Finally, a treatment for acne that works
I'VE never written about my adult acne because, well, let's face it, it's embarrassing.
I'm 34 and I have breakouts.
It is almost like an admission that I am unhealthy. But I'm not.
A keen boxer and boxing trainer, I work out every day. I don't drink, I don't eat bread, I hardly eat sugar and I've even cut out milk except for a dash in my one cup of tea.
I take vitamins. I drink more than two litres of water a day.
I try not to touch my face. I wash my hands regularly. I change my pillowcase every few days. I use silicone based hair products. I don't wear make-up daily (one of the beauties of working from home).
And still I get pimples. Usually they're around my chin and along my jawline. Hormonal acne, someone said.
Don't get me wrong, I've had periods where my skin is great. But a few months ago I had this breakout - maybe it was the stress from moving to a new town - I don't know, but it was terrible.
I expected it to clear up after a couple of weeks. But it didn't. In fact it got worse.
At my wits end I went to a local doctor. One that was supposed to be a skin specialist. After a quick glance in my general direction she prescribed Doxycycline and benzoyl peroxide.
For those of you who don't know what these products do (and lucky you) Doxycycline is an antibiotic for bacterial infections. People take it to treat anthrax. Or acne.
It is advised you take it at lunchtime because the tablet can burn your throat.
And benzoyl peroxide is an industrial chemical used as a topical treatment of acne. Essentially, it dries your skin out and therefore supposedly dries out your acne. Yeah, no.
After three days on these products I had a sore, itchy rash on my neck and I couldn't get my head around the stuff I was putting in and on my body.
I went back to the doctor. She prescribed me the pill. No testing, no other suggestions just here's a script for the pill.
I haven't been on the pill since I was a teenager.
And after 10 days I remembered why. I was crazy. And I'm talking craaaaazy.
Now I did some research, there is no scientific evidence that links the pill to depression but there are a whole lot of people out there talking about how the pill severely affected their moods.
I was a mess. I couldn't stop crying. I was mourning my children's childhoods before they'd even grown up. I was dark and it was scary. My husband was confused and concerned. I'm usually very level headed. IVF taught me that. And this was nothing like I had experienced.
Except as a teenager, on the pill. I'd like to now apologise to my teenage boyfriend.
I went off the pill. I didn't go back to the same doctor. Thankfully on my last visit I'd had the foresight to ask for a referral to the dermatologist.
I called to book an appointment. Eight weeks was the earliest they could see me. I was among a long list of people that "don't want but need to see" the doctor, the receptionist informed me.
I took my allocated appointment two months away and cried.
A few days later I was in a cafe in Tamworth flicking through their local mag when I saw an editorial by a cosmetic nurse with a clinic in town.
I thought I can't possibly afford that kind of treatment. But I was now at a stage where I thought I can't afford not to.
I was feeling embarrassed and ugly.
I made an enquiry on Kelly George Aesthetics website. The receptionist called me the next day and invited me in for a free consultation.
Owner and cosmetic nurse Kelly was great. She looked me over carefully and wrote down a suggested personalised plan to tackle my breakout.
Yes it was expensive but I thought about all the money I'd forked out over the years during other breakouts on substandard over-the-counter products and medications.
I cancelled the appointment with the local dermatologist and started with the prescribed products. Immediately I saw a result. At one stage a week or so later my skin was completely clear and thought 'yes! this is it'. A few days later my skin broke out again.
Kelly reassured me the breakouts were from the purging of the skin we were doing with weekly retinol and glycolic masks. They would continue for six weeks but after that I should be all clear and we'd just need to maintain my skin with a monthly mask.
Eight weeks later and the breakouts were still occurring. I was distressed.
Then Kelly called me. She had been to an advanced workshop at Syneron Candela and had learned a new technique using a laser to deal with adult acne.
The expert at the workshop had said while they weren't entirely sure on the science behind why the treatment worked, they were seeing results.
The idea is the laser triggers an immunity response deep in the skin causing the skin to heal from the inside out.
Kelly explained that this was her first time trying the new technique and at this stage couldn't guarantee results but asked if I'd be willing to give it a try.
I was willing to try anything. I was seriously considering going back on the Doxycycline again, rashes and all.
She got me in and did the treatment, covering my face with little cold bursts. The cold protects the epidermis while the laser penetrates deep into the skin.
Essentially, the treatment uses the laser like it does for hair removal, but at a much lower fluence and with a far higher cooling setting.
I went away, hopeful but still cautious. I'd pinned my hopes on too many treatments in the past.
But the next day I saw results. And over the following week my skin healed.
This was huge. This for me was a miracle.
Even my husband who has maintained he can't see my breakouts, bless him, was studying me one morning a few days after the treatment.
Embarrassed I asked him what he was looking at. He said: "Your clear skin." I almost cried.
I went back to Kelly George Aesthetics a week later for a follow-up. I could have hugged Kelly. I was just so thankful she had gone out of her way to help me. Instead (because she might not be a hugger), I took her a bottle of wine. Just a little token to say thanks.
She couldn't believe the results, marvelling at my almost-perfectly-clear skin.
She did another treatment, focussing on the areas of particular concern. She said the idea is to get on top of it and then it will only need maintaining with a treatment every three months.
The next day I saw an improvement again. There is no downtime. No noticeable redness or peeling, although I was a little tender on my neck and around my eyes the first time. But had none of this the second time. My skin just looked healthy and clear.
Since our trial Kelly has started doing the treatment on others with adult acne and their results have been similar.
I still have a way to go. I have some scarring I need to get rid of now and some redness. But Kelly has two other treatments in mind to tackle these and I'll let you know how they go.
*While this treatment worked for this journalist, please consult your skin specialist.
Alexia Purcell is News Regional Media's social media editor. Follow Alexia on Facebook: www.facebook.com/alexiajpurcell/