Acne & Me: A Q&A with Leanne Dempsey
Acne affects many people, and most of us have experienced a break out at one time of our life. But for some acne is more than just a few spots. Sufferers of severe acne can be really traumatised, with their daily lives being affected. Sadly, some people don’t always realise just how much spots, acne and other people’s reactions can hurt someone’s confidence. Even if the acne goes in time the lasting effects can leave a person scarred, both physically and emotionally. We spoke to Leanne of Little-Babble.com to hear her open and honest experiences with acne.
- When did it begin? / How old were you when it started?
Quite honestly, I can’t remember the exact age but I’m 25 now and I can confidently say that I’ve had acne for over half of my life. I began getting the odd spot here and there when I was incredibly young, which over a couple of years just continued to get worse until I had a face, back and chest which was covered in acne.
- How did it make you feel?
Fairly horrible to be entirely honest. Acne might just sit on your skin, but it can affect your whole life. I had no confidence and it would stop me from doing really simple things. I wouldn’t leave the house without makeup on my face and would never wear anything backless. I’d be melting in summer because I’d refuse to wear strappy tops and didn’t go swimming for years in case anyone saw my ‘bacne’ or in case the pool water washed off my makeup. Little things like this when you’re in your teens and supposed to be enjoying life carefree can take its toll.
- Did anyone comment on your skin?
Yes. Probably daily someone would mention my skin and if they didn’t mention it, I could always see people staring. It’s probably part and parcel of getting acne so young that no one was really used to seeing other people their age with bad skin. I think it goes without saying that it was never anything positive; I remember one boy telling me that I should ‘wash my face’. Charming.
- Was your confidence affected? If so, how and in what ways?
Yes, definitely. I used to struggle making eye contact with new people. I’ve worn makeup since I was incredibly young to try and hide my bad skin and until very recently I would never leave the house without makeup on.
- Do you think people and society in general don’t sympathise enough with acne sufferers?
Definitely. I don’t think people realise quite how much acne not only affects people’s confidence and the way they see themselves but also that acne can physically hurt. Accidentally scratching your face can be incredibly painful and you have to be careful when cleansing to try and reduce scarring.
- What would you say is the worst thing about acne?
People staring and the lack of confidence. Also, the disbeliefs about acne that people who have it are ‘dirty’ or ‘don’t wash’, which could not be further from the truth.
- Did you look for help for the emotional aspects of acne? / Some people feel suicidal over their acne. Can you understand/relate to this?
I suffer from anxiety and depression, which whilst I don’t think is due fully to having acne, it certainly didn’t help. Acne can sometimes make you feel worthless; you see pictures of people with perfect skin everywhere and wonder what’s wrong with you. Depression can do the same thing so although feeling suicidal is something I’ve thankfully never experience, I can see how the two together can be a lethal combination.
- Did you do anything to try and improve your skin?
I don’t think there’s an acne treatment that I haven’t tried and I dread to think of the amount of money I spent on lotions and potions over the years. From lathering my face in baby-rash-cream, putting toothpaste on spots and accidentally drying my skin out (and making it much worse) by exfoliating daily there’s not much I haven’t tried really.
I also tried the usual dietary changes that are suggested; cutting out bread, cutting out dairy and drinking an obscene amount of water.
Whilst unsurprisingly none of these things worked they have given me some fairly good habits; I don’t have as much dairy as I used to and I get my 8 glasses of water pretty much every day! I also have a decent skincare routine and I always, always take my makeup off before bed.
- Did you see a doctor and/or dermatologist? What did they say? Did you get any help? What was the outcome?
Yes – I first went to the doctor when I was around 16. I remember being given a cream that burnt my skin so badly I had to take a day from college whilst the swelling reduced. I also spent many years on antibiotics which had moderate success but of course, wasn’t ideal. I eventually got referred to a dermatologist when I was 22 and spent most of my 23rd year on roaccutane. It was pretty horrendous; besides monthly hospital appointments and pregnancy tests, my skin was SO dry and I couldn’t spend too long in the sun. At the end of my course of roaccutane my skin did look good; not perfect, but certainly the best it’s ever been.
- How about now? How do you feel? How is your skin today?
My skin today isn’t the best; it’s still congested and dehydrated but I don’t have any active acne which I still think is amazing. I have acne scars on my cheeks and around my hairline, and get a few spots every now and again, but I consider them to be more ‘normal’ breakouts than the horrendous cysts and spot clusters I used to get. I also don’t mind leaving the house without makeup on if I have to. Oh, and my wardrobe is full of all kinds of strappy tops!