LONG READ WITH SOME REVOLTING IMAGES AHEAD BUT THE INFORMATION YOU’LL SEE IS VERY BENEFICIAL FOR ACNE SUFFERERS, I PROMISE
Pardon me for sounding like a broken record, but for the sake of new readers who have only seen spotless (pun intended) pictures of me in my makeup reviews, I need to make a revelation: they were most likely photoshopped to save you from throwing up. “But why? Are you that ashamed of your flaws?” Of course I am, especially when struggling with acne as bad as this:
Having suffered from acne since I was 15 years old, I know firsthand the stigma attached to it. At my lowest point, I dreaded going outdoors because my pimply face would attract looks of disgust. A trip to the mall was never one without pushy salespeople reminding me about my skin condition in a desperate attempt to sell me acne-fighting products. With my confidence at rock bottom, I kept to myself as I was afraid the next conversation would revolve around my face, again. I was apprehensive about standing up for myself in conversations or arguments for fear that my acne would be used against me, and I lost count of the number of times I broke down in front of the mirror – all these aggravated by the fact that I’ve been called “pimple girl” or “mo peng” (Hokkien for pockmarked face) for the most part of my secondary school life.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne vulgaris – or commonly known as acne – is almost like an epidemic which plagues about 85 percent of teens in each generation. Depending on your luck, the condition may persist for only a year or two, or when you eventually grow out of it. But unfortunate souls like myself have to deal with it for the decades because literally nothing worked to cure it. Some topical products did help to subside a few existing cysts, but not without allowing new ones to form. Thus for 13 years, my face was constantly riddled with angry pimples and scars which no amount of makeup was able to conceal due to their dark and bumpy nature.
M Y T H D E B U N K E D
Contrary to popular beliefs, acne is not caused mainly by poor personal hygiene although cleanliness does play an important role in skin care, and this is coming from me, whose once porcelain-smooth complexion was blemished by agonising pustules and cysts time and time again despite being a clean freak and religiously washing my face twice or thrice each day. So don’t, for God’s sake, tell an acne sufferer that she’s in dire need of a shower. It’s not funny.
The acne eruption became so extensive and severe as I grew older (how ironic, when acne is supposed to get better with age) that I had conceded to the fact that I would have to live with breakouts for the rest of my life..
..until Dr Gerard Ee of The Clifford Clinic came to my rescue. In fact, their acne treatment wasn’t one of my initial considerations because I thought my condition was already under control by the antibiotics given by my previous clinic. But as soon as the course was completed, BAM! The pimples returned in full swing. Seeing how promising their acne treatment is, I decided to take a leap of faith and entrust my face to Dr Ee.
Surprisingly, much as this condition is mostly associated with puberty, adult acne has also been on the rise globally with “more than 50 percent of women in their 20s suffering from acne, and over 35 percent and 26 percent of women in their 30s and 40s respectively” going through the same ordeal. Although the causes for adult acne are debatable, research has shown links to hormones and genetics, not forgetting stress which is prevalent in today’s fast-paced society so you never know when you’ll be affected by this distressing problem.
To gear you up for any unforeseen bumpy ride, below are some acne treatment options I had explored at The Clifford Clinic which you may want to consider trying out in times of crisis. For the handful of you who have been suffering from since adolescence, they might just be the permanent answer to your skin woes.
HydraFacial® is a medical-grade treatment and the only hydradermabrasian procedure that cleanses, detoxifies, exfoliates, extracts and hydrates all at once to achieve better acne control for all skin types and complexions. A non-ablative facial treatment that uses the patented 4-in-1 Vortex Technology™, it involves a four-step process including Vortex-Exfoliation™, Vortex-Peel™, Vortex-Extraction™ and Vortex-Fusion®, each marked by a different coloured HydroPeel® tip for attaching to the handpiece. But most incredibly, the whole procedure only takes less than 45 minutes (depending on whether you have makeup on) while offering noticeable results with no downtime, thus making it a great lunchtime beauty fix.
Before beginning each treatment, my therapist would carefully remove my eye makeup with a couple of drenched cotton pads, and then gently massage cleansing foam into the rest of my face. The makeup removal process is so soothing that I would admittedly wear makeup to the treatment even when there wasn’t any need to just so that I could enjoy those additional minutes of pure luxury 😝 Most of the time, I would descend into a rejuvenating sleep at this point.
Note: all images are unaltered and were taken during the first session unless otherwise stated
(P/S: Kindly pardon my unsightly double chin. These were taken before my first Sygmalift session 🤣)
The treatment starts off with cleansing and exfoliation using Activ-4™ serum – a combination of Lactic Acid and Glucosamine – to resurface the skin and create a clean canvas. Acid peel is then performed using the GlySal™ solution (7.5% Glycolic Acid and 2% Salicylic Acid Peel) in tandem with Vortex-Fusion® technology to slough off dead skin cells before extraction is painlessly carried out with a vortex suction nozzle (instead of squeezing – ouch!) to draw impurities out of the pores. As a finishing touch to the now-radiant skin, Antiox-6™ – a powerful formula made up of the deeply moisturizing Hyaluronic Acid and detoxifying antioxidants such as Vitamins A, E, White Tea Extract, Horse Chestnut Extract and Rosemary Extract – is applied to replenish the skin’s natural elasticity and hydration. At the same time, it also helped detoxify and protect the skin from environmental free radicals. ˢᵒᵘʳᶜᵉ The therapist then concludes the treatment with a therapeutic massage on the face and neck area.
HydraFacial felt vastly different from all the facials I’ve had in the past. Every session was truly a relaxing and indulgent experience and I actually enjoyed every single part of it, even taking the opportunity to catch forty winks after a long day’s work which wouldn’t be possible with traditional facials. Unlike traditional facials that punish horrible skin with an excruciating extraction process which often leaves the face looking terribly blotchy at the end (also why I dreaded facials – my face always seemed worse than before so I often wondered why people pay to torture themselves), Hydrafacial manages to achieve similar effects (i.e. immediate reduction of redness and inflammation) without putting the person through sheer hell. In fact, Dr Ee does not advocate the use of comedone extractor or any form of squeezing for the main reason that these old-school techniques can potentially lead to scarring.
Psst.. first-time customers get to enjoy HydraFacial at an introductory rate! Find out more by calling The Clifford Clinic at 65322400 or through WhatsApp at 83186332.
According to the clinic, between 5 to 10 sessions are needed to clear up the whole face but as always, results vary from person to person. Much as I take delight in getting my face pampered, Hydrafacial alone did not come close to improving my condition which I suspected had been due to inner factors. So while it helped reduce clogged and congested pores to some extent after each session, it didn’t take long for them to revert to their original state *sigh* But instead of stopping Hydrafacial altogether, Dr Ee suggested I do it in conjunction with other treatments.
Topical & Oral Therapy
For optimal results, proper at-home care in between visits is imperative – that’s why Dr Ee prescribed a series of topical products to me to ensure that oil production was regulated even when I wasn’t in the clinic, and hopefully treat my acne too. The first set of products ranged from face cleanser to moisturiser and acne cream. But prior experience and more than a decade of trying my luck with topical products told me that they weren’t going to miraculously pull the plug on acne, so I requested for oral antibiotics to kinda like nip things in the bud.
Hence, apart from the clinic’s self-formulated Balancing Facial Wash, Balancing Facial Cream (a really light moisturiser which restores the levels of missing free fatty acids, namely linoleic and linolenic acid, without the excessive oiliness), and Stieva-A Cream (a tretinoin cream which stops acne growth by keeping skin pores clear and making skin less oily), I was also given a month’s dosage of green capsules called Doxycycline which supposedly target and kill the acne-causing bacteria in the pores while minimising any inflammation of the skin. True enough, my face started clearing up tremendously within a few days of taking the medication (although my skin did become flaky around the chin area), giving me the confidence of going makeup-free at work. I had found my cure – or so I thought.
Sadly, the effects were short-lived. Soon after completing the course, my pimples returned with a vengeance, causing daily makeup application to be ever more challenging and time-consuming on the bumpy surface. Doxycycline was then replaced with Ermycin, another antibiotics that prevents excessive oiliness of the skin. This was supplemented with Epiduo Gel, an antibiotic-free topical acne treatment with a fixed dose combination of 0.1% adapalene and 2.5% benzoyl peroxide and a proven track record of being highly effective on acne. But likewise, the condition was suppressed only right until the very last pill. And to make matters worse, my face reacted unusually sensitively (allergy reaction?) to the benzoyl peroxide in the cream despite the low concentration and swelled like a puffer fish. Worried that it would affect my day-to-day activities (it was my busiest week of the month), I paid an emergency visit to Dr Ee the following operating day and was given a soothing cream and some medication to calm the swelling (which thankfully went down in a week).
With almost every option exhausted, Dr Ee persuaded me to try Oratane, a controversial oral medication for severe acne conditions known as isotretinoin which I had been resisting because of the scores of side effects it brings about such as extreme dryness of the skin and birth defects if a woman takes it during pregnancy, coupled with the fear that my acne would flare up even more after the course (this is a misconception, by the way). Oratane is an incredibly potent medication which works by cutting down the amount of oily substances (sebum) made by glands in the skin, and if this turned out to be ineffective as well, Dr Ee would have to resort to the AGNES treatment, which involves a downtime (not advisable for my job which long sick leaves are frowned upon) and high pain tolerance.
Determined to put an end to my nightmare, I relented and started with a low dose of Oratane. In the first week, the unforeseen happened and my acne actually got worse. At that point in time, I felt kinda angry with Dr Ee for his “ill-advised” recommendation and was this close to quitting. But not wanting to leave a useless drug lying around, I decided to press on and complete the course.
One after another, the cystic pimples on my face shrunk and faded away as the days went by, leaving a baby-smooth complexion that was more glowing and flawless than before. Amazingly, I could even wear foundation for the whole day in humid Singapore and not spot a single trace of greasiness on my face! And for the first time in 13 years, people complimented my skin! But I didn’t want to keep my hopes too high only to be knocked down again by another massive breakout after the last pill so I waited..
AND STILL NO NEW ZITS AFTER TWO WEEKS (and counting, even with a diet of fried food and late nights 😂)? Goddammit, this thing actually works!
Excuse my French, but Oratane is the shit and I am kicking myself for not taking it earlier – it could’ve saved me from all the agony and self-loathing. My skin has never been better even though understandably, I have been getting itchy rashes all over my body. On top of that, my lips have also been chapping like crazy (arm yourselves with tons of lip balm!) and I have to refrain from using matte lipsticks. But sheesh, what’s chapped lips compared to a decade of acne-ridden skin? Lipsticks can wait 😂
However, due to its possible complications, Oratane is only available on prescription only and you’d have to sign a consent form before it is dispensed to you. For more information about Oratane and the risks involved, here is one useful link.
So, I have finally found a solution to my acne. Now what? The truth is, only half the battle is won. Those pesky pimples left behind a strewn of irate scars to remind me that they were never going to be exterminated.
Thirteen years ago, they would have gotten their way. But not anymore. To eliminate acne and its remnants once and for all, Dr Ee recommended Q-switch laser, a no-downtime method for pigment removal (e.g. hyperpigmentation, freckles, melasma) which involves emitting short pulses of high-energy laser light towards the affected area to break down the pigment molecules into smaller fragments. The laser energy is cleared away naturally by the body’s lymphatic system upon being absorbed by the skin, making it safe with no side effects. Moreover, because this treatment only requires 10 to 15 minutes, it is typically done during lunchtime and after which, patients can expect to resume their normal activities.
A single session is capable of lightening or removing 70 to 100% of acne scars. In my case, probably 75% of my scars were visibly lighter than before while the more stubborn ones took about three sessions to be completely gotten rid of. In addition, this treatment is also an excellent preventive measure against acne as it eradicates the sebaceous glands and removes the bacteria that causes pimples and acne. For pre-existing acne, it helps reduce inflammation and minimise pores so the skin is less prone to leaving marks.
But all these benefits are not without some stinging sensation as the procedure is being executed especially during the first few sessions which made my eyes tear behind the protective goggles 😂 Even so, the sting was still tolerable for me and it sorta diminished in intensity with more sessions. After the treatment, your nose will also constantly pick up slight burning smell (to be exact, the smell of fried facial hair) until you wash your face.
Still, these are small change compared to the many more years I would have suffered from acne if I hadn’t gone to The Clifford Clinic.
What are some of your experiences with acne and how did you deal with it? Also, let me know in the comments below if this review has helped you!
Thanks for reading!