‘Hey, Pizza Face!’

As I write this I am covered in leopard-like welts and weals. The first diagnosis was chicken-pox but the symptoms mutated into something very unlike that nasty childhood disease so the jury is still out. But that’s okay: the maddening itch has subsided, the marks are fading and all will soon be well.

The experience has, however, made my acutely aware of just how much my daughter must have suffered in her recent war with acne. My lurgy only lasted a week. Her condition was full frontal, no holds barred, and took years to conquer.

She was 14 when it started and it rapidly moved from being a teenage rumble with spots to a full-blown offensive that even the heavy medical artillery could not eliminate.

We started on the homeopathic route, following a programme of pillules and potions and a bit of acupuncture. We had discussed the allopathic route: the Pill, antibiotics or, the big gun, Roaccutane. She was nervous of the Pill; she had heard if you go on antibiotics it just suppresses the acne, which then always comes back; she was concerned about the side effects of Roaccutane.

So we persevered with the healthiest of eating habits; the purest and mildest of cleansers and creams; two litres of water a day and her ongoing exercise. She did everything right and everything went wrong.

A tiresome trio at school nicknamed her “PF” and when she found out it meant “Pizza Face” she shamed them by confronting them to their flawless faces. She never shied away from socials or get-togethers and she flashed her beautiful smile, regardless. But I know, alone in her room, she would weep and wonder if she would ever be dewy-skinned again. Her sister would hold her and her friends console her and none of them ever wavered in their belief that it would go.

The time came to join the “Rac” (Roaccutane) club – the dermatologist advised her it was time to go straight past all other options and take up arms with this heavy-hitter. The day she started she got a spring in her step and light in her eye – it was has if a huge load had lifted with this decision. But this was only the start. It got worse (as predicted – this is a normal pattern) and then much worse (not predicted).

Nothing worked as, beneath her skin, a terrible infection brewed. Antibiotics were now included in her daily dose and the doctor, bless her, made weekly phone calls to monitor the progress. It took months longer than expected to get any sign of improvement. But still she soldiered on, going to school dances under a layer-cake of foundation. She was, for so many, the bravest person they knew.

Roaccutane, being a powerful drug, has a time limit and she had to stop. But, by then, the improvement had started. Day by day the redness faded and the skin flattened. Scars remain but, hopefully, time, treatment and technology can deal with those.

What will never fade is that indomitable spirit she showed. She sat us down and told us everyone in this world is given a battle to fight and this was hers. For this she was grateful as she had gained great inner strength and confidence and been shown true love by so many. For this, she will always be my hero.

Have you or your teenager battled acne? What do you think is the best approach?

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