I had a serendipitous moment with the beautiful Hanna Sillitoe a few weeks back. I received an Om & Ah London newsletter where Hanna shared her skin story. It’s an inspiring one where through her skin journey something good has come; she’s not only cleared her own skin but has her own skincare range and a beautiful book. She now supports thousands of women on their on skin journey.
I wrote to Hanna to say that I’d enjoyed reading about what she’d been through and she wrote back asking me to be on her podcast. When she invited me she didn’t know that I too had a skin story. And so for the first time I shared my own experience of dealing with skin problems that can hound you for years – as well as everything else, we talk skin, grief, how our mind and body are connected – it was wonderful. You can listen to it here.
And so it felt time to share my own skin story with you. It’s been a journey of over twenty years.
It started when I was 16, I think as a result of my hormones and also a poor diet at that age. And it simply continued. I remember getting into my thirties and feeling a deep resignation, a hopelessness. I thought that I would outgrow it at some point and yet it was still here. I was frustrated.
The acne was on my face, for everyone to see. My chin and my forehead were the worst but it moved onto my cheeks as well. And it was painful. So painful. I used to have to make the decision as to whether to cover up with make-up (although that was impossible, there was no covering it up) which hurt, or to leave my skin uncovered and bare the shame that came with acne on my face.
I wanted to hide away, I didn’t want anyone seeing me. And that’s what I did for so long.
As I got into my twenties I remember getting up in the morning squeezing my spots and putting make-up on before anyone else woke up. I couldn’t let people see, I couldn’t show the real me.
I remember my Mum taking me for my first facial at 16. Whilst this probably sounds nice, it wasn’t. I felt more shame and I didn’t feel comfortable having treatments at that age. What I will say is that now I can see the benefit, I looked after my skin and as I turn 43 my skin is better than it’s ever been.
It plagued every waking hour. It was all I could think about.
I used to look at other people and long for their clear skin. I used to get angry and frustrated telling myself that people around me didn’t eat as well as me, or look after themselves in the same way and yet they had perfectly clear skin.
It was all there.
I tried every skincare product under the sun and it made no difference. I went on antibiotics at an age when I didn’t understand the long term impacts and I saw a dermatologist. Nothing made a difference. The GP finally put me on the contraceptive pill and there was a bit of relief. Again I didn’t understand the longer term effects of going on the pill and of course it was only masking the problem, not getting to the root of it.
I then started studying nutrition. I came off the pill, now understanding what that did to my body and so my skin flared up again. It got a little better as I studied and made changes to my diet. But it never healed completely. I was still plagued with painful breakouts each month with my cycle.
Then I got pregnant with my son, and it cleared up completely. I can’t really express how it felt to finally feel free of something that had been there my whole life. I felt like I could show myself again, I didn’t need to worry about make-up and the noise in my head around my skin faded.
But after I had my son my cycle returned, so did my breakouts with vengeance. It was worse than it had been in a long time and painful again.
But I’d had a taste of what it was like to be free of it and this made me determined.
In 2014 I fell pregnant with my daughter and my skin cleared up and I vowed to myself that I wasn’t going to let it return. I took charge.
This is what I did.
I continued with acupuncture that had helped in between having my son and conceiving my daughter and I worked with a wonderful nutritional therapist (Kate Garden). It’s hard to see clearly what’s going on for yourself and although I was doing everything in this area, I needed some support to see navigate the intricacies.
And my skin healed. It was so much better but it wasn’t completely clear. This was good enough for me though. I could manage the minor and now infrequent breakouts, and it was a relief that it was much clearer than it had ever been.
I didn’t realise there was more to come. I started working with Nicky Clinch in 2018, I still work with Nicky and I’ve now trained under her too. It was this work, the emotional healing that I did that means I sit here today with completely clear skin. I don’t even have scarring from the breakouts that had plagued me for so many years.
Working on the stories and patterns that led me to hide myself away through people pleasing, through not feeling good enough and through wanting to get everything perfect and right. Has enabled me to come out of hiding and in that my skin has completely healed.
I fundamentally believe that the emotional healing goes hand in hand with healing the body. They come together.
In trying to put into words how it feels – it’s simply freeing. I feel free. And it’s a wonderful feeling. If you’re suffering from skin problems, it is possible to be free.
I deleted all the photos of my skin, shame coming through again. And never thinking it would be clear. But here are a couple where you can see a bit of what it was like. The day my daughter was born, this was my skin when it was good before it healed completely, you can still see the scarring at that point. And the bottom photo where my breakouts were in full swing and painful.
It can still be my weak point. If I get stressed or I’m run-down it’s my barometer but I know what I need to do in those moments.