What it really feels like to have severe acne

Ella is a young woman battling severe acne. She has called upon internationally renowned dermatologist, Dr. Nick Lowe, to help her in overcoming her skin’s condition. This is the first in a series of posts that will follow Ella’s skin journey

My name is Ella Gourlay. Dog lover, sister, food enthusiast, holiday addict, daughter, friend, shopaholic. All these things describe me perfectly but the one thing that has defined me the most for the last nine years is my acne. Since the age of 13 I have struggled with my skin, not knowing why it is the way it is or how to make it better. When I say I have tried everything to make it better I really mean everything! From the super-expensive skincare, the crazy at-home remedies and months on the strongest medication.

Since the age of 13 I have struggled with my skin, not knowing why it is the way it is or how to make it better.

In this blog I want to take you on my journey with an expert dermatologist, Dr. Nick Lowe, to try to cure my acne and give you an insight to the treatment, support, lifestyle changes, medication, skincare and emotions along the way. It’s not going to be an overnight miracle but I am hoping by the end of it I will get to a place where I am not thinking about the state of my skin 99.9 per cent of the day and no longer worry that when I meet people for the first time all they see is an acne sufferer.

 I am hoping by the end of this treatment journey I will get to a place where I am not thinking about the state of my skin 99.9% of the day.

My journey so far

As anyone who has suffered from bad skin will know, it’s not as easy as just using a spot cleanser/gel from the supermarket to get rid of it. There are so many misconceptions around having acne – mainly from the lucky people who were blessed with amazing skin! ‘You must never wash your face’, ‘You wear too much makeup’, ‘You eat too much sugar’, ‘Why don’t you do anything about it?’ – throughout my time at school I was faced with comments like this on a daily basis, sometimes even from people on the street/bus. Some people genuinely try to be helpful, others are just ignorant and insensitive to the fact that your self esteem has already been crushed a thousand times that day from whenever you have caught a glimpse of your own reflection.

Ella young, Ella's 1st skin blog, by

Ella at a young age

​At the age of 13 my skin started to show signs of acne and after starting to use a gentle cleanser and moisturizer it just seemed to get worse and worse. Having just started secondary school it was the worst time it could have happened. I did what most young girls would do and started smothering my face in makeup, which of course didn’t help. I just didn’t understand, why me? Why couldn’t I have perfect skin like all my friends? What was I doing wrong? Those years at secondary school completely destroyed my self-confidence, I thought everyone I spoke to was judging me, and when my friends started getting their first boyfriends I didn’t think anyone would be interested in me. I started trying different skincare products/ranges, which my poor parents had to pay for! Every time I tried something new, I got my hopes up thinking it would cure my acne, which unfortunately it never did.  Some made it worse, some calmed it a little, but what I did learn is that buying the most expensive skincare will not guarantee better results!

I just didn’t understand, why me? Why couldn’t I have perfect skin like all my friends?

​At the same time, I had started seeing my doctor. Over the next couple of years they would prescribe me every antibiotic, cream and gel available, but with no apparent results I would start to get disheartened and give up after a couple of months. This led to being referred to the hospital and having a very traumatic Roaccutane experience. Roaccutane is a vitamin-A based cream that is prescribed for very severe acne. I was on it for about five months, my face literally felt like it was peeling off and I started to suffer from severe depression. My skin did improve but because of how it was making me feel, I was taken off of it. Throughout the next few years the condition of my skin went up and down, sometimes I could live with it, other times I would want to lock myself in a dark room, cry and feel sorry for myself, not want to go to work or even out in public.

I would want to lock myself in a dark room, cry and feel sorry for myself, not want to go to work or even out in public.

People say it’s shallow to care that much about how you look and yes, there are people dying and suffering throughout the world with much worse conditions and illnesses, but living with acne does completely change your life. It is never ever far from your mind. I worry about going on holiday and having to be makeup-free, I would never, ever go to work without having a full face of makeup on, even when I start at 6am. And I HATE having my picture taken.

Ella with a full face of make up on

The Future

Earlier this year I decided I had had enough and didn’t want acne to rule my life any more. I was meant to go out with a friend and when I went to get ready, I was so upset about my skin, I ended up not going out. Through a recommendation of a family friend I decided to make an appointment to see Dr Nick Lowe at his Cranley Clinic in London. Dr Lowe is an internationally renowned dermatologist with more than 30 years’ experience. I am so excited to start this journey with him and his amazing team – especially his dermatology nurse Davinia, a specialist in acne treatment, who has been the absolute light at the end of a very long dark tunnel. I am so thankful for the support I have already been given from them. (In two weeks you can read my blog all about my treatment).

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this blog! I really hope my journey with acne and my upcoming treatment will be able to help others and show you that there is treatments out there that can help, even when like me you had given up all hope.

Keep following for my next blog, which will be all about my first consultation and the start of my treatment/skin care/medication. If you have any questions please leave them below or I would love to hear about your own acne experiences, email me at –

Check back with in a fortnight for more about exactly what happened in my treatments.

​Ella xxx

< Back

Also in this week’s magazine


The eczema diet – 5 foods that can help your flaky skin

From probiotics to turmeric, certain foods can help lower the inflammatory response that triggers dry, itchy, and flaky skin 

organic shower gels feature

9 best organic shower gels for sensitive skin

The kind to both the planet and your skin - and they smell delicious


Could the new collagen diet help you lose weight and get glowing skin?

Absolutely, says bestselling author Dr Josh Axe in his new book, The Collagen Diet


The beauty diet – 5 ways to eat for acne

Our beauty diet series continues with nutritionist Olga Hamilton - this week, foods to eat if you have pimples

glowing skin FEATURE

The beauty diet – 5 ways to eat for glowing skin

It's easier than you think to eat yourself gorgeous, says nutritionist Olga Hamilton.

5 best anti-ageing face massages FEATURED

5 best anti-ageing face massages for glowing skin

We're addicted to doing these fast, easy techniques that deliver glowing skin in four minutes or less

Latest Video Series


Wellness Weekly

I agree to my personal data being stored and used to receive the Healthista newsletter.