Sabeena Ahmed with Shamsun Nisa (Nani) celebrating fairtrade fortnight in Karachi Pakistan 2015
Hello, I'm Sabeena, a fairtrade campaigner, educator and social entrepreneur.
I've struggled with cystic, hormonal acne and sensitive and reactive skin for over 30 years.
For all those who suffer with or have cystic and hormonal acne, I can empathise and understand the physical, mental and emotional stress and pain you experience on a daily basis.
Its affected my confidence and how I felt for most of my life.
Acne is painful, frustrating and soul destroying.
It stops you from being the person you want to be.
For most days of my life it has been an ever vicious circle of anxiety, waking up to new painful cysts, acne and rosacea, not to mention the horrified looks from friends and family who just don't understand.
Sadly, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Endometriosis 2004, which was a factor that caused my hormonal acne.
Over the years I've heard comments like...
'What's the red bulb on your face?'
'Please go and see a doctor I can't look at your face!'
'What's happened to your face, etc etc etc?
I've never been a heavy social media user, but do feel that beauty norms and standards portrayed in the media and online are unhealthy and put immense pressure on individuals to look perfect.
I've only ever wanted clear healthy glowing skin and I hope by writing this blog it will help other women in the South East Asian community (The Pakistani/Indian Diaspora) to open up about beauty, acne, skin whitening, PCOS, Endometriosis and all the other issues affecting women that nobody wants to talk about because it makes them feel uncomfortable.
To be very honest, I haven't had the heart to wear make up because I've always endured painful acne and sensitive skin.
I don't know how to apply make up and am very weary of cosmetics that contain parabens such as, methylparaben, propylparaben, butlyparaben, triclosan, triclocarbon, and diethylphthalate (DEP), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and (SLES) sodium laureth sulphate that are linked to breast cancer. I have also learnt it is better to avoid products that list fragrance or parfum.
I'd love to learn what vegan, fair trade organic cruelty free make up would be suitable for my sensitive acne prone skin.
If you're a Make Up artist who works with vegan ethical cosmetics and acne prone skin I'd love to hear from you.
It doesn't help when everyone in my family has perfect healthy glowing skin.
Look at my beautiful Mum, what a gorgeous smile and glowing skin.
Bless her soul!
My beautiful Mum (Amee) with healthy glowing clear skin before she returned to her maker
I started to have horrible painful acne during my teenage and early twenties.
The GP always dismissed my acne as nothing and told me to go away.
Dalactin T topical lotion was the go to acne treatment prescribed by my GP when on one occasion he said 'What's wrong with your face?'
Yes! Very helpful and comforting (NOT).
I have struggled with cystic acne from 15 years old to the present.
It wasn't until I was 30 when I was finally diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Endometriosis. This was a pivotal moment in my life as I finally discovered why I endured acne. Yes, it was partly genetics. Thanks Dad!
The gynaecologist was amazing and told me my acne was a caused by the PCOS and Endometriosis.
My GP in London recommended a fabulous dermatologist Dr Goolam Ali at the Clementine Churchill Hospital, Sudbury, London.
He took one look at my skin and told me use Quinoderm 5 and prescribed Doxycycline tablets for 12 months.
The Quinoderm changed my life and I finally had clear skin.
I wish I had taken photographs of my before and after the Doxycycline and Quinoderm.
PGCE (ESOL) PCET Graduation Ceremony at the University of Greenwich London, UK 2005
Here I am at my PGCE graduation with clear glowing skin.
I had been taking the Doxycycline for about a year combined with the Quinoderm and had gained 2 stones.
Over the years and while living as an expat in Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates I've met many dermatologists, some good others not so.
Over the past 5 years I've stuck with a lovely Dermatologist called Dr Bina Rabadia based at the Dubai London Clinic, Jumeirah branch.
From 2004-2018 I religiously used the Decléor's Paris skin care range.
The Harmonie range soothed my red irritated skin and the Neroli Night balm calmed my angry cystic acne.
I had 90% clear skin and could cope with the hormonal acne breakout during my menstrual cycle with dabs of Quinoderm.
Being a fair trade campaigner I chose to use the vegan, organic, fairtrade Odylique range for about 9 months between November 2019 and August 2020 but sadly my cystic acne continued to be problematic.
During late 2018 I read that Decléors had been purchased by L'oreal who test on animals and I stopped using their products.
I had to revisit my dermatologist August 2020 who prescribed Zineryt for my red itchy, cystic acne prone skin.
It cleared my skin for 8 weeks but my cystic acne but due to personal issues and stress my cystic acne was the worst I have experienced since 2004.
It has been devastating for my confidence and mental health.
On a happier note and after much research I found a company called Facetheory and read reviews of other cystic/hormonal acne sufferers who had found their products beneficial.
I ordered their acne range November 2020 and have reviewed their Acne Range below.
I has been important to also support fairtrade businesses in the UK and I decided to try the 3 in 1 Maca Mask and Balancing Citrus Super Tonic by Odylique and Essential Care Ltd for my cystic and hormonal acne outbreaks.
For past two years (2018-2020) my skin has been awful. By awful I mean weekly breakouts, large blind cystic acne and rosacea.
My decision to stop using Decleors wasn't thought out carefully and I failed to find a skin care range suitable for my acne prone sensitive reactive skin.
I have found that the Odylique 3 in 1 Maca Mask has helped to clear my pores.
I apply it to my skin every 4-5 days which is particularly helpful before you feel a cystic bump appear before your menstrual cycle.
Product: Odylique 3 in 1 Maca Mask and Balancing Citrus Super Tonic
Odylique Maca 3 in 1
Odylique Maca 3 in 1 and Balancing Citrus Super Tonic
Odylique Maca 3 in 1 and Balancing Citrus Super Toni review by Sabeena Ahmed
Verdict: Once again I was apprehensive to these products. I needn't have worried.
The Maca Mask is a must have for all cystic/acne sufferers.
I've been using the mask and tonic every 5-7 days and can honestly say my skin feels smooth, rejuvenated and nourished.
It is a little messy making the correct consistency but who cares its natural and organic.
The mask and toner combined leave a tingling sensation on your face.
I leave the mask on my face until it is dry and wash with warm water.
I would highly recommend both these products to those who suffer from adult cystic acne, sensitive and reactive skin.
Purifying, mineralising Clays, Polishing Sugar Cane (Fairtrade),
Replenishing amino acid-rich Maca, Revitalising Vitamin C and
Mineral Rich Boabob, Soothing and antioxidant Oat, Toning Mint and Myrtle.
For the past 9 months I have tried to improve my diet and lose weight in the process.
I have gradually stopped eating dairy, this includes Almond milk in my porridge, I have consciously removed cheese from my diet and have reduced my consumption of red meat, biscuits and chocolate. Dark Chocolate 60-70% is still my weakness.
I have increased my intake of fresh fruits and veggies in particular broccoli, carrots, sweet potato and salads and decided to eat gluten free bread and pastries wherever I can find them.
I plan to take seed cycling at the end of this year and continue in the New Year.
I also plan to walk and take up more activities to help with my shoulders circulation and mobility once this pandemic is over.
Garden salad with walnuts
Over the next few months I hope to answer the following questions.
What is Seed Cycling?
What action I need to take?
It is my aim to write my account of seed cycling in the New Year (2021).
Facetheory are a successful skin care company based in Sheffield, United Kingdom
Facetheory is a brand on a mission to make products affordable. The company prides itself on promoting their vegan and cruelty free ethos and specialise in treating sensitive, reactive acne prone skin.
After 30 years of cystic, hormonal acne and reactive and sensitive skin.
I have endured 3 years of upsetting and painful cystic and hormonal acne.
Below is my honest account of trying the Facetheory Acne Range.
I purchased the range mid November 2020 and have been using it alongside the Odylique 3 in 1 Maca Mask and Balancing Super Citrus Tonic.
Facetheory product box, love the sustainable recyclable box
Facetheory Acne Range
Products I tested November 2020 include the following:
Clarifying Cleanser C2 with Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid and Lactic Acid
Porebright Serum N10 with 10% Niacinamide and Hyaluronic Acid and
Supergel Oil Free Moisturiser M3 for Oily and Acne prone skin
Product: Clarifying Cleanser C2 with Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid and Lactic Acid
I was worried and sceptical about using a new skin care range. I have acne prone sensitive reactive skin. I was only convinced to purchase when I read positive reviews by other cystic acne sufferers.
My skin produces excess sebum which blocks my pores creating black heads which often become inflamed painful blind cystic acne.
I've been using this cleanser for the past 6 weeks. The cleanser is fast acting I can actually feel it working deep into my pores. It does have a tingling sensation if you are using it for the first time, but don't worry it will gradually reduce once you include this as part of your daily skin routine.
Super effective it has helped to reduce my inflammation on new hormonal acne and has helped to smooth my skin especially those unsightly white bumps the dermatologists said would never reduce in size.
My hormonal cystic acne has reduced 75%, my acne hasn't disappeared but it has helped to reduce the cysts in size.
I only need a very small amount less than a pea to absorb into moist skin.
I don't like the smell and I can only use it once a day, I hope to build resistance slowly so that I can use the cleanser twice daily.
Love the sustainable packaging and the fact that there no parabens, phthalates, other sulphates used to produce this cleanser.
Highly recommended and would like to try the Glycolic Exfoliating Cleanser for my bacne.
DIRECTIONS: Apply it on wet skin and let it absorb in the skin for a minute.
AVOCADO Easily absorbed and high in antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids.
GLYCOLIC ACID 4%An alpha hydroxy acid that helps exfoliate skin cells by breaking down their bonds.
LACTIC ACID 1%An alpha hydroxy acid that helps exfoliate skin by breaking down the material that binds together skin cells.
SALICYLIC ACID 2%A beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid helps regenerate skin cells and resurfaces your skin to leave it soft and bright.
SWEET ALMOND OIL This non-volatile, non-fragrant, non-irritating oil is extracted from almond seeds. A rich source of triglycerides and oleic, linoleic, and myristic fatty acids.
Clarifying Cleanser C2 is specially formulated for oily and congested skin and doubles as a glycolic face peel. A powerful triple blend of alpha and beta hydroxy acids purifies pores and minimises redness while gently resurfacing your skin. Available scented or unscented. The scented option contains cold-pressed mandarin essential oil.
Source Face Theory website
Product: Porebright Serum N10 with 10% Niacinamide and Hyaluronic Acid
I've been using the Porebright Serum N10 sparingly and only on acne breakouts, scars and blind cysts. The serum has a sticky consistency and reduces inflammation especially during your menstrual cycle. Its like MAGIC!
I was worried about using the serum on my very sensitive reactive skin, I used a tiny amount on my cystic acne, acne scars and large pores. It did sting on the first few occasions, I feel the active ingredients were working on my skin. It was slightly unpleasant but the sensation disappeared over the following days.
The only slight drawback was I could not use the serum on a daily basis and had to leave a gap of a day or two before reapplying.
6 weeks into the regime I feel my skin is clearer and I love to use this serum on problematic areas before I go to sleep.
Highly recommended for acne/cystic acne sufferers.
ALOE VERA Nature’s astringent clarifies excess sebum while soothing and hydrating skin.
CHAMOMILE EXTRACT A potent antioxidant that soothes tired skin. Contains an amazing range of flavenoids including quercetin and apegenin.
GREEN TEA EXTRACT Green tea contains a range of polyphenols, which have proven anti-oxidant effects in protecting skin. The extract we use is a super-pure grade, giving a high percentage of epigallocatechin.
HYALURONIC ACID Protects skin’s water balance and maintains its moisture level, which aids absorption of active ingredients and keeps skin soft, supple and hydrated.
LACTIC ACID An alpha hydroxy acid that helps exfoliate skin by breaking down the material that binds together skin cells.
SALICYLIC ACIDA beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid helps regenerate skin cells and resurfaces your skin to leave it soft and bright.
VITAMIN C (SODIUM ASCORBYL PHOSPHATE) Vitamin C is an essential antioxidant that helps defend skin from free radicals and reduces environmental damage. This product contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a stable salt of l-ascorbic acid associated with less sensitivity than its counterparts.
Product: Supergel Oil Free Moisturiser M3 for Oily and Acne prone skin
Once again I was apprehensive to use the moisturiser. I needn't have worried.
The gel is gentle, absorbent and leaves a healthy fresh dewy glow.
I've been using the gel for 6 weeks at night. I haven't built up the resistance to use it twice a day
My skin has felt clean, nourished, soft and has been glowing in the morning.
I would highly recommend all three products to those who suffer from adult cystic acne, sensitive and reactive skin.
The photographs below are an honest reflection of my cysts and acne.
I started to use the Face Theory range mid November 2020.
A cyst healing on my right cheek and lots of white bumps on my lopsided chin
Awful embarrassing angry cysts caused by a combination of stress and viatex
Six Weeks of Using Face Theory - the cysts on my right cheek have decreased somewhat but not completely
I will upload photographs over the next year to show any further improvement in my skin especially the cysts.
Late June 2021 - 24 Weeks of Using Face Theory
June 2021 Photo
My face is a lot clearer but hyper-pigmentation and a cyst above the jaw line remains
I'm really pleased that I ordered the Odylique Maca 3 in 1 Mask and the Facetheory range. The reduction in breakouts has been noticeable and I feel my skin has improved in texture and my pores have decreased around 50%.
My blind cysts have reduced in size but the hyperpigmentation is frustrating stubborn.
Its been a rough three years struggling with cystic and hormonal acne.
Due to my sensitive skin it has only been possible to use the Facetheory range once a day.
I'm incredibly impressed with the Odylique 3 in 1 Mask which has helped to clear and clean my clogged pores.
I am relieved to find two skincare product ranges that help prevent cystic and hormonal acne and have not caused major contraindications.
I hope to continue with my new skin care regime, dairy and gluten free diet and start exercising to improve my circulation and stamina.
A few trips to the dermatologist may help with my stubborn cystic acne.
I hope to write an update next year.
As a lady in her mid 40's I've never used makeup due to my acne prone skin.
I truly admire all the ladies on social media who show their acne with pride and are gifted to use make up like magic. I truly wish I was that talented.
Over the next few months I will be researching the best vegan, organic, cruelty free and fairtrade ranges for my skin and hope to write a blog next year.
Acne does not define you!
For those struggling with acne please be kind to yourself, find your tribe and those who love you and help you to achieve your dreams and ambitions.
For my fellow acne heroes, you are brave and beautiful, don't give up to find a skin care range that suits your skin and please don't struggle with your skin in silence.
Thank you so much for reading and I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2021!
Love, peace and blessings
This month I continued to heal from my shoulder procedure (January 2022) and am learning to live with pain in my right shoulder.
I participated in several webinars the first being the January 2023, World Pulse Changemaker Lab Live webinar about self-care.
The second webinar was organised by the Civil Society Consulting team and struggled to complete Modules 3, 4 and 5 of the Changemaker Lab 2022 Program.
This month I continued to heal from my shoulder procedure (January 2022) and learning to live with pain in my right shoulder.
I participated in several webinars the first being the November World Pulse Changemaker Lab Live webinar for Module 5.
The second, third and fourth webinars were Zoom Webinars organised by the World Pulse PIE Steering Committee, World Pulse Changemaker Lab team and Your Voice Heard Online Training team.
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