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15th April 2024

Conversations about acne #3: Not just a girl’s issue

Acne isn’t just a teen or female issue as one writer explains in their latest addition to the ‘Conversations about acne’ series
Conversations about acne #3: Not just a girl’s issue
Credit: RDNE Stock Project @ Unsplash

‘Conversations about acne’ is a series at The Mancunion Fashion & Beauty section in which Manchester students share their personal skin struggles and offer some tips based on their own acne journey. It’s time to talk about student skin and normalise the common reality of adult acne, so read on to find out how your peers are coping…

Content warning: mentions of suicide and depression

Like most, I’ve never been fully content with my skin. Teeth, proportions of facial features, wrinkles, spots – society dictates that so much of your beauty should come from how your face looks.

During male puberty, there’s a definite expectation that you’re going to develop acne. This is probably down to the increase in testosterone that occurs during puberty – though this increase happens for girls too, it’s more significant in boys. The flip side is that men are less likely to experience acne as an adult. Or so you think.

I don’t remember struggling with acne in secondary school, besides from a few minor outbreaks. But, during the 2020 lockdown, my skin was the worst it had been for a long time. A combination of stress about the uncertainty of what the next few months would look like, coupled with that I was still developing as a young adult probably didn’t make a happy pair. My Snapchat memories from that point are not photos to put in a scrapbook.

After switching cleansers and seeking over-the-counter spot treatments in search of a solution, it was time for a change. Here came the decision to seek medical advice from my GP. This isn’t always necessary, but it was obvious there was no clear solution.

It’s easy to forget, but acne or persistent breakouts are classed as a medical condition. Just because you’ve got acne-prone skin does not you’re unhygienic. In fact, acne affects 9.4% of the global population, according to a report from the British Journal of Dermatology. This makes it the eighth most prevalent disease worldwide. Your GP can help.

Following rounds of two different antibiotics and various topical creams, last year I started a six-month course of Accutane. More than likely, you’re only aware of Accutane because of its advertised side effects. A very quick Google is enough to make anyone terrified: depression, cancer, severely dry and irritable skin, vision impairment, birth defects in case of pregnancy, psychiatric disorders – the list goes on. And whilst it’s important to sometimes take side effects with a pinch of salt (take a read of the ones for paracetamol), it is worrying, nonetheless.

Halfway into my course, The Telegraph published a news story about a 15-year-old girl who took her own life in 2019 after being prescribed with the drug. This was difficult for me to stomach but I left feeling reassured that following such a tragedy, new safety measures were introduced. The Commission on Human Medicines’ review of Accutane concluded the drug’s benefits still outweigh the risks. Each month, I was required to have a blood test and had a check-up about how I was feeling.

Thankfully, despite the advertised side effects, I did not struggle too severely. The most noticeable case was when I drank alcohol (which you’re not recommended to do on Accutane), as the drug acts as a blood thinner and therefore reduced my tolerance. In hindsight, this probably was not the best decision I’ve ever made, but I will conveniently blame my naïve first-year self in this case. At least it was a good excuse if I didn’t want to go out!

I’ve never been happier with my skin than following Accutane, a phenomenon known as the ‘post-Accutane glow’. Combined with a new hairstyle (curtains were never the move), it was a positive boost to my mental health. It’s such a shame it seems my confidence was so dictated by how I perceived myself. However, it’s never harmful to admit that when we look good, we feel good – give yourself the hype you deserve.

My skincare routine is now incredibly simple. Having consistently used it throughout my course of Accutane, I firmly believe in the importance of SPF in a skincare regimen. My go-to is one from La Roche-Posay, which is on the more expensive side for a student budget. However, with SPF it’s important to pick a good quality one, and La Roche-Posay has a great reputation for simple yet effective skincare. I still have quite sensitive skin, so my cleanser of choice is the CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser. As for a moisturiser, I don’t tend to stick with a specific brand, but I am currently using one from Aveeno.

So, please don’t go to extremes and try every product that is recommended to you online, instead trialling products and investing in those that work is instead my biggest piece of advice. And it’s never embarrassing to ask for help from a medical professional if you think you need to. But most of all, skincare is never just a female-focused industry.

Take a look at the last article in the ‘Conversations about acne‘ series with Fashion & Beauty writer Eleanor Duke.

Jacob Robinson

Jacob Robinson

Head Investigations Editor & MMG News Producer 2023-24 | Former Head of Talk Shows and Deputy Head of Podcasting at Fuse FM 2022-23

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