Miss FQ’s digital and associate editor Skye Ross goes into serious battle with her cystic acne and gets life-changing results
You name it girl, I’ve tried it: Accutane, antibiotics, birth control, infomercial products, vitamin supplements and an elimination diet. Some methods work for a few weeks, until bouquets of breakouts reappear on my cheeks, jaw and chin, taunting me like they never left.
My boyfriend has always told me, “I think you’re beautiful” — there’s never any ‘anyway’ or ‘despite your skin’ at the end of that sentence — and I agree. Even though I Facetune the shiz out of my selfies, I’m actually a confident person. I’m not obsessed with myself, but I love how I look, and I’ll go makeup-free during the weekend and not GAF. That said, I totally despise my cystic acne, and after suffering throughout my teens and into my 20s, I’ve had enough.
The turning point
Three months into changing my diet for the sake of my skin — avoiding coffee and going gluten and dairy-free — I’m over it. My lifestyle changes don’t seem to be working. I’m sick of people staring at my blotchy chin, rather than my eyes, and of friends and family asking if I’m eating enough greens because my skin “looks terrible”. Like, can you not?
If you’ve suffered from acne, you’ll be familiar with that pang of hurt when somebody points out what you already see in the mirror. Every. Single. Day. Ugh, it sucks! But trust me when I say I’m embarking on this journey for myself — not to band-aid insecurity or to stop the shock on ignorant people’s faces when I choose to forgo foundation. I just want happier skin after 10 tedious years of unwavering acne.
I’d heard of About Face, winner of Best Beauty Destination at the NZ Best in Beauty Awards in 2016. They’re ‘serious about skin’ and I’m serious about fixing this painful (literally) situ. They also have the most advanced skin technology in the biz. I’m sold – and am booking in STAT.
I meet Haley Tietjens, About Face’s business performance manager, and an experienced senior therapist at the Mt Eden clinic. They ask about my skin history and current routine to determine the most effective treatment plan.
“Your skin has large, inflamed and infected pores,” Haley explains. “This active acne is concentrated mainly in the lower cheek area and lower half of the face. You also have blackheads caused by excess oil and an accumulation of dead skin cells.”
“Your acne is considered moderate,” the therapist says, and with the utmost confidence assures me I will see results in six weeks as skin regenerates every four.
She immediately asks me to quit using my current sweep of beauty products — including my cherished makeup. ‘Mineral only’ is prescribed.
I’ll have to continue with my diet changes, too. “We remove dairy from the diet for some clients as this can cause breakouts, inflammation, and irritation in some skins,” Haley tells me. “Many clients are gluten-sensitive too — eliminating it can reduce inflammation.” Sugar has been found to feed acne and coffee is also out. “Caffeinated drinks can cause inflammation in the body and affect the skin’s healing process.”
Next, I have a visual assessment with the VISIA Complexion Analysis, a scientific tool that uses UV light to accurately capture the skin’s condition with high resolution photography. It tells me I only have three wrinkles, phew! But my under-eye area is severely dehydrated so if I don’t start using an eye cream ASAP, I’ll have a heck of a lot more lines in my 30s. Eep!
Haley asks me if I wear sunscreen and I tell her I put it on religiously before going outside, but it turns out she meant all day, erry day. The VISIA shows that even spending most of my day indoors has damaged the deep hypodermis layers of my skin, resulting in a skin age of 27 the VISIA tells me… but I’m only 23! WTH?
While UVB light is the evil sunburn and skin cancer-causing culprit, UVA radiation can still pass through windows and filter through inside lights, leading to wrinkles, skin damage, and melanoma. Ultraceuticals Ultra UV Protective Daily Moisturiser SPF 50+ Mattifying, $84, is a new daily religion.
Next, UV fluorescence imagery reveals extensive porphyrins — the bacteria that causes acne — all over my face. Having an excess of porphyrins doesn’t make me dirty, my therapist reassures; it’s genetic.
For some, acne is caused by a poor diet, stress, comedogenic (pore-blocking) cosmetics, or an imbalance of hormones (think teenage acne). But mine is mainly due to bacteria, making me an excellent candidate for About Face’s Omnilux Light Therapy treatments.
“Omnilux is a safe, painless, non-invasive treatment using light of different wavelengths,” Haley tells me. “It stimulates natural processes to rejuvenate the skin.”
Omnilux has three types of light: ‘Blue’, ‘White’ and ‘Red’. Blue kills bacteria, White calms and soothes and Red gives dull, dry-looking skin a boost. I’ll be having Blue and White. I’ll be treated at About Face Mount Eden as Blue is only available there, and at Mairangi Bay.
Upon closer inspection, I’m told that I have tough skin — great for slowing down ageing later on, but it means it’s harder for my skin to expel blockages now. My sebum, the oil that protects the skin from infection and reduces water loss, is also stickier than most people’s — another key pimple-causing factor.
My tailored treatment plan will use three different treatments. “Using a combination of the two Omnilux lights and peels we will be not only calming and healing the skin but also killing the bad bacteria, normalising skin cell turnover and getting strength and resilience back to the skin,” Haley explains. “To ensure the best results, you’ll use skincare prescribed by us at home. Using cosmeceutical skincare and having treatments that work at a cellular level in the skin will get great results. The entire course will take six to eight weeks and then we will go onto more maintenance treatments.” Bring it on.
Let the battle commence. I have my first White light treatment two days before my first peel and ‘extraction’ appointment.
“The peels are a vital part of treatment as they speed up the process of treating the infection that is present,” my therapist tells me while the solution tingles as it works. “They also break down blockages in the pores, therefore reducing the appearance of blemishes and helping to prevent the cycle of pores getting blocked, bacteria multiplying and becoming pustules.”
We’ve all heard we shouldn’t pop pimples at home as it can do more harm than good.
“Extractions must be performed correctly to not cause any damage to the skin and are not performed on infected pores as it is important that the infection is not spread,” my therapist insists. However, quick improvements are the name of the game when it comes to extractions carried out by the professionals.
“We can treat skin without doing extractions but it takes many months for the skin to be able to break down these blockages, making the process much slower.”
The appointment finishes with another White light treatment to help with healing.
My therapist says I might experience some flaking of the skin in the next few days. She recommends I use only Pure Fiji Dilo Oil, $65, to moisturise and soothe the skin at night. The peeling is thankfully minimal and the week finishes with two Blue Omnilux treatments, leaving a day in between each. This maximises the light’s benefits which amazingly continue for 24 hours after the initial treatment.
My skin is already less painful and noticeably calmer. I’m full of hope there’s something in this!
The week begins with three lights: White, Blue, White, again with a day between each.
On Friday, I check in with the VISIA to see how I’m tracking. Haley and I are immediately blown away by the reduction in porphyrins. My bacteria score was a depressing 17/100 at my initial consultation, but today it’s 84/100. It has only been two weeks and I’m ecstatic.
After that good news, I’m onto another peel, and it’s more intense than the first. It feels how sour tastes; defs not relaxing, but not particularly uncomfortable either.
The extractions on my jawline are pretty painful TBH but it’s over quickly — and no, it’s not as gory as Dr. Pimple Popper.
I am surprised at how little bleeding there is when my therapist unblocks my pores, especially compared to when I’ve regretfully popped pimples in the past. I’m definitely going to leave it to the pros from now on.
A few hours later my face feels as dry as my mouth after a big night out. A mixture of Dilo Oil and Ultraceuticals Ultra Moisturiser Cream, $89, is a welcome relief.
The weekend rolls around and the flaking is significantly more noticeable than last time — my face is literally peeling into my lap!
After a couple of days, however, the reduction in redness and increased smoothness makes it totally worthwhile. The difference is outstanding and I have far fewer pustules. People are starting to notice the improvements which is the best feeling of all.
This week I’ve had one White light, then two Blue, and another White. BTW, the light treatments are totes relaxing. While the machine works its magic in just 30 minutes (it radiates warmth but is totally painless) the lovely therapist gives me a hand massage. I often fall asleep!
Seeing as I haven’t had a peel this week, I’ve really been noticing the benefits of exfoliating with Priori Advanced AHA Invigorating Face and Body Scrub, $81, which buffs away dead skin cells. I only use it twice a week but I enjoy using it. It’s so gentle and rejuvenating.
I’m officially half way through and the difference is amazing! The last time I was able to run my fingers over my face and feel so few bumps was pre-puberty.
I have my third peel of the treatment plan to start the week and it doesn’t tingle or peel as much — my skin’s getting used to this. I tell my therapist it feels like she’s performing the least extractions to date, which she proudly confirms. I’m down to just a few juicy pimples and a handful of hard blackheads.
The facial finishes with a White light. Two days later I have a Blue, then a White to finish the week.
Words can’t express what it was like to wake up, catch a glimpse of my skin in the mirror, smile confidently and walk out the door sans foundation.
I literally don’t have a whitehead in sight. There are a couple of hormonal ones brewing below, but I’m not complaining. PMS pimples are the definition of skin #goals when you’ve had acne for as long as I have. For the most part, the only lingering breakouts are ones that, I like to say, are in recovery. I’m in shock at my results — it’s astounding.
I have a Blue light and a White light this week and that’s it for my initial stint at About Face.
The Final Truth
After five weeks of treatments and one of letting my skin “catch up”, it’s time to discuss next steps. My journey isn’t over; it’s a process obvs, but I’m freakin’ stoked with this destination, let me tell you!
My therapist advises me to return for “three weekly skin-changing facials for three to six months”, depending on how long it takes for my skin to completely recover. Complete recovery? Seriously? I never, ever thought that was an option.
Following that, we’ll be “progressing onto Collagen Induction Therapy or Fraxel to tackle scarring”. Watch this space. In the meantime, I’ll continue to use Ultraceuticals Ultra A Skin Perfecting Serum, $152, every other night to support my skin’s own production of hyaluronic acid which helps to heal scars. Also, now that my porphyrin levels are down drastically, I’m done with the Blue light. Yay for normal bacteria levels!
So, with a significantly clearer face, this used-to-be sceptic is finally acne-free. It may have taken me 10 years but I’m so glad I went to see the experts at About Face. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let this post-treatment photo (below) do the talking.
About Face is offering Miss FQ readers a FREE 30-minute consultation (worth $55). Book at aboutface.co.nz.
Skye’s individualised treatment plan cost $1867, plus prescribed skincare products. About Face work one-on-one with each client on a plan best suited to them. They also offer annual interest-free payment plans for treatment courses like Skye’s.