At the age of 22, following my college graduation, I noticed I started to break in ways I never had before. I noticed large nodules popping up along my jawline, on my cheekbones, and all over my cheeks which had never happened before. In the past, I suffered from a mild form of acne but it was never the kind of acne that hurt. That was definitely not the case for the most recent type of acne I was faced with. Large red bumps would come to the surface and were so painful I would cringe applying moisturizer and my makeup. I began to analyze in great detail the ingredients in my skincare but was confused because those products had always given me great results. At this point, I began to analyze my diet but once again could not find anything that would trigger such a large breakout. After a month of desperation, I decided to try aloe vera on my skin in an attempt to soothe my inflamed skin. Every single night I would slather my face with the gel from a fresh stem of aloe and would go to sleep with it. In the morning, I would wash my face with a gentle cleanser, moisturize, and apply sunscreen. Over the course of a few weeks, I began to notice a dramatic difference in my skin and felt so overjoyed to have found something that worked. I stuck to my routine of applying aloe to my face every night for about 2 years until one day it just stopped working.
After my 24th birthday, my skin flared up worse than it had ever before. My entire face was completely covered in large painful zits and I was gutted. I remember feeling so frustrated and crying because I went from having control over my skin to losing all of it within a week. I went back to the drawing board and began the journey of finding new products that would help to remedy the problem but no matter what I tried, it became worse. I decided to finally bite the bullet and call my insurance to see what my coverage plan entailed to see a dermatologist and was shocked to find out how much my co-pay was going to cost me just to see a dermatologist. I was rather annoyed because it was pretty expensive for just a visit and that did not include having to make a trip to see my general practitioner just to get a referral. I decided that I was not going to go that route unless I was completely out of options and that is when I began to look into online dermatology services. Right off the bat I stumbled across Apostrophe and was intrigued.
After reading 100’s of reviews online all of which raved about the service, I decided to sign up and give it a try. At this point, I was so frustrated by the state of my skin and was willing to try anything. The first thing I was asked to do was to fill out a questionnaire detailing my particular issue. I was asked if I was currently on any other medication and to give specific detail as to what I was currently using and to outline any other concerns I had. After writing as much detail as I could, I uploaded my pictures to show my skin’s current state. As terrified as I am to include these pictures, I think it is important for me to include them (so please be kind).
After uploading my photos and filling out the questionnaire, I was asked to make a payment of $20 which would be used to pay for my consultation AND in addition it would go towards the cost of my prescription. Right off the bat, I loved the idea of paying for my consultation and getting a $20 credit for my medication. Once I wrapped up my payment I was matched with a dermatologist and was told that I would get my treatment plan as soon as possible. Mind you, I submitted my photos on December 27, 2019 (a Friday) at 4:30 PM and by 9:34 PM that same night I received a message that I had my treatment plan. My dermatologist sent me a very detailed message about the medications she recommended I use and after I was given the option to purchase. The best part was that if I didn’t want to try a specific medication, I did not have to but because I was so desperate I ordered exactly what she prescribed. The medication she prescribed was an oral treatment of Spironolactone (100 mg) and a topical cream of tretonoin + niacinamide + clindamycin. I was given the option to purchase a 1 month supply or a 3 months supply but since it was more affordable to purchase the 3 months supply I went that route. In total, with tax and my $20 prescription credit included I paid $120. Now, I know that may seem like a lot of money, but when you divide that amount into 3 months, it comes out to $40 a month! For all the money I spent just trying to get my skin to clear up, I was more than happy to fork out the money to be sure I would get clear skin.
I was told to start slow with the topical cream and to use it 2 x a week and gradually build up my use to every night. Tretonoin requires some getting used to because it is a retinoid which is the most concentrated form of vitamin A you can get. Retinoids work by increasing the rate at which your skin cells turn over which means that things have to get worse before they get better. I spent a decent amount of time researching “the retinoid uglies” to see what the average amount of time purging occurs while applying a retinoid. On average, most people said it lasted 6-8 weeks which was not what I wanted to hear. For those who were also put on Spironolactone, it seemed that the best results came after 3 months. Spironolactone is a pill that is actually meant to treat high blood pressure, but recent research has shown that in small dosages, it is effective in treating hormonal acne. Spironolactone acts as an androgen blocker which means that it binds to the site of the sex hormone receptors to regulate testosterone levels which can cause acne along the chin, cheeks, and jaw line. The one very important thing to know about Spironolactone is that it CANNOT be taken while pregnant/trying to get pregnant. Before I began using these medications, I had prepared myself for it to get worse before it got better, but I did not expect for it to be as painful as it was. At this point, I wanted to give up because my skin was slightly peeling, super sensitive, and covered in acne.
These were the pictures I uploaded for my first follow-up appointment and after talking with my dermatologist, she assured me that things would only start to improve from here. I reluctantly refilled my prescription to ensure I did not run out and once again I paid the $120. I paid at the 2 month mark instead of waiting to run out because the last thing I wanted was to get to the point where it was starting to work only to have to wait a few days to get my refill. I should also mention at this point that the shipping of medication is very fast and it takes about 2-3 days to receive your shipment once your prescription has been authorized. Anyways, my breakouts continued up until the 2nd week of March and then at this point, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. At the 3 month mark (end of March) all of my active acne completely stopped. My acne scars began to fade, any pitted scars began to become more discreet, and my overall skin tone began to even out. With every continuous use, I began to notice a difference and each day I find myself staring at how flawless my skin is becoming. Yesterday, (May 14th, 2020) I had my 2nd follow-up with my dermatologist and when I looked back at the pictures I was floored by the results.
While it was very challenging to watch my face get worse the first 2 months, now that I am on the other side of it, I would 100% do it all over again. MY skin has never been so even and although I still have scars, my dermatologist assured me that as I continue the medication the spots will disappear by month 6 ( in about 2 months). I feel confident in my skin again and am so happy that I can finally look in the mirror with no make up on and smile at what I see. My skincare routine is fairly simple now as I do not want to over complicate anything, but I recently started to incorporate a vitamin C serum to help brighten my skin and to stimulate more collagen production. Throughout this process this has been my routine:
I hope this post helps to clarify anything you may have had questions about and if you are struggling with adult acne, I highly recommend you give Apostrophe a try. Apostrophe helped give me my skin back and with that my confidence. If you enjoy these other posts let me know so I can keep them up. I will be back soon with another post!