Hair and Beauty

The Secret To Clear Skin?

Recently I’ve had a couple of comments on my social media pages asking about the secret to my clear skin. And to be completely frank, the idea that people think my skin is perfect causes me a lot of stress because it’s really been such a battle and I feel like I’m hiding this secret- even though I have been fairly open about it!

 However, the last few months I’ve finally seen some improvement and want to share with you a few things that helped me along the way. There’s no secret, no magic product but if you too are struggling, one of these things might just help.

Before I get into that though, I think it’s important to talk about the history of my skin and where it all went wrong last year. When puberty hit me at about age 12, it hit me HARD. One of the many things that affected me was pimples. Luckily I didn’t have the kind of acne that scarred and needed intense medication, but it was pretty bad at times. It had started to calm down somewhat by the time I was 17 and went on the contraceptive pill and because I have polycystic ovaries, the type of pill I was put on was GREAT for my skin.

Fast forward 10 years and in June 2017 I decided 10 years on the pill was enough and I wanted to see what it was like to be without a daily hormone dose. I knew I’d potentially have some skin troubles but hoped I had grown out of it by then. But I was no expecting it to get as bad as it did. I don’t have any photos to show you because it really did knock my confidence around, however I did post this pic in December.

I tried everything. I got a shower filter, concerned that the hard water in London was also affecting it. I gave up dairy. I got monthly facials and bought expensive products. I tried taking supplements. And I felt like whatever I did, it might feel like it improved for a week or two but then I’d just have another breakout even though I’d been so diligent.

This is going to sound dramatic especially with all the people who are far worse off than I am but it was really soul destroying. I love food, especially sweet things and so to give up dairy was a huge deal for me. I was willing to do it if it made a difference but after a while I got fed up and I just felt like I was missing out on life. See, totally dramatic but hear me out for a moment. The turning point for this was when I was in Prague for a holiday in December with Matt and my Mum.

It was the start of the Christmas season and our first winter Christmas. I was ridiculously excited about being at the Christmas Market and had always had this dream about walking around a Christmas Market in a beautiful coat drinking hot chocolate. I talked myself down from the hot chocolate for the first two nights but by night three, I was over it. I was in the middle of another big breakout so felt like it was all for nothing anything and why miss out on life experiences? I know, it’s just a hot chocolate Ella but HOLY HECK, it was like one of the best hot chocolates of my life. It was those proper thick, true melted chocolate ones that was all kinda of divine. And I walked around that beautiful market, sipping on my glorious drink without a ounce of regret. It was also then that I decided that enough was enough. I’d tried for 6 months but it was no longer worth it and I would go to the Doctor the following week to go back on the pill.

Sure, I was a little disappointed in myself that I had essentially given up and I know that my body was probably still in hormonal overdrive and needed another 6-12 months to readjust but I just couldn’t help but think – “what if I go through all of this and in a year or even 2 years it’s just exactly the same?”

It took about 3 months after starting the pill again to start seeing a improvement and now 6 months later, it’s 90% better. I still get pimples but not nearly the same amount and they are mostly focussed around my chin, not up on my cheeks and forehead too.

Here’s a no makeup, no filter picture of where my skin is at now. It’s still healing, there’s a small amount of scarring left around my chin area but it’s a million times better!

Now while nothing quite solved my acne like the pill did, there are definitely some things that helped that I thought I’d share as well as my favourite products which I still use now even though my skin as vastly improved.

Monthly Facials

These became a ritual for me very early on and were a great help. My skin was always a lot less inflamed in the week after a facial and I also found it helped with how my makeup went on. Having a expert to give me advice and recommend products was important to me, even if my bank account didn’t appreciate it. Even with my skin improving as much as it has, I still plan to keep going monthly. I see a lady local to me and get a facial called the Hydrodermie using Guinot products. The facial is described as this –
The complete deep cleansing facial using Galvanic and High Frequency, leaving your skin re-hydrated and regenerated. Suitable for all skin types and ages15 and over. An excellent treatment to treat spots and acne prone.
There were a few products I’ve bought from her that were duds and some that I really love and that brings me to my next subject…

Skincare Products

Before my skin changed, I used a mix of Antipodes Skincare and LUSH. Once things started to get bad however, I knew I probably needed something a little more specific to my skins issues.

So what did I love?

Micellar Water
I started using this very early on to swipe over my face after cleansing and before moisturizing. It’s cheap and helps to remove any impurities that weren’t washed away from cleansing. It also is great for those of you that live in areas with hard water (extra minerals) as it allows you to remove this from your face.

Guinot Microbiotic Mousse
My beautician stocks and uses Guinot and recommended this cleanser as it’s for oily skin and helps to control breakouts. It’s a nice cleanser, very foamy and great for travelling because it can’t leak at all! About a month ago I ran out for a few days and had to use a different cleanser and had a bit of a breakout so definitely think it does a good job! This cleanser is £23.75 and lasts me about 2 months. I could probably stretch it out a little longer but I’m pretty generous with how much I use!

Murad Age-Balancing Moisture
A friend of mine and fellow blogger Rachel recommended this moisturizer to me and said that it had greatly helped her with hormonal breakouts. It’s not specific to acne prone or oily skin but it did actually perform really well! A little goes a long way and I did have to allow it to soak into my skin for 5-10 minutes before starting my makeup but I really loved this moisturizer. The only downside was that it was quite expensive – £59.50 (50ml) – so when I finished that tube and with my skin feeling better in general, I thought I’d try the moisturizer from Guinot as it’s nearly half the price-

Guinot Pure Balance Cream
Another Guinot product and in the same family as the Microbiotic Mousse so again, targeted at oily skin. It absorbs quickly and leaves a no shine which is perfect for under makeup. It’s significantly cheaper than the Murad one above at just £36 (50ml) BUT I probably have to use a smidge more as it absorbs so quickly and doesn’t spread as much. But so far the results have been good! I’m undecided if I will go back to the Murad or stay with Guinot- if cost wasn’t a factor I think I would choose Murad because it is SPF30 and also makes my skin feel more moisturized in general.

 LUSH Dark Angels
With my new cleanser not being a exfoliating one, I needed something to help clear away dead skin. Charcoal is really deep cleansing so I use this every 2 days or so before cleansing with the Microbiotic Mousse to exfoliate. It’s only £7.25 and lasts me months and months!

Weekly Masks
I try to remember to do a weekly mask as these are great for keeping the skin fresh. My favourites are either Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask for it’s moisturizing and anti bacterial properties or Manuka Doctor Purifying Facial Peel.

And what DIDN’T I love?

Guinot Sebum Control Serum
My beautician had really been wanting me to try this for a few appointments and I finally caved. I gave it a go for 2 weeks but felt like my skin got worse not better! It could have been a coincidence and it not be related to the Serum but I stopped using it and have been too scared to give it another try.

This is a supplementary Collagen drink that is meant to increase hydration and improve blemishes along with other benefits. It’s not that I didn’t like this as such as I did feel at times that it was helping but the cost of it was pretty high and not something I felt I could maintain. It was at the point of needing to choose between Skinade and skincare products and I felt like it would be more beneficial for me to spend the money on the products.

Evening Primrose Oil
Not really a skincare product but I thought I’d add it in here anyway. I saw a lot of recommendations for taking Evening Primrose Oil for acne but my skin got a whole lot worse! It seems it’s either one way or the other depending on the individual.

The Pill…

I won’t try and pretend, the biggest thing to improve my skin has been the pill. And I’m not saying this to promote it as a magical skin fixer, especially since not all contraceptive pills have this effect but because I literally reply to people when they ask me how I have nice skin with “the pill”. I wish it wasn’t the case and I could have felt like I could have got some improvement another way but c’est la vie.

Other Tips

  • Drink lots of water! A hydrated body means healthier and more hydrated skin!
  • Wash your makeup brushes FREQUENTLY to avoid bacteria growth.
  • Don’t squeeze pimples! It can be so tempting but most of the time it will go away quicker if you just leave it. Blackheads can be removed by a beautician to help keep the skin smooth.

Sorry for such a long post but there was a lot to cover! If you are battling with acne right now, I extend my sympathies and support, I know how hard it can be. I do highly recommend finding a good beautician for monthly facials and ensuring you are using the right skincare.

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Categories: Hair and Beauty

34 replies »

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I have been struggling for years with skin problems and have been writing a blog post about it that has been in my drafts for months and months because I don’t dare to post it or don’t know how to accurately write my feelings down about this subject.

    The fact that I am not the only one struggling at times makes me feel a lot better and more confident about myself.

    You truly are wonderful

    • Thank you lovely ❤️ I know how you feel with finding it hard to get your feelings down. I really struggle to get posts like this written but I want to get better at them. Now go finish your post and send me the link once it’s done

    • I have recently discovered that Weleda Marshamalow face cream is the bomb at calming down my pimples and honestly, they reduce quite noticeably the next day after applying it the night before. Its designed for eczema so its good for calming the skin.

  2. The pill basically keeps your body in a state of fake pregnancy. A lot of pregnant mothers get the compliments of nice and glowy skin, hence why yours gets better on hormones. Though I do think you need a lot longer for your body to get used to the lack of these hormones. I’ve heard people talking about years before their new symptoms were gone.

    I use the pill myself (because I have painful sharkweeks to the point I can’t walk sometimes) but would love to get off it. The things I hear it can do to your body if you take it for long is scary.

    Now I’m not trying to change your mind, but I’m really into skincare and want to suggest a YouTuber called Liah Yoo if you ever want to try getting off the pill again. She goes really in depth explaining ingredients in skincare, what helps and what doesn’t help for acne prone skin. She had quite bad skin as well but when she went researching her ingedients, it’s like magic happened! If you ever find the courage again, good luck 🙂 Just remember that it happens to everyone, we tend to think everyone is staring at our acne (I’m guilty of this) but honestly, they just go on about their day! You’re not being dramatic, it’s all about perspective.

  3. Wow, it sounds like we had the same skincare journey. I think I went off the pill the same time as you and tried EVERYTHING. I am now, also, back on the pill, but keeping my regimen. My skin has improved greatly, but it’s disappointing I have to rely on the pill for clearer skin. I was planning on adding monthly facials, and just scheduled one last week to be exact. Thank you for sharing your experience 🙂

  4. Definitely feel you on this, I’m about to give up on creams and go on the pill after all of a sudden getting horrible hormonal acne for the first time in my life last year, not just a few spots but the kind I’d want to hide inside and not go out without tons of makeup and even then you could see the bumps. It’s a huge self esteem knocker, and while mine has levelled out a bit and is no way near as bad as it was, I just can’t handle the uncertainty. Glad to hear you’re feeling better about your skin, whatever works hey!

    • Yep I know them feels! I started relying a lot more on makeup which is no way to live! Hope you find something that works for you ❤️

  5. Polycystic ovaries means that you have an excess level of androgens (testosterone), which is the cause of your breakouts. Unfortunately hormonal contraception is the only way to control your androgen levels or when/if you decide to get pregnant ovarian drilling.
    Love your friendly clinical biochemist xx

    • The pill is not the only option. Metformin also works for people who have PCOS. Go see and endocrinoligist and see your options.

  6. When I went off the pill, it took me two years before my skin cleared again. All those hormones were flushing themselves from years of being suppressed by the hormone medication. I am SO GLAD I made it through the other side (even low doses of the pill started to cause my blood pressure to skyrocket and then crash– E.R. Visits are no fun, so I knew going back on it would never be an option for me) but there were times I thought I would look like I was 13 again as an adult FOREVER. I use the oil cleansing method now, and I make a green smoothie once or twice a day and I’ve upped my intake of protein and fiber. I eat a lot of coconut yogurt too. I still get an occasional spot around my period, but my skin looks a thousand percent better.

  7. I have just gotten through the worst of my post-pill acne (it has taken 18 months since coming off it) and the only reason I didn’t return to using synthetic hormones in the form of a contraceptive is because it just so happened, the month I decided was going to be my last month of trying to fix myself was also the time I finally saw a substantial improvement. I strongly feel that the pill was masking a pretty bad hormone imbalance, with adrenal fatigue to accompany. A book called Womancode taught me loads about my body and helped hugely in my quest to mend what was wrong. I can’t help but recommend it to all women!
    I really believe we all have to do what is right for ourselves, and there is no shame at all in admitting that acne can massively impact your confidence. Victory Violet you are so very brave in sharing your no-make-up photos with us; when you shared them originally on Instagram it was an amazing support, because it made me feel as though I’m not alone, and that acne does not make you any less beautiful in others eyes!

      • Scarletshay, I found the book amazingly educating, it enabled me to grasp how my body is functioning and helped me work out the root causes of my hormonal imbalance – I did lots of reading/reasearch of my own too. But I truly believe I wouldn’t have got on top of my acne without it xx

  8. I know what you mean. While I don’t have PCOS, I have a slight hormone imbalance and thick walls that makes all the doctors tell me to go on the pill. I had been on the pill while I was a teen and while it helped with the break outs, I usually got all the other side affects: mood swings, bloating, nausea. I have tried at least 15 types of pills, nothing keeps me sane. I have also done the Lush route (ultrabland has honestly helped me the most regardless of the four seasons we get here), hit up Ulta as well to try to get better face creams, masks, spot treatments, serums, lotions (which usually cause my skin more harm than good). I swear I felt more like a witch with all my “magical cure remedies” in the bathroom than anything else. And still nothing really works. I gave up dairy too for a year (and I love cheese!), gave up gluten (for other reasons, but my gastro said it may help, didn’t help anything). And here I am 30, with more acne than I ever have had in my life. I don’t do makeup any more because of it. I get what you mean about being dramatic about it all, it’s not nearly as bad as others and I don’t have many scars from it, but it is super embarrassing to walk in somewhere with these little blinking beacons all flared up on my face. I am glad you found a solution that works for you, hopefully someday soon I will. But for now, not much I can do.

  9. Thank you for this post! I get compliments on my clear skin all the time and feel weird telling people it’s because I’m on the pill as well. It’s refreshing to know I’m not alone.

  10. I feel you. I have very temperamental skin and going gluten free has helped it a lot but man, is it hard sometimes! I have a lot of scarring left and I’m a month in to the POP contraceptive but I’m hanging in there. It can be such a knock to our confidence!

  11. Such a nice Post and so honest. I’ve got the same problems over many years and to me, only the pill works. But in the last couple of years I overthink it because of overweight I have a higher risk of becoming thrombosis…..So I going to try another pill with only gestagen in it. I don’t know what will happen to my skin then…
    Best regards,

  12. Which birth control pills are you taking, if you don’t mind me asking? I’ve struggled with acne since I was 12 as well, and here in the past 3 years I’ve had horrible hormonal acne. With my skin care regime I was able to control it a lot, but my body is fighting me the entire time.

  13. I have PCOS also and acne is one of my many struggles. If you don’t mind sharing, could you tell us what birth-control pill you are taking? Thank you.

  14. I love how open and honest you are about everything, its quite empowering to know that many people go through these things and you are not alone. For me I never had an acne problem (THANKFULLY!!) but i did go through a period of time (and still do i just control it better) where I developed ezcema (late 20’s too). My skin was puffy, itchy, red, blotchy and bumpy and really knocked my confidence. I tried the doctors, but they gave me a moisteriser that was nothing but strong chemicals which actually made it worse. So I ended up testing a lot of products, and found that basically any face cream, hand moisteriser or body moisteriser with chemicals (especially SLS and siblings of SLS) had to go, couldnt use them they made my skin so much worse. What I did find were two products that are chemical free and for me work amazingly – Avene skincare range (as this helps majorly with dry skin too) and the Janese skin care range> So basically i have avene for moisterisers and the Janese range for my personal facials. Since using them my skin is lovely and clear (aside from a few monthly pimples) and ive been using these products now for the last 4 years. Also find keeping up the water intake especially in winter can make a difference.

  15. Have you thought about getting a Mirena? It is a lower dose hormone than the pill and means you don’t have to worry about taking a pill for birth control. I am on it and it’s great … with one caveat: I too am getting a bunch of pimples like I used to have before I went on the pill.

    Apparently the reason for this is because the Mirena is localized hormones which only work in your uterus to prevent you from having babies. Unlike the pill which has to send the hormones through your body to deliver the effect of preventing pregnancy, which also prevents hormone related acne. So that is why my pimples have come back…..

    I only realized this the other day after cracking it at having bad skin – especially in my new job for a cosmetics company it’s important to have great skin.

    My next step is to go the dr and speak to them about taking something specifically for my skin like spirinolactone, which like Bekkiboo the biochemist said above, helps block androgen.
    Hoping this will solve the issues and I can enjoy the benefits of the Mirena as well as having good skin.

  16. Great, thorough advice 🙂
    I also found pretty disastrous results from taking Evening Primrose Oil! It actually made me quite moody too (even more than usual!)

  17. The pill is not the only option for hormonal imbalance acne. I went to an endocrinologist and they prescribed me Metformin which helps to bring your testosterone levels down.

  18. I have just discovered Living Nature Manuka Gel for blemishes, it is great at healing when you do have a breakout ☺

  19. Girrrrl I have pretty much the exact same situation minus the PCOS and add in some Endometriosis. I have had hormonal acne since the age of 13 and I couldn’t wait till I was 15 and my mum let me go on the pill. My skin was sooooooo clear for years. And then… I had a blood clot in my lung and now I can never go on the pill again because the doctors think it caused the clot in an otherwise healthy 21 year old. Fast forward 10 years later and I have struggled so much with my acne. It is so debilitating. The confidence clear skin gives you is so powerful. I’ve tried everything but the only thing that has made a difference is educating myself about what products/ingredients really work. I started following Dr Sam Bunting and Caroline Hirons on Youtube and their advice has helped me immensely. I now know never to go near a foaming cleanser ever, to use gentle chemical exfoliaters, wash my make up brushes religiously and use Retin A. Anyone struggling with acne or skin issues in general please do yourself a favour and watch some of Dr Sam Bunting’s videos. She is a straight up honest no fuss cosmetic dermatologist. Her recommendations changed my skin. And I just want to add in that Retin A (though it was originally prescribed for acne patients) has the added benefit of reversing the signs of aging. Dita Von Teese uses it! Win win!!!!!!

    Thanks for sharing this Miss Victory Violet! It’s so nice to see behind the glamour! Makes me feel a bit better about my little struggles. xxxooo

  20. I use a prescription retnin A cream (tretonin) for acne. It’s pricy but a little goes a long way and I put lotion on befor the cream to help spread it and it works great.

  21. Thank you for your beautifully honest post. I struggled with terrible hormonal breakouts for years (PCOS and Endometriosis are no fun… I ended up having a full hysterectomy at 40, but even that doesn’t resolve all of the PCOS symptoms, although my skin is now much less acne prone).
    I love seeing your beautiful photos, and knowing that you struggle along like the rest of us… well, you give me hope. ❤️

  22. Please be careful when using the pill for long term skin benefit! I don’t want to sound preachy, I’m not sure how old you all are or your personal circumstances, but I just want to warn you ladies!! I’m in my mid 30’s now and a lot of my friends who have taken the pill long term (from 16) for acne and heavy menstral cycles are now on fertility treatments and struggling to conceive. This is heartbreaking to see as most of them are happily married and ready for a family. I’m not saying this will definitely happen to any of you, but please consider alternative natural / organic skincare products. I can highly recommend Rosehip oil for acne and anti-aging!!

  23. Hi Miss VV. I was fascinated to read this because I also have PCOS and have suffered from hirsutism (particularly on my face) since age 18. I’m 33 so I’ve been dealing with this for 15 years and it’s the most confidence destroying thing ever! I was on spironolactone for all of my 20s which improved my symptoms about 70% but last year I had a baby so I’ve now been off spiro for approximately 2 years and my hirsutism returned with A VENGEANCE. After reading some research I also decided to quit dairy and it was like a MIRACLE. Within a week my hair growth had slowed by about 50%, and now after a month I have the softest most hair free skin I have ever had in my life. It really has genuinely shocked me. My skin is like a different person. I can’t stop feeling how soft my chin is! I keep thinking ‘this is what normal people’s skin must feel like.’ Thanks for keeping it real! Hoping to meet you at VVDO! xxx

  24. I can’t recommend Australian skincare range GoTo enough – all natural products, endorsed by fussy skin owners everywhere and really basic: a cleanser, a skin oil, a moisturiser and a non-scrubby exfoliator. They are in the mid-price range and I think they ship overseas and have a xx day guarantee if you’re interested in trying them.

  25. Thank you for sharing your experience. If I may tell you, with or without having pimples you continue being charming, you make fantastic outfits and advise with that excellent charisma.

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