Image Source: Alice Lang
Acne is almost a rite of passage through the teen years, but when does your acne stop being a "phase" and become something serious that needs treatment?
As I was mindlessly scrolling through Twitter one evening, my thumb was stopped in its tracks after I came across Alice Lang's blog post, showing her own before-and-after acne photos. The difference between the two photos was astounding. Alice blogs about her life and openly discusses her struggles with acne (particularly travelling with acne). In this particular post she discussed a medication called spironolactone and how it drastically improved her skin. As this wasn't an acne medication I'd heard of before, I spoke with Alice about how the medication transformed her skin (and her life!) and how it might help yours, too. I also tapped into the knowledge of GP Dr. Ross Perry to find out if spironolactone is safe to use as an acne treatment.
Alice told POPSUGAR that she has struggled with acne since she was 14 (she's now 23) and recalled how it made her feel extremely self-conscious affecting self esteem. "I felt like I was hiding in it and felt trapped in my own skin." She used makeup to cover her acne, and avoided any activities such as swimming that would disrupt her makeup. She began using this as a shield to hide her condition. "I absolutely love makeup and obviously, everyone has the right to wear as much or as little as they like. But for me, it wasn't a healthy lifestyle!"
Image Source: Alice Lang. Alice says the yellow tint is from using turmeric as a treatment.
Throughout her teens, Alice went to doctors with the hopes of minimising her acne, and was given topical treatments such as benzoyl peroxide as well as a cocktail of antibiotics, and the contraceptive pill. These worked for her for a little while, but shortly after finishing the medication, the acne returned. Alice's acne got particularly severe — she recalls counting 19 cysts at one point — when she was working in Vietnam. In fact, she admitted it got so bad it began to affect her mental health.
This was when she really started to explore the option of other treatments. She heard about spironolactone when researching polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is another common cause of acne. "I approached a dermatologist in Vietnam and presented my research to her. I'd heard about using spironolactone as a treatment and she agreed to let me try it under her supervision. I began taking 50mg a day. It didn't work at all for around 2 months — in fact, my acne seemed to get worse at first. But suddenly, my acne began clearing up and now, 4 months later, I have no acne at all. It's amazing!"
Spironolactone is primarily used to treat blood pressure, according to Dr. Perry. However, "in some cases it can be used as a last resort in treating hormonal acne." However, it is not for the faint of heart and must only be used with a prescription from your GP. It is androgen blocker, which means it can slow down the production of sebum, it's a diuretic (which means you'll pee more), and is a potassium-sparing drug that may require regular blood tests.
As for products, Alice told us that "during my time with acne, I found most skincare products in the acne section of the drugstore didn't actually do anything for me, most tend to be quite strong and made my skin irritated." She swears by Simple skincare to ensure all her makeup is removed, aloe vera to calm inflammation, and the La Roche Posay Effaclar range, in particular the Effaclar Duo (£15), as a makeup primer.
As with any condition, if you're having persistent and severe acne and have explored other options, visit your GP or dermatologist to ask about trying spironolactone to find out how it may work for you.