Take a seat, kids; it’s time for mama to tell you a story.
One day, there was a teenage girl by the name of Mia. She had oily skin and, as a teenager, her hormones were raging and her skin started to break out. Mia’s mother can be somewhat of a worrier and projector and she decided that Mia had self-esteem ruining acne that needed to be taken care of. As opposed to, you know, normal teenager skin that loads of other people had and really wasn’t a big deal.
With her mother’s constant pestering (and, Lord love my mother, but the woman knows how to break a girl down) and a few bad-skin-reactions to facial products (sensitive skin that is just coming out of childhood eczema and heavy chemical products targeted at acne sufferers are not a good combination), Mia finally gave in and allowed her mother to take her to the doctor. That fateful day, that life-altering consultation, changed the course of Mia’s path forever . . .
Okay, it literally didn’t, but sometimes an entrance needs a bit more drama. Saying “my mum forced me to go the doctors for my skin because she’s incredibly self-conscious about every little thing and couldn’t fathom that, while my skin was annoying, it was annoying in the same way having small boobs is annoying in the sense that ‘sure, it’d be nice to have awesome double-Ds, but it hardly keeps me up at night’ as opposed to the ‘I have crippling depression because my acne is ruining my life’ way. I mean, sure, they were days like that, but if this is almost-adult Mia, I’m sure you can guess that teenage-Mia sometimes had a flair for the dramatic. Ah, 15-year-old moodswings . . . I do not miss you.
Hi guys! If you’ve followed my blog for a while, a. congratulations; you have great taste in web content. B – you’re welcome. And c – you know that I rarely, if ever, post about beauty. If I do, it’s pretty much always skincare, or hair. Today is no different; we’re going to be talking about my experience with anti-biotics for my skin.
First, of all – disclaimer. Antibiotics will affect everyone differently; everyone will see different results. Just because I didn’t like it and it didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Now that’s out of the way . . . let’s go.
First off, antibiotics to treat acne? When did that become a thing?
If you’re like me a few years ago, the idea of treating acne with anti-biotics is foreign. Well, I don’t really know what to tell you: it happens and it happens quite often. My doctor took one look at me, didn’t ask me about my diet, skincare routine or anything like that and pushed me those pills!
Okay, so how bad was your skin?
You’d be forgiven for thinking my skin must have been terrible for this poor doctor to immediately squeal in terror and throw tablets at my face, but this isn’t really true. Obviously, my skin wasn’t amazing, but I didn’t suffer from cystic acne or anything like that. My doctor called my acne “inflammatory” and said it was probably hormonal; basically, I just got spots.
Looking back on it through the lens of experience, I was just a teenager with teenage skin that was prone to breakouts. I would consider it acne because my skin was very prone to spots and usually I would have one or two – but, at the same time, I have oily skin and a good skincare routine can fix that issue, so I don’t necessarily think it needed treatment.
Now, I don’t want to say my next bit to make anyone feel bad about their skin, but purely because different treatments respond to different skin types. It’s important for me to show you what my acne was like (and what it wasn’t like) so that if your skin type is different to mine you can really take all my advice with a pinch of salt.
After dragging in my mother and asking her how she remembers my skin being compared to my memory (I have pre-based opinion of my skin’s severity and that it didn’t require anti-biotics; because of this bias, I could have been over-dramatising or rose-tinting, so a second opinion was needed), we agreed that this is best representation of my acne:
It was really mild and, as I’ve said, a total pain-in-the-fucking-ass, but it was by no means severe. I’d usually have one or two spots, some redness around them and that’s it. If I were having a really bad breakout, it may be like this in a couple of areas on my face. Now we’ve got an idea of my skin type, let’s go onto my experience with the anti-biotics.
Quick fire – you clearly didn’t like the anti-biotics; what were your issues with them?
I’ll explain all of these in further detail, but here were my biggest issues:
- Lack of long-term effectiveness.
- Immediate side effects
- Long term legitimate health side effects
- Lack of information given to me about the medication I was taking and the implications of it
- Lack of discretion/caution when handing out antibiotics
- Anti-biotic resistance
What anti-biotics did you take?
So I took anti-biotics over probably about 3 years. I stopped a few months ago and started taking them, at the latest, in my last year of secondary school.
In this time, I took 2 types of anti-biotic; Doxycycline and Lymecycline. I was on Doxycycline for around 2 years until I went into the doctors, saw a new doctor and said “I don’t want to take anti-biotics anymore; is there something else I can do?”. This doctor then went on to inform me that the tablets I had been taking were actually pretty ineffective compared to Lymecycline and that I should try a course of that for a few months (again, an anti-biotic).
- Side note: The recommended usage for these anti-biotics is 3 months. With Doxycycline, not only did my doctor not tell me this, my prescription would run out and need to be resigned by her and she would do it without seeing me. For 2 years.
- Also, I would like to point out: I specifically requested to not be on antibiotics. While I completely agree that it’s up to me to be more firm or refuse to take them, I went in and asked for alternatives and clearly stated that I was willing to try other forms of treatment and my doctor basically said to me “I’ll recommend those to you if anti-biotics don’t work, but those are what you need” completely disregarding the fact I’ve been on them for two years. This length of use, by the way, is a real health risk – and increases the chances of your acne becoming anti-biotic resistant and therefore pretty much fucking untreatable.
- And again, at this point, nobody has asked me about any of my habits related to skincare. Literally, all any doctor asked me – and this was the first doctor, not the second one – was: “oh, do you cleanse your face?”. Uh . . . yes? But what about toning, moisturising, etc? A wider skincare range? Sleep? Stress? Exercise? Diet? Allergies? Also, I had just started wearing makeup to try calming down the redness of my skin (which she could see as I went after school, so I had it on), so how was I cleansing? Just with water? Soap? A wet-wipe? This doctor is a practising dermatologist; when I went to my clinic, I was referred to her because she was meant to be the best when it came to dealing with skin. She didn’t even ask my skin type. As a 15 year old tomboy who literally had only just started wearing a bit of BB cream to try tame my skin without resorting to foundation, I didn’t know anything about skincare past “wash face in morning and at night”, so I’m sure a lot of my acne (in all likelihood caused by my oily skin being oily as it wasn’t being dealt with properly) could have been managed with a skincare routine. As a dermatologist should know.
Side effects I experienced
Now, I didn’t experience any side-effects from Lymecycline, but Doxycycline and I had a real tough relationship. On Doxycycline, I would get:
- Incredibly nauseous. There were a lot of times I would throw it straight back up because, as soon as it went down, my stomach went “no, no thank you”. For daily tablets, this is no fun. This wasn’t an instant “tough it out for five minutes”, either. I had to take to them at night because it was genuinely disrupting my schoolwork, being nauseous and dizzy for the first couple of lessons every day. Annoyingly, you can’t lie down for 30 minutes after taking these, so right before bed was out.
- Migraines. I never got migraines until I started taking these and I have been suffering with them for the past few years.
- Increased skin sensitivity. Again, this is a big issue I had – this isn’t just a possible side effect, this is guaranteed. I thought it was just my skin being annoying until one day I went to the pharmacy to restock and the chemist said “you are making sure to wear suncream out, yes?” and I was like ” . . . huh?”. Again, this would be fine . . . if my doctor had told me about it.
These, however, are all short term side effects. They weren’t even my main concern – beauty is pain, after all. My main concern was all the really fucking serious health concerns of using anti-biotics long term.
Long term health concerns of using anti-biotics
Really quickly, I am obviously not a doctor – so I’ve been sure to be really vague with these so I can’t get them too wrong. Look them up yourself or discuss them with your doctor.
- Antibiotic resistance. Long story short, if you develop this, you’re fucked and it becomes possible that you can die from something that should be easily treated with anti-biotics because the illness has developed resistance to anti-biotics through your continued exposure. Slight hyperbole, but a legitimate concern.
- Can destroy the good bacteria in your body – and prevent your body from being able to naturally produce more. This has been linked to an increased risk in bowel cancer, as it most often affects bacteria in your digestive system.
But did the antibiotics help my skin?
In all honesty, yes, the antibiotics did help my skin . . . but they didn’t help long-term; as soon as I stopped taking them, my skin would break out 10 times worse. When I was deciding to stop taking them, I actually googled it to see if I’d had that response because I’d stopped them too early, but I found a few forums where literally everyone complained of the same thing. The general consensus was that the first few months, while your body adjusts, sucks. Your skin is so used to depending on anti-biotics that it goes haywire . . . but after a few months, it’ll even out and be more manageable.
Plus, as I’ve gotten older and become more interested in skincare and learned more about my skin type, I realised that the results the anti-biotics gave me could be achieved through a good skincare routine and taking care to prevent acne. They never cleared my skin up to perfection; my skin never looked like an Instagram model or flawlessly air-brushed.
What’s your skin been like after stopping your tablets?
Honestly, the best it’s been since I started getting acne. I don’t know if this is because my hormones may finally be settling down (please), I’ve learnt how to control my skin and take care of it properly, or if it’s because I’ve been eating much more healthily and been focusing more on my overall health . . . maybe a combination of the lot. Or maybe the Lymecycline really worked at clearing the rest of my acne out and left me with a good slate . . . who knows?
This is a completely unedited photo of me on the day of writing this with no skin makeup on – except for under eyebrow concealer because my brows are a mess – my mum actually complemented my skin and inspired this post! As you can see, there’s still some scarring from those blasted teenage years (if I could jump to the past and slap past Mia for popping her spots, I would), but it’s flat and healthy!
Slight plug here, though – if you have oily skin, I genuinely attest a lot of my skin’s improved condition to Mario Badescu Acne Starter Kit, so check out my (linked) review if you’re looking for something new to try. It’s not a sponsored post, or anything like that, it is just genuinely a brilliant skincare regime.
Obviously, this is – again – dependant on your skin type. As I’ve mentioned above, I don’t think my skin needed anti-biotics and I think a lot of the struggles I’ve had with it have, in all likelihood, probably been because I’ve taken them and it’s aggravated the situation. For some people, antibiotics might be absolutely necessary.
Look, I know a lot of people write these posts to discredit anti-biotics and plug their own holisitic lifestyles or vegan diets (I’m sorry, I’m friends with a lot of vegans and I think it’s a great diet, but it is not a be-all, end-all and it doesn’t cure acne.) and their skincare ranges or herbal supplements . . . I’m not here to do that. I don’t care what skincare you use, what food you eat, how you deal with your acne. I’m not even necessarily saying don’t try anti-biotics, but I want you to be really prepared for what you’re getting yourself into and understand all the things that my doctors apparently didn’t think were important enough to disclose.
Anyways, that’s my story! What do you guys think – have you ever been offered anti-biotics to try dealing with your skincare? What do you think has the biggest effect on your skin? And can we please rant about the incompetence of those doctors? I absolutely love the NHS, and I don’t even necessarily hold it against the doctors (I’m sure with dealing with a lot of patients and most of which will have far more serious issues than acne, things just get overlooked and that’s totally understandable) – but I don’t appreciate being given something potentially harmful to my long-term health as a minor (I was 15 when these were prescribed!) and not being told anything about the medication. Let me know your thoughts down below!