I've had Polycystic Ovary Syndrom (PCOS) since, well, the beginning of puberty (around 13). At 16, I had a giant cyst cut out of my left ovary but the pain and irregular periods did not stop. I was put on Diane 35, a dual action contraceptive pill with 35ug of estrogen, and a testosterone blocker to help manage symptoms.
Little did I know, that high level of estrogen was going to affect my Lupus, and I had to come off Diane 35. What did this mean for my pain, irregular periods, and all the other stuff to do with PCOS? Well, I got acne.
This story isn't one of high severity, but being somebody that has never suffered from acne in the first place (the two pimples I got when I was a teenager going through puberty the first time around is not acne), I understand how debilitating the skin condition can be. I'm not a dermatologist, but I have a beauty therapy background, so I am familiar with the factors that trigger and affect the severity of acne and have come to self-diagnose myself as having mild eruptions of non-inflammatory type and some cystic acne. I am also sorry that I didn't get better progress shots!
Turning 30, dealing with horrid periods, and implied baby making...
So I finally hit the big 3-0, and a few months back, I requested to see an endocrinologist regarding my hormones after my rheumatologist (lupus specialist) told me I that I shouldn't be on such a high estrogen contraceptive as it is a trigger for lupus symptoms and may also be affecting my treatment. The fact that I was continuously taking the pill without breaks to avoid those 7 horrible days of bleeding was also of concern.
About 5 months ago, I saw an endocrinologist and we were discussing what I could do. His best suggestion was Yaz, a 20ug dose of estrogen with some progesterone. I couldn't have any implant hormonal contraceptives due to having lupus. No gynaecologist would ever consider just removing my redundant and problematic reproductive organs prior to turning 30, because I apparently being an owner of a uterus + ovaries automatically removes the autonomy from them being MY body parts, to being at the hands of those who think I'll have children some day.
SPOILER ALERT: NO, I WILL NOT.
I decided that I didn't want kids a long time ago, and I have successfully avoided it thus far, with full intent to keep avoiding it. Between the cysts, menstrual irregularities, and the lupus, it would be very difficult for me to actually fall and stay pregnant without it killing me or having constant miscarriages. I'm also very asexual, so not actually being attracted to people of any gender, and not doing the baby making stuff that sexual humans do is another factor. I'm single and I don't desire sexual relationships, nor procreation, and I like to keep it that way. End of story.
Back to those painful periods...
Four months on Yaz, and while my periods became very light, almost just spotting, the pain, oh my god, the pain was REALLY intense. Even when I was not having periods, I was in pain. Like the cysts were back (and they probably are, I'll be getting a scan soon). I was never diagnosed with Endometriosis, which may have changed, but it is still unlikely. The PMS type symptoms aren't as extreme, you know, food cravings and my bottomless pit of a stomach, and the crankiness that follows.
I noticed the hormonal changes. I broke out on my chin within the first month. I have never had so many pimples, nodules, or cysts in one place at the same time. It was just baffling! My once clear (albeit dry) skin was behaving as though I became a teenager again. It didn't get too oily, but there was definitely a difference in oil production in my T-Zone.
I'm not the first adult to get acne. Perhaps you're familiar with Em Ford, known for her YouTube channel, My Pale Skin, and being the creator of the compelling short film "You Look Disgusting" after having a sudden severe onslaught of cystic acne as an adult. It took a while, but it eventually calmed down, and when I met this beautiful lass at an Antipodes event, her skin had cleared up after finding a treatment plan that worked.
|Image Credit: I cannot for my life remember the photographer!|
It started with extra blackheads. They were appearing all over my chin. And then the little red spots, some even developing on my cheeks, which are NOT ACNE PRONE AT ALL. The lumps and bumps started to appear, and then the cysts. Oh boy, those cysts hurt! Literally 6 weeks after having my last giant cyst, on my chin I can still feel it under my skin, this hard lump of tissue. To top it off, because my skin is normally so dry and dehydrated, I've been flaking a lot as well. Another worry was all the post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) that was going to come along. It leaves purple coloured scars around the areas where I had breakouts.
While I haven't had any major cysts on my nasal area, I sometimes get them around the edge of my nostrils, the pores have just been clogging up faster than normal.
|Picture from June, the peak of the chin breakout. 24 June 2018.|
|Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation in the areas where there were cysts and pustules. 21 August 2018.|
|Still having a mild breakout on my nose. Pustules appear every other day. 21 August 2018.|
|The camera doesn't pick up the texture as well as it does my freckles. 21 August 2018.|
I almost thought my breakouts were due to a purge because I had been using a night cream with Retinol in it, however, the lumps and bumps are still present long after discontinuation, thus leaving it down to hormonal factors. I noticed that my regular use of Vitamin C products weren't doing anything for my skin. I had to switch it up.
Products I've been using...
This is not a definitive list, but these are definitely products that helped improve the severity of the breakouts.
Bulldog Skincare For Men - Original Face Wash 150mL - $10.00AUD - Woolworths, Priceline [Purchase]
|Image Credit: Bulldog Skincare|
I'm not going to go deep into the gendered cosmetics debate, but I swear, this is the most gentle foaming gel cleanser I have used. It cleanses perfectly, doesn't dry out my skin, and it doesn't sting eyes. A cleanser that foams up is generally one of the better options for helping remove dirt and oil around pustules.
Elizabeth Grant Skincare - Supreme Essence of Torricelumn Serum 50mL - $59.95AUD for 100mL - TVSN [PR Sample]
|Image Credit: Elizabeth Grant via TVSN|
While this award winning serum is technically an "anti-ageing" product, it does deliver excellent hydration. Torricelumn is a patented ingredient containing Marine Stem Cells, which offer superior hydration. Another ingredient in this serum is Allantoin, which is highly regarded because if its skin soothing properties. I have used this serum most mornings and evenings.
Formula 10.0.6 - Overnight Success Patches 4pk - $6.99AUD - Priceline [Purchase]
|Image Credit: Formula 10.0.6|
When the cyst was ready to burst its contents, I stuck on one of these to help protect the area. They are loaded with Tea Tree and Salicylic Acid, which are known to help kill bacteria and reduce inflammation associated with acne, respectively.
ProActiv - Blackhead Dissolving Gel 30mL - $29.00AUD - Priceline [Gift]
|Image Credit: Proactiv|
I'm not a fan of this brand because of the company behind it (eh herm, Rodan+Fields), but I must say, when I received this to try courtesy of Beauty Heaven, I just gave it to Mum. During one of my breakouts, I decided that I might give it a go as well. This is an acid based gel mask with Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, and Green Tea.
The Ordinary - Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% 30mL - $9.90AUD - Deciem, Priceline [Purchase]
|Image Credit: Deciem|
I bought this because I knew I wanted to try out a Niacinamide product again to help with brightening my freckles a bit, but it turned out I couldn't use it with my Vitamin C, so I started to alternate. This product is indicated for blemishes because of Zinc's skin healing properties. It also should help the post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that comes with wound healing.
All in all, I'm not upset that this happened, because I knew it was going to, but I'd really like to not deal with any of these hormonal flips anymore! I guess it's time to ask about those androgen blockers and await menopause...
Have you ever had any hormonal skin changes? Let me know in the comments!
This post is presented as a personal experience piece. Acquisition of products and/or services stated alongside each item, my thoughts are honest. For more information, please read my Disclosure Policy.