Five years ago, I encountered my first experience with severe, adult acne. At 23-years-old, I had luckily sailed through my awkward teenage years without any significant breakouts besides the odd pimple here and there – but those, along with the dodgy make-up and over waxed eyebrows were par for the course in the early 2000s, right? So where was this onslaught of spots coming from and why now?
I first noticed issues with my skin when I emigrated to the US in 2017. Moving from Ireland to New York city in one’s early twenties was like a dream come true. Amidst all the excitement and wanderlust, I never once considered how the stress of setting up life in the city that never sleeps, coupled with consuming an American diet would affect me so much.
As many people who have moved countries will know, the first few months were filled with stress, financial worries, homesickness and in the case of NYC, working intense hours to make ends meet. All of this was the precursor to my first, significant experience of dealing with poor mental health. When I finally landed my dream marketing job, my anxiety had reached a point where the racing of my heart was the norm everyday, everything felt scary and my skin! – my skin was so acne-riddled that I could barely open my mouth to eat breakfast in the morning.
My anxiety and acne were really a chicken and egg scenario. I worried about my breakouts, then the anxiety would exacerbate my acne. This happened over and over again, all while the unhealthy food I was consuming came along for the ride. It was this vicious cycle that I didn’t understand at the time, nor did I realise that I needed help from not only an experienced skin professional, but a mental health professional too.
Luckily the work from home approach was pretty big in NYC even before COVID – so on particularly bad mornings, I remember sending a picture of my face to my boss and telling her I couldn’t face the physical pain of caking on a ton of concealer and foundation that day, let alone being able to interact with people and feeling self-conscious. Thankfully she was empathetic towards my situation and let me work from home on days where my confidence just wasn’t up to the task. My acne problems were defeating me, not only emotionally but financially too. I spent hundreds on different skincare ranges, creams and lotions (I shudder remembering the sting of Pro Activ stripping my skin!), going to different dermatologists and clinicians for an ENTIRE YEAR but it just got worse and worse.
It was only when I moved to Melbourne the following year that things improved dramatically. I found Trish and the My Skin & Body Clinic team who have literally changed my life. I never understood the correlation between gut health and mental health and the impact it had on people’s skin before I met Trish.
I still to this day can’’t ascertain one exact thing that caused my breakouts – but having taken a holistic approach to my skin with Trish’s help, it became abundantly clear that my terrible diet, my stressful job, and struggling with my mental health culminated into the perfect acne-storm.
Aside from the internal triggers, I’d only ever been treating my acne topically before – boy what a game changer it was to take a totally different approach and begin from the inside-out. Trish put me on the right track with:
A gut cleanse. Badly needed after a year of NYC pizza and cocktails.
The right supplements to take. I can’t begin to tell you the money I wasted on tablets thinking they would help, but if you’ve got poor gut health all the supplements in the world won’t make a difference.
In-clinic treatments and at home skincare regime was tailored specifically to MY personal skin concerns, not just something that was already on a beauty salon menu.
I didn’t just receive a skin transformation, but an entire education on what was going wrong for me. To be completely transparent, it took the best part of a year to achieve what I now deem as ‘my glowing skin’. It did take time, but the fact that I saw improvements month after month quickly made me realise that this was no ‘quick fix’ or ‘fad’ like I’d experienced in the past. This was real, long-term change, not only for my skin but my mental health too.
For anyone that relates to my experience, I can’t recommend Trish and the team enough – every morning I look at my skin and think about how lucky I am. I look back on old photos and can’t believe the change in my face, not just in my spots but in my expression. There isn’t a sadness in my eyes anymore but a beam of confidence. For that I will be forever indebted to them.
Just like good skincare takes dedication and commitment, so too does looking after my mental health. Aside from keeping up my skin care regime and visits to Trish, I still carefully manage my anxiety on a daily basis through the following:
Exercise is my safe haven and is such an important stress reliever, essentially getting me out of mind and into my body.
Practising mindfulness (I’m no expert on this but I love the Smiling Mind app and it’s a great place to start if you’re new to it.)
Taking time for self-care. This can look different for everyone, but curling up with a book, taking a bath or getting my nails done are some of my favourites.
Boundaries. Saying no to an event doesn’t mean you won’t get invited to the next thing. Do not push yourself to please everyone if you’re not feeling up to it.
Researching and investing in a good therapist. I can safely say my psychologist and Trish have been my dream team when it comes to my mental health and my skin. If the expense of this is too much for some, there’s also some great free help lines out there that can be used while you budget for a face to face session.
Because of following incorrect advice, using harmful products and not doing my research, it’s taken me years to find someone like Trish and get my skin to where it is today. I’d hate to see this happen to others. If you’re reading this outside of Victoria and don’t live near Trish’s clinic, please do your research and find a reputable skin clinician who is educated and qualified to look after you – not just topically, but holistically. It really will change your life.
Wishing everyone the best on their mental health and skin journeys.