The Little Pill That Cleared My Hormonal Acne

I went from cystic acne flare-ups to clear skin in a matter of weeks.
Publish date:
March 13, 2015
cystic acne, accutane, acne, spironolactone, hormonal acne

Acne plagued me for the majority of my teen years and even into my late twenties. I vividly remember the embarrassment I felt when my mom would point out flare-ups, not out of meanness, but concern. Though it stung to have someone say anything about my face, I was grateful to my mother for her attempts to calm my poor, angry, teenage skin.

We ran through a bevy of topical treatments and cleansers: Proactiv, Neutrogena, Cetaphil, etc. Some of it worked a little, most of it did not.

And no matter what, I always had flare-ups during PMS.

Now, my skin was never "bad enough" to warrant an intense treatment such as Accutane. But anyone with troubled skin--at any age--will tell you that a blemished face affects your happiness and overall sense of self confidence. There were even a few days in high school where I actually feigned illness because I couldn't handle the thought of facing peers. Perhaps I was a melodramatic teen, but the emotions I felt were mine, and I did feel them.

Fast forward to my late high school and collegiate years. By then, my hormones straightened out and my skin cleared up for the most part. Excluding the week or two before my period, I actually had what I considered pretty good skin.

Imagine the joy I felt when a close friend commented on my skin, stating that it "usually seemed clear," and asked for some advice on hers.

Some time in my mid-to-late twenties, however, I started getting more noticeable flare-ups. I chocked them up to stress, to my IUD, to low quality makeup, to tainted makeup, to dairy, to sweets, to bad cleansers, to shampoos, or hair products. Nothing I changed in my regimen, nothing I did, seemed to make a difference. I moved on to using cosmetics that were heavier in an effort to conceal cystic acne and angry, lingering red spots. It was painful and embarrassing, especially as a beauty writer.

With the help of a period tracker app, which also allowed me to keep track of symptoms, I watched a pattern emerge.

Without fail, one to two weeks before my period, I'd get a bout of angry cystic acne on my cheeks and jawline. Seeing the proof, month after month over a course of two years, led me to research treatments for hormonal acne. And that's when I was introduced to a tiny pill called Spironolactone. It's a steroid medicine often used for edema and hypertension, but it's also commonly prescribed for hormonal acne.

Finally, last fall, I signed up for PocketDerm. Lo and behold, my dermatologist put me on a course of 50mg/day Spironolactone. I was nervous to take a medication, as it was the first ongoing prescription I've ever had. I'd also read reviews that said I may experience side effects such as a major flare-up during the first month of use, as well as weight fluctuation. I decided it was worth it and went for it. I have yet to experience a single noteworthy side effect.

The results were nearly immediate.

I started noticing my skin clearing up within a week, and after a month, my flare-ups had subsided almost completely.

I still get an occasional blemish, but they are much tinier, not nearly as painful, and they go away quickly. At this point, I cannot recall the last time I had anything cystic. I've also noticed that my pores, in general, are much smaller.

Here I am, six months later. It's funny to think that a small pill could make such a huge difference in my appearance and my confidence. Not only do I feel brave enough to head into the world without any makeup on at all, I also have more fun trying new makeup looks.

Our skin isn't the end all, be all of us. Not even close. Still, dealing with acne makes for some hard times, and I'm so glad I finally found something to get it under control.

  • Have you ever considered a prescription for acne treatment?
  • What's the one thing that finally worked for your skin?
  • Do you have any questions about Spiro?