My painful journey in treating severe acne

Wednesday December 12 2018


By Salome Gregory

Ugly, hideous, horrible. These were some of the words I have borne since puberty. During my teen years, I tried everything to treat pimples on my face – from home remedies to over-the-counter drugs but nothing seemed to work.

I was tired of the shaming and it reached a point where I just learnt to accept the way I looked; with big red and black bumps on my face.

It was until May this year when I experienced strange, huge boils on my face that caused pain. It made me look and feel very uncomfortable and I came across a lot of unpleasant comments and questions.

This time around, I couldn’t ignore the problem. That’s when I thought of all the possible treatments, including browsing social media sites for a dermatologist’s contact. I got one and decided to visit Dr Mboneko at his medical clinic based in Mbezi, Dar es Salaam specifically for this skin issue.

That weird moment

Upon arriving at the clinic, I registered for Sh30,000 and I found myself waiting for the doctor with six other women. Some came covering the face while others avoided eye contact because of their skin issues. I thought, I’m not alone in this.


When I entered the consultation room to see the doctor, I had preconceived answers to the questions I thought he might ask. But I was wrong. I was told by my doctor to remove part of my underclothes. It felt awkward and I was taken aback. I asked myself, ‘what does my face issue have anything to do with removing my bra?’ He noticed how uncomfortable I was and that’s when he explained that it was important for him to observe if there is any unusual hair growth and to see if it was a hormonal problem. He gave me space to think over it and later I half-heartedly agreed to be checked.

After the observation, he diagnosed me with what is called cystic ane; a severe type of acne in which the pores of the skin gets blocked, leading to infection and inflammation. This skin condition mainly affects the face and most often affects adolescents and young adults, with an estimated 80 per cent of people between 11 and 30 years of age experiencing acne at some point.


I paid about Sh80,000 for the medication he prescribed that involved pills and creams. With instructions on application, I was also told to drink four litres of water a day that has been my routine till date.

After a month of treatment, the situation got worse. The pimples on my face got a lot bigger. With my nature of work where I have to meet new people almost every day, it got difficult. At one of the international events, I was told by the participants to go back home till I got cured. And people kept on reiterating the same thing.

I also remember one of my good friends was asked by a colleague what was wrong with my face as she could not look at me twice and her body was shaking in fear due to the big pimples I had.

When I visited the doctor in August, that is a month later, I was told to ignore all the negative comments and continue with the treatment. Struggling with four litres of water a day, one pill each day, stopping myself from touching and squeezing pimples was too much to accommodate negative comments from different people. I kept my focus.

Surprisingly, my face started clearing up during the third month of my treatment. At each visit I would spend more than Sh100,000 for medicine and consultation. At times, I was even given an injection.

Things have improved now. The pain has gone and moreover the stigma and negative comments have become a history. I am still on medication and regularly visit the doctor. I am happy with my skin but the journey hasn’t been easy.