My acne journey: Katherine’s inspiring acne story

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions, yet one which we may feel we battle alone. In fact, according to the NHS, 95% of people between 11-30 have suffered with acne. In this post, I will discuss my acne experience, some ingredients to look out for to calm those pesky breakouts and open up conversation on what we can each do to raise our confidence and self-esteem even when acne seeks to make us suffer.

A personal story by Katherine Nagato

How to be confident with an acne-scarred face

My acne story

There were two significant stages in my life where I recall having severe acne issues.

The first, like many, came when I was in year 10 at school. Once puberty hit, I began getting breakouts across my forehead. My brother had experienced similar breakouts and so I thought it was just part of growing up as during puberty we go through so many changes both internally and externally.

During puberty we produce more of the hormone androgen and this can cause our oil glands to produce more oil or sebum, which then causes our pores to become blocked with dead skin cells and lead to the possibility of breakouts.

I eventually visited my GP and was prescribed a topical benzoyl peroxide gel to calm the inflammation.

My second experience with acne came when I was in my first year of university. As I was no longer a teenager, I assumed I had simply grown out of having acne, that it was a phase of growing up. But unfortunately this was not the case. In January, I started developing multiple spots along my jaw and across my cheeks, which had never happened to me before. I visited my GP to get a prescription of my previously used benzoyl peroxide gel, and I did not see significant results. What had previously did wonders for my skin, was no longer effective.

My acne stubbornly persisted but this time around I felt it was more challenging as I was not only dealing with breakouts but my skin was severely dry and peeling, I wanted to moisturise my skin without clogging my pores which would lead to more breakouts.

This was the time which led me to become more invested in skincare, researching what ingredients would be beneficial for breakout-prone skin and what could be triggering my breakouts. I ended up revisiting my GP later in the year and upon speaking to her, she recommended I take blood tests as I had symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS. My breakouts were consistently along my jawline and chin which can indicate the breakouts could be hormonal.

Acne can sometimes, as it did for me, be an indicator of other health issues and be an, albeit irritating, warning to take better care of yourself and maybe visit a doctor if you are concerned.

Star ingredients for acne sufferers

How to deal with Acne

Acne can be difficult to resolve simply because there is no one right solution or list of products that will definitely work for everyone.

For example, when I suffered from acne, I remember being told by my GP that salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide were great ingredients. Thus I purchased a salicylic acid cleanser and my skin reacted with severe redness and aggravation. But benzoyl peroxide was my saviour, I applied it topically in an overnight gel form and it was great for gradually reducing the frequency of my breakouts during my first breakout experience.

There are also many different reasons for having acne and breakouts. For some of us we may suffer from hormonal acne: acne which tends to crop up during periods or when we are suffering from a hormonal imbalance, a consequence of conditions such as PCOS. Acne can be caused by a number of things such as stress, genetics (if your parents suffered from acne), smoking, testosterone levels (especially during puberty) to name but a few.

Most of us have also heard that a poor diet high in dairy, sugar and processed foods can cause and aggravate acne however according to the NHS, there has been no research which has found any foods which cause acne. It is recommended to follow a healthy, balanced diet rich in wholefoods, fruits and vegetables because it is good for your health, helping your organs function smoothly, which in turn could benefit your skin.

Acne can sometimes, as it did for me, be an indicator of other health issues and be an, albeit irritating, warning to take better care of yourself and maybe visit a doctor if you are concerned.

Star ingredients for acne sufferers

Benzoyl peroxide

This is generally used as a topical treatment for acne. It most commonly comes in a gel solution which is applied directly to the spot/breakout however there are face washes on the market which contain usually around 5% benzoyl peroxide.

Gels and washes can be prescribed by your local GP and or found in your local drugstore such as Superdrug or Boots.

The only concern with benzoyl peroxide is that it can be drying to the skin and that it can bleach sheets such as your pillow. However as an acne treatment, it continues to be my go to. Now, I have found the brand Acnecide which does a gel and face wash, and I continue to use the gel as and when I get a breakout.

Salicylic acid

This is another great ingredient for fighting acne, mildly exfoliating the skin and cleaning the pores, so it is great for preventing breakouts. Breakouts can occur when pores become clogged with oil, dead skin cells and dirt.

Glycolic acid

According to, glycolic acid works by exfoliating the top layer of the skin, with a peeling effect, to clean out pores of gunk, oil and dead skin cells. Consequently, with less clogged pores, skin is less prone to breaking out. Glycolic acid is great as a preventative, to avoid the appearance of breakouts in the first place.

My acne skin care routine

I recommend a gentle cleanser, look out for those specifically with acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

At the moment, I do not suffer from excessive breakouts, only mild breakouts which tend to be hormonal acne so my goal with my routine is to keep spots and oils at bay, to prevent rather than cure.

I start with a salicylic acid cleanser, then follow with a green tea toner, a lightweight moisturiser and finally my sunscreen.

Green tea is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient which can be beneficial for treating acne. This is due to the fact that green tea contains polyphenols which can reduce sebum production and control the oiliness of the skin which thus can decrease the clogging of pores with dirt and oil. Also anti-inflammatory ingredients such as green tea are calming, thus can help to soothe aggravated skin which has broken out and additionally works great with sunscreen to protect the skin against free radicals in the air.

Another important note when dealing with acne is to not overwhelm your skin with products. In the past I was also guilty of this, buying multiple different products and trying them all at once in the hopes of getting rid of my acne as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this can overwhelm your skin and could even lead to further breakouts.

If you are wanting to add a new product or ingredient into your skincare routine, the best advice is to do this gradually, one product/ingredient at a time. This way, you can also see which product/ingredient your skin is responding well to and which are not as effective.

When dealing with a new breakout as well, it may be a good idea to strip back your skincare routine to just the basics: cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen plus a topical treatment such as a gel. Focus on buying each skincare product with purpose, that each product has a necessary role in helping your skin.

How to be confident with an acne-scarred face

This is an interesting question because unfortunately no matter how much we may try to ignore it, acne can and does affect your confidence and thus your mental health. Acne is depicted as an imperfection and in a world which promotes and idealises clear, poreless skin it can be difficult to feel great about yourself when you have acne.

And honestly there is no real resolution that I can offer. I know when I had severe acne I would avoid going out with friends, socialising for many reasons. None of my close friends had issues with their skin so I would feel almost as if I was a visual whole amongst them, that people around me would be looking at and judging me for my skin condition and I am sure this is a common feeling amongst acne sufferers. When in reality if you are an acne sufferer you will be aware of the fact that acne has not got a significant correlation to hygiene and having acne does not mean you do not look after your skin. And acne should not be a factor in

Try to understand that acne is not a permanent part of you, it does not make up your personality or beauty (both internal and external) and regardless of whether you have acne, you deserve to feel beautiful and confident in yourself, because news flash, acne is not synonymous with ugly.

Another note is, do not let acne affect the choices you make in your everyday life.  Try to find hobbies and interests which can boost your self-esteem, and make you feel valuable and confident regardless of your external appearance. Find a new sport or interest which you can invest in, spend time with friends and family, people who love you regardless of the acne and hopefully you will come to realise that acne is not the end of the world. That your beauty and worth is developed from within and can continue to thrive regardless of the state of your skin.

Can acne cause depression and anxiety?

There has been a recent study by Richard G. Fried, a psychologist and dermatologist, who suggests there is a far greater emotional and psychological burden of having acne that may be worse than just the physical impact on our outer appearance.

Fried states “Severe acne is associated with increased depression, anxiety, poor self-image and poor self-esteem.” Further Fried continues that, a study of 9,567 in a New Zealand secondary school found that 14.1% of students showed symptoms of clinically relevant depression and 4.8% showed symptoms of anxiety when reporting on their “problem acne”.

Therefore, acne can really have a damaging effect not only temporarily on your outer appearance but also internally and this study shows a greater cause of concern and attention needs to be placed on young people and students who suffer with acne.

Skin positivity: Experience sharing my acne journey online

Skin positivity is a relatively new concept to me. I have heard of body positivity and seen it grow in popularity on platforms such as Instagram but skin positivity is, I feel, less well known.

I appreciate the shift towards accepting so-called imperfections and simply allowing people to just exist without being picked apart for their appearance, especially those with conditions such as acne. I hope this movement can help us all in learning to accept ourselves and our skin in whatever condition and stage it may be in and understand that overall health and wellbeing are more important than smoothed perfection.

So, whether you have flawless skin or acne-prone skin that is going through it, you are doing the best you can at this moment. Relax and appreciate your body and skin for what it is doing for you every day and try to understand that your beauty and worth is not dependent on any type of breakout that appears on your skin.
I would also love to hear about your experiences, any advice you would give to others dealing with acne and any general thoughts so please feel free to comment!