Since I was diagnosed with cervical cancer almost 12 months ago I have been battling with my skin. Part of my treatment was a radical hysterectomy but my ovaries were preserved and physcially moved into my abdomen as the cancer had not yet spread there.
I have very mixed feelings about this for several reasons
a) Ovarian cancer is much harder to detect than cervical cancer and the symptoms associated with ovarian cancer are common in lots of other illnesses that affect the lower part of your body-they can be similar to IBS or ulcers for example and often misdiagnosed.
b) Ethically, because the cancer had not spread yet to my ovaries the ovaries were preserved so that my body still produced hormones. Some of you who followed my journey on my blog may remember from diagnosis to surgery was exactly two weeks. I didn't do any research but I have since found out that even though my ovaries were kept there is still a 1:3 chance I will go through the menopause in the next 2 years.
c) My ovaries still produce an egg each month but as there is nowhere for this to go having had my fallopian tubes removed along with my cervix and uterus it just dissolves back into the ovary. Because my ovaries have been moved I get the most incredible pain every month when this happens. I can set my watch by it luckily and take enough painkillers to deal with it. (For anyone who is wondering no I don't have periods and no I can't have children-two questions I get asked a lot :) )
My skin since my operation has gone insane and I can only attribute this to my hormones and I had developed painful hormonal acne, mainly around my chin/jaw. Anyone who suffers from this will know how it eats away at your self confidence and leaves you incredibly frustrated and unhappy. One painful swollen lump would be replaced by another and another. I think coming off the contraceptive pill as well may have had something to do with this as I assume when I was taking it, it provided some kind of hormonal control.
I went to see a dermatologist in Dubai and it was a disaster. I arrived in tears and left in tears-it was one of my worst medical experiences in Dubai. Maybe I will talk about the experience another time but she prescribed me a skincare routine I was unhappy with which was very harsh and alcohol based and although it didn't dry out my skin, it did not improve it in any way.
So I did two things-
1) I went back to Caroline Hirons blog and went through it with a fine tooth comb researching hormonal acne/acne/spots and her recommendations. I came to the conclusion I needed to stock up on retinol and salicylic acid. I also decided to pull back a little on glycolic acid for a little while and then reintroduce it.
2) Did what all bloggers do and turned to the oracle that is Instagram for support and advice!
And touch wood the advice I have gathered has been working so I thought I would share some of the products I have been using and why in my evening routine.
1) Double Cleanse
I decided to start off treating my face with kid gloves and went for a very gentle cleanser-for me La Roche Posay Toleraine is working as a make up remover. This is a light milk that I massage well into dry skin and then rinse off with the aid of a damp flannel. It's gentle enough to use around the eyes too. I don't believe this is something Caroline recommends but I wanted to use something very basic with no essential oils or harsh ingredients. It leaves my skin clean and happy.
Secondly, and I can't believe I am saying this, I started using Clearasil. This was after a long conversation with my friend Antonia who recommended it and I am glad I tried it. I can't believe at 35 I am using Clearasil. Again, I am not sure if this is a Caroline approved product as it contains SLS (the foaming ingredient in shampoo) but it does contain salicylic acid and my skin has been much calmer.
2) Double tone
I have been using two toners and interchanging them. The first was something Caroline talked about recently and it is the Clinique Mild Clarifying lotion. This is another salicylic laced product but it is so gentle on the skin. It has a runny gel like texture that feels cooling and non sticky. My skin doesn't tingle at all and I can see this as a forever repurchase. I have also been using the Pixi Glow Tonic which has a glycolic base. I have just run out which is why you don't see it here. One tip I picked up from Caroline was to use a little bit more toner than I was and to use the front and back of the cotton pad. I also concentrate on the areas where I have breakouts.
For my hydrating tone (not pictured as I am writing this in Cairo and I forgot to bring it!) I have been using the Darphin Intral toner which is a very gentle toner for sensitive skin. I need to decant it into a spray bottle but for the moment I am sweeping it over my skin on a cotton pad after I have let my exfoliating toner dry.
3) Fish Oil
Something I picked up from Caroline was to include fish oil. I asked on instagram about this and received some brilliant advice from a girl who follows me-it's terrible that I don't know her name as she is so lovely but her user name is 'detailoriented'. She recommended I try the Bare Biology Lion Heart brand which is sold at Space NK so I ordered some and again in the short 3-4 weeks I have been taking them my skin has been calmer, much less breakouts and much faster healing if I do breakout. I take 3-4 capsules a day. It also comes in a concentrated oil that you take 5ml (tsp) of per day and I have got some but I am struggling to get over taking an oil by mouth-it's kind of making me retch at the moment so I am finding the capsules much more palatable.
To finish my routine I have been interchanging the two treatments below. I really introduced these slowly slowly to see if my skin reacted. I initially used the Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Infusion PM and it was amazing. My breakouts seemed to stop overnight even though the PTR felt very oily on the skin. The retinol just did wonders though for stopping my jaw/chin breaking out. But I finished that up and picked these two from my stash.
Sunday Riley Good Genes
This is my third attempt at using Good Genes-when my skin was haywire this just wasn't helping when I threw it into the mix. Now my skin is calmer it seems to be working ok-but both of these products are too new for me to actually review them properly. Good Genes contains 40% lactic acid and I am hoping that this will help my scarring as I have been left with quite a bit. I'll report back. It's obviously pricey at £85 so I am keen to see real, tangible improvements.
Sarah Chapman Overnight Facial
On alternate nights I use the Sarah Chapman Overnight Facial which is more more of an oil based product. This is where I am getting my retinol hit from Vitamin A plus a whole cocktail of goodness in omega oils, vitamins and antioxidants. Again, once I have been using for a while I will let you know my full thoughts.
So that's where I am at the moment. I wouldn't say I have fixed the problem but I am a hell of a lot happier than I was about 4 weeks ago.
Special shout out
The MAC Blemish Control gel from the Prep and Prime range has been a real go to when spots have appeared-it either brings them to a head quickly or dissipates them before they even really come up. It does feel quite 'stingy' when you first apply it but it doesn't dry my skin out. It contains 1% salicylic acid.
Retinol and salicylic do seem to be the things that have helped my skin the most-and I am guessing the inclusion of fish oil. I would love to hear about your experiences with adult acne, especially hormonal acne and what products seem to help you. I appreciate skincare is incredibly personal but I also know how soul destroying having spots when you're an 'adult' can be so I would love to hear your take on it.
Don't forget ladies, if you're 25 or over and overdue your latest PAP smear PLEASE get it booked asap!