Alexandra developed acne on her back when she was 13. She went to see a GP at 16 but when conventional treatment did not work, she sought help at a specialist dermatology clinic in her home country of the Netherlands.
Alexandra developed acne on her back when she was 13. Her triggers for breakouts include stress, not eating enough fruit, alcohol, and a lack of sleep. Alexandra initially did not seek help for her skin, but eventually went to a GP at 16. The GP initially put her on oral contraceptive pills, which were unsuccessful in clearing her acne, before prescribing a topic cream. Although the cream worked quite well, her acne continued to be painful and sore, and Alexandra found that it dried her skin out a lot. She visited a beautician on one occasion who offered to extract the acne on her back. However, this experience made her acne worse because the beautician used baby lotion and her spots became infected. Alexandra finally sought help at a specialist dermatology clinic, which offered her a fruit acid peel treatment. Alexandra underwent this treatment for two years, with a treatment once every week in the first six months and gradually becoming less frequent towards the end. The process was painful, expensive and left her skin highly sensitive, causing pain and discomfort around her bra straps; however, Alexandra feels that the treatment was worth it because it helped her skin. Alexandra’s dermatologist explained the process of treatment in full detail and properly examined her skin during each visit; in contrast, Alexandra found that her GP did not know much about acne and did not explain enough about the prescribed course of action.
Alexandra found the experience of having acne at a young age quite lonely because her peers did not have spots at the time. She felt uncomfortable about revealing her acne to others. She learned to adapt her clothing to hide the spots; she avoided wearing backless or open tops, wearing white, wearing necklaces, and kept her hair relatively long to cover her neck. She also bought make-up to cover her spots and she looked specifically for make-up products that were designed for acne-prone skin. With regards to dating, Alexandra felt that boys were very understanding and that she often worried about her acne more than they did. She is more comfortable and happy with her skin now.
Alexandra’s advice to young people with acne is to open up to others (e.g. parents or close friends) and to ask for help if you want treatment. She is thankful to the support she received from her parents and advices other parents of young people with acne to talk to their children about it. She also believes that parents should do their own research about acne treatment so they can give their children several options. Alexandra advises healthcare professionals treating young people with acne to carefully explain the prescribed treatments and available alternatives. Her advice to GPs specifically is to refer patients on to specialists if the acne does not respond to conventional treatment. Alexandra also thinks it is important to remember that everyone’s skin is different and this can mean trying different treatments to find one which works for you.