Woman whose cystic acne left her in ‘extreme pain’ and suicidal finds ‘life-changing’ treatment


An Illinois woman’s acne caused cysts so bad — and so resistant to medication — that she bled all over her face and grew suicidal, checking into a mental hospital — but a new treatment has saved her live. 

Isabella Miller, 20, started suffering from severe acne in her early teens, and within months was diagnosed with cystic acne and put on several different medications, but he blemishes and cysts eventually grew so bad that she would wake up with blood and pus staining her pillow.

After years of suffering, the Chicago college student became depressed and suicidal and checked into a mental hospital for treatment — but now she has started a new acne treatment that has made a big difference and become a ‘life changer.’

Tragic: An Illinois woman’s acne caused cysts so bad — and so resistant to medication — that she bled all over her face and grew suicidal

Struggle: Isabella Miller, 20, started suffering from severe acne in her early teens, and within months was diagnosed with cystic acne and put on several different medications

Struggle: Isabella Miller, 20, started suffering from severe acne in her early teens, and within months was diagnosed with cystic acne and put on several different medications

Relief! After years of suffering, the Chicago college student has started a new acne treatment that has made a big difference and become a 'life changer'

Relief! After years of suffering, the Chicago college student has started a new acne treatment that has made a big difference and become a ‘life changer’

Isabella’s acne issues began in November 2014. She experienced an outbreak of pimples across her forehead, which soon spread across her entire face.  

‘I first noticed the signs of acne during my freshman year in high school, where I had pimples develop mostly on my forehead which then spread to the lower areas of my face during my sophomore-junior year and it was very painful, uncomfortable and itchy as I had very bad combination skin,’ she said.

Isabella recalls feeling uncomfortable constantly as her skin was itchy and painful to touch. 

‘I became extremely aware of myself as my face always felt like it was dirty, even if I had just showered,’ she recalled.

‘I couldn’t leave the house without a full face of makeup and on some days, I couldn’t even recognize myself in the mirror which caused severe anxiety as I was constantly making sure that my skin looked okay.

She discussed the problem with her mother, who chalked it up to ‘problem teenage skin,’ but Isabella knew it was more than that. 

‘I always knew that it was far more serious than that and would take intense treatment to help it go away,’ she said. ‘However, everyone in my close circle of friends was very supportive of me but I couldn’t shake the thought of it from my mind.

Not normal: After she began suffering acne as a teen, she discussed the problem with her mother, who chalked it up to 'problem teenage skin,' but Isabella knew it was more than that

Not normal: After she began suffering acne as a teen, she discussed the problem with her mother, who chalked it up to ‘problem teenage skin,’ but Isabella knew it was more than that

'I always knew that it was far more serious than that and would take intense treatment to help it go away,' she said

'I was treated so negatively by those outside of my close circle, and I remember one time in high school where a guy I was talking to asked me if I washed my face which really hurt me because I was taking such good care of my skin,' she remembere

‘I always knew that it was far more serious than that and would take intense treatment to help it go away,’ she said

‘I was treated so negatively by those outside of my close circle, and I remember one time in high school where a guy I was talking to asked me if I washed my face which really hurt me because I was taking such good care of my skin,’ she remembered.

She first visited her doctor in May 2015 and was diagnosed with cystic acne, a severe type of acne that leads to inflammation and infection. 

She was referred to a dermatologist who prescribed her topical and oral medications, which only burned her skin and didn’t fully solve the issue. 

‘Different dermatologists … tried a range of different treatments but none of those ever fully solved the problem until I was prescribed an antibiotic called doxycycline in September 2015, which cleared my skin in three months,’ she said.

‘However, my dermatologist then decided to take me off my medication and I went the whole summer of 2016 without it. 

‘Three weeks before the school year started, I suffered the worst flare up I’ve ever experienced all over my cheeks which majorly affected my confidence.

Next, she was put on spironolactone, a hormone balancer, in May 2017, which helped. 

Help! After getting a diagnosis of cystic acne, she tried several different medications over the years

Help! After getting a diagnosis of cystic acne, she tried several different medications over the years

Rough: It would get so bad that cysts would grow on top of other cysts, and she's wake up to blood on her pillow

Rough: It would get so bad that cysts would grow on top of other cysts, and she’s wake up to blood on her pillow

‘But medication was never a permanent solution and as soon as I was taken off them, my skin would break out,’ she said.

‘I would also use prescribed face washes, lotions and acne cream to keep my skin clean whilst trying to dry out the cysts on my face, and I remember this one face wash which cleared my skin but gave me a crippling eye infection that left me in a dark room with swollen eyelids — I just couldn’t win.

‘I felt completely helpless, like all the effort I was putting in was futile because no matter how well I took care of my skin, I was still having more breakouts that would develop before the last one could even heal,’ she said.

Isabella’s skin and mental health took a sharp decline in October 2019 due to a toxic breakup, which caused extreme stress. She suffered a terrible flareup, which left her skin with cysts growing upon cysts and almost no clear areas.

‘I felt like my face was one big cyst and my skin texture was so uneven, as it was lumpy and because it looked so gross, I kept picking off all the whiteheads which would only make my skin worse and I found myself caught in a vicious cycle,’ she said. 

She would wake up in the morning with blood and puss on her pillow from where she had picked the spots in her sleep.

'I felt so ugly and couldn’t even remember what I looked like under all that redness and I started to become extremely depressed and suicidal,' she said

‘I felt so ugly and couldn’t even remember what I looked like under all that redness and I started to become extremely depressed and suicidal,’ she said

Getting help: She checked into a mental hospital on two occasions, and then, in April of 2020, she found a solution that works

Getting help: She checked into a mental hospital on two occasions, and then, in April of 2020, she found a solution that works

She also suffered from face dysmorphia, wherein she didn’t even recognize herself anymore

‘I felt so ugly and couldn’t even remember what I looked like under all that redness and I started to become extremely depressed and suicidal where I would constantly think about wanting to die and I didn’t trust myself anymore — so I was admitted to a mental hospital,’ she said.   

At the hospital, she was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and bipolar and started receiving treatment. But she relapsed in March of 2020 and was hospitalized again.  

‘My skin at this point was in a constant state of dull pain and itchiness with sharp twinges of extreme pain whenever a new pimple was growing and it got so bad that I couldn’t even wash my face because my skin was so raw and sensitive,’ she said.

She felt like there was ‘no escape’ until April of 2020, when her mother, Sarah Vanhagen, 49, heard about a sensitive skin treatment from her friend.

It had just three simple steps: a cream cleanser, an acne-clearing cream, and a sensitive skin cream.  

How-to: It had just three simple steps: a cream cleanser, and acne-clearing cream, and a sensitive skin cream

How-to: It had just three simple steps: a cream cleanser, and acne-clearing cream, and a sensitive skin cream

'After one month, my skin started to clear and felt soothed for the first time in years and I don’t know what I would have done without it — it’s been a life changer,' she said

‘After one month, my skin started to clear and felt soothed for the first time in years and I don’t know what I would have done without it — it’s been a life changer,’ she said

She said: 'Although I still suffer from minor flare ups every now and again, my skin is nowhere near as bad as it used to be'

Isabella decided to post about her journey on TikTok, where she received positive feedback from other social media users

She said: ‘Although I still suffer from minor flare ups every now and again, my skin is nowhere near as bad as it used to be’

'I hope people who are also suffering from conditions like mine know that there are people who understand what you’re going through and you’re not isolated in this journey,' she said

‘I hope people who are also suffering from conditions like mine know that there are people who understand what you’re going through and you’re not isolated in this journey,’ she said

‘After one month, my skin started to clear and felt soothed for the first time in years and I don’t know what I would have done without it — it’s been a life changer,’ she said. 

‘Although I still suffer from minor flare ups every now and again, my skin is nowhere near as bad as it used to be and I have my new treatment and working on keeping my stress levels low to thank for that.’

Isabella decided to post about her journey on TikTok, where she received positive feedback from other social media users.

‘My family and friends are so ecstatic for me and they all tell me how much better and healthier my skin looks. I have also received an influx of support from people on TikTok, where I posted about my cystic acne journey and it’s nice to know that I’m not alone,’ she said.

‘I hope people who are also suffering from conditions like mine know that there are people who understand what you’re going through and you’re not isolated in this journey — remind yourself that you’re still beautiful with or without acne and it doesn’t define who you are.’



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