Following 5 months on antibiotics (and continuing, probably for at least another 2 months) and a slight change to my skin care routine (which I will describe further down), I am pleased to report that my skin is greatly improved. I still get the odd spot, either because of hormones or stress, but by and large my skin is clear. I have still got some redness and scarring but foundation covers that well enough!
So from this:
Massive improvement no?
I'm so glad I went to the Doctor. I'm also glad the Dr didn't push me into topical treatments, which I think would have destroyed my sensitive, dry skin. And yes, you can have acne and dry skin. I have found since I started treatment that I get a few spots on my upper lip around my nose. Tiny spots which go quickly and don't show through foundation, but I find that as long as I moisturise properly, these stay at bay.
So my skincare routine... I love Nivea Pure and Natural. I switched to it originally because I was a) curious and b) trying to 'Vienna proof' my skincare regime. But it has worked marvellously well for me and my skin has survived the winter without getting dry or sore. When I last had a cold I kept a small pot in my bag for application to my nose and I didn't get the dry cracked nose that is so typical of a bad cold.
One of the key things for me to deal with my acne has been to work out my triggers. Some silicones, and mineral oil (paraffinum liquidium) are my triggers, as well as stress. So ensuring that those things do not get near my skin is quite crucial. Oddly it is only some silicones - the ones in MAC foundations are perfectly fine, but the ones in some primers and hair conditioners are not. Mineral oil is never ok. Which is a shame, because it is the only thing that stops me using Illamasqua's Skinbase!
At around about the same time as I was starting my treatment, a friend recommended the hot cloth method of cleansing. Basically you use a flannel soaked in water as hot as you can stand and wrung out. Its a bit of a steam treatment every day, with the exfoliating effects of a flannel as well. It helps massively. You can vary the treatment depending on your skin type, so if you have oily skin just use water, but because I have dry skin I use the Nivea Pure and Natural cream cleanser and remove it with the hot water. I then use the hot cloth twice more, and follow it up always with the Pure and Natural Cleansing Toner.
I do this both morning and night, and use the appropriate anti ageing cream from the range. I don't use the anti ageing creams because I worry about wrinkles, but more because it happened to be the right texture and weight for my skin, as well as including burdock as an ingredient which is good for scarring and healing.
I appreciate I sound a bit like a walking advert for Nivea but I promise they haven't paid me for this! I am just passionate about good honest products that work and do not cost the earth.
So that's where I'm at now. The difference this has made to me and my self confidence is massive. I don't think you can measure just how much acne affects a person, whether that person is a teenager or an adult. I think more is written about the self esteem effects of acne on teenagers, than on adults, but that doesn't mean that adults can get through it without it having any effect. I still can't believe that the person I see looking back at me in the mirror is real some days.
I'd also like there to be more about the fact that acne does not only affect those with oily skins. Excess sebum production is the most common cause of acne, but it is not the only cause. In my case, I think mine was triggered by skin level bacteria, which is why the antibiotics have worked so well. How these bacteria, which live naturally on our skin, managed to get one up on my immune system is anyone's guess, but it wasn't oily skin that caused my acne. Nor was mine hormonal - I have been on a variety of contraceptive methods including the ones that are supposed to help with acne and they didn't work or make much difference.
I wish I'd gone to the doctors earlier. I do have some mild scarring (not visible once I'm wearing foundation) which could have been avoided, and I wouldn't have spent so long feeling miserable. But I guess like losing weight there has to be a point where you feel able to seek help.