on the oily side you leave the house looking perfect only to return looking like a slightly melted wax work version of yourself.
At one point social media suggested shaving my facial hair would help…
It didn’t. It just gave me a more noticeable mustache as it grew back.
Then my skin got so bad I refused to leave the house
When I hit 30 I thought I must be over the worst of it (finally!). At this point the cystic acne started. No one can tell me why, it just appeared one day and within a week I had a beard full of cysts. So I finally hit my breaking point, stocked up on video games and just refused to leave the house. Thankfully this was during Covid so actually not leaving the house was quite common, when I did leave I could wear a mask – which was a releef.
As lockdown ended, I was still in my self-imposed isolation. Some days I would look in the mirror and just cry. It felt so unfair, and I just didn’t recognise myself anymore.
2 months later I just accepted my skin
It sounds strange but once the worst had happened (there was literally no more room on my face for more spots) and I got to a point where I just accepted this was part of me. I didn’t like the way I looked. I was still convinced everyone was repulsed by me, but I just gave up and thought fine – I guess this is me now. Just get on with it. Some days I even stopped trying to cover it. I’d leave the house acne laid bare, not meeting anyone’s eye but at least I was out. I still took antibiotics to try to manage it but I knew it might never get better. In short, me and my skin would just have to learn to live with each other.
I realised I was chasing something that was fundamentally unobtainable for me – I will never be that woman with perfectly smooth skin. Instead I focus on the things I can control and it’s although I still have some bad days, I’m ok because years of living with a skin condition has taught me:
- No one has perfect skin
- People might be looking at my skin, but they might also be looking at my fabulous hair, my frankly questionable fashion sense, or perhaps my giant smile?
- There are lots of people out there who couldn’t care less about the state of my skin. Some are battling with their own insecurities, some just don’t see it, and others understand there’s so much more to a person than appearance.”
Abbie’s story is one which many of us can closely relate to. From the many treatments Abbie pursued in an attempt to heal her skin to the many options we have explored, often in desperation for a cure. The most enlightening part of Abbie’s story is that of self acceptance and the realisation that no one is perfect and that there is so much more to us than our skin….