Ottawa teen with acne shares hopeful message

Don’t be discouraged! That’s the hopeful message from 19-year-old Ella Gilbert of Ottawa, who has struggled with serious acne for many years.

Ella began developing acne at age 9 when her parents thought she had heat bumps. By age 12, acne spots were all over her face, neck, chest and back. She went to see a doctor and was put on birth control pills and given topicals to apply.

“In elementary school, I didn’t really care much about having acne but it started to get to me once I hit high school. I felt alienated for sure because I was the first one in my age group going through acne. I was embarrassed and wanted to fix it,” she says. An active teen, acne began to impact her everyday life. “When I was playing soccer and the heat hit my face, the acne stung.”

Ottawa teen acne

At age 14, Ella’s acne struggles continued and she went to see a dermatologist. She was prescribed isotretinoin (Accutane) and was under careful monitoring for many months. “Afterwards, my skin was perfectly clear – not a pimple in sight. It was the era of selfies and I remember I did not want to. But after treatment, I was like – bring it on.”

Ella continued with birth control and topicals. But her acne started to return… “The second time, the acne came back slowly and the spots would disappear but leave scars.”

On-line learning during Covid was tough. “Acne impacted me during on-line school because you get up to take a break. While most people might check themselves in the mirror, I could not look at myself for the longest time. I’d turn off my camera most of the time too.”

Ella went to see her dermatologist again. Another course of isotretinoin followed. Yet again, over time her skin cleared.

Ella credits family and friends for helping her get through the years of bad acne. “We went on the journey together, finding out what we could and researching on the Internet. Friends have helped too. It was difficult for them to relate but it did not change the way they saw me.”

Currently overcoming a third outbreak of acne, Ella has this advice: “It’s really important if acne is bothering you and affecting your everyday life to call the doctor. They will help you sort it out.”

“Don’t be discouraged. Obviously, it’s a tough process but you’ll get through to the other side. And find a good support system – people who won’t judge you.” Ella, who once considered becoming a dermatologist, heads into her second year studying psychology at Carleton University this month (September).

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