A Co Down student who battled mental health issues linked to severe acne has been able to go out with no make-up for the first time in 11 years after discovering a "miracle" cure.
Amy Jamison (23) from Loughries near Newtownards suffered such severe skin problems that she developed body dysmorphia and had to receive counselling.
In a brave step to try and deal with the chronic anxiety which overshadowed her teenage years, she set up an Instagram account in February aimed at people with acne.
And as a result, she was offered the chance to try a treatment made from mustard and after just three months has enjoyed her first ever two weeks of clear skin. A delighted Amy says: "For me, the effects have been virtually miraculous. I'm so stoked to finally have products that actually work for my skin after more than 10 years of suffering. I still have my bad days with my acne, and I know I'll always have a spot here and there, but it's most definitely nowhere near as bad as it used to be and it's still improving week by week.
"I just broke my personal record of being completely cyst-free for almost two weeks."
The wonder creams which Amy now uses daily are a range from cosmetics company Clarol and are the first non-medical products she has used on her face.
Over the years Amy, who is currently doing an Access course at college with plans to go to university to study psychology, has spent hundreds of pounds on acne treatments in what she describes as "almost an obsession".
She was just 13 when she developed the skin condition and believes that people generally don't realise how severe it can be and how it impacts on mental wellbeing.
She explains: "I cried when I got my first big break out. Some of my friends had spots but no one had it as bad as me.
"I was very self-conscious of my skin. I tried to hide it with concealer and make-up and spent all of my pocket money on the newest acne face wash or treatment.
"Unlike everyone else whose acne disappeared once they reached their late teens, my struggle just got worse.
"Even during good patches there are always at least one or two cysts on my face and during a breakout my whole face is covered in acne."
Two years ago, Amy was diagnosed by a doctor as having severe acne and tried a range of antibiotics and creams. She also attended a dermatologist.
While initially antibiotics appeared to work, when the course was finished her acne came back with a vengeance and was even worse than before.
The Co Down woman says: "Most of the topical creams I was prescribed would irritate my skin or make my acne worse.
"My anxiety levels would also increase when my acne worsened following antibiotics or creams. Some face washes made for acne from the chemist have irritated my skin and even brought me out in rashes.
"I have also tried natural oil cleansing treatments using cold pressed oil. This would have been around November last year.
"It didn't work as well as I would've liked it to. I also tried microdermabrasion around the same time but this didn't work either, which was unfortunate as I was excited to try it."
The impact on her confidence has been severe.
For years she has been too self-conscious to go out without make-up and missed out on sleepovers with her friends because she didn't want to take her make-up off in front of them.
Her attendance at school and later at Glastry College also suffered as her acne triggered bouts of anxiety.
In school she had to endure insults from other students because of her skin.
She also developed body dysmorphia, a mental health disorder in which you obsess about your appearance.
Amy reveals: "I obsessed over how I looked and had anxiety every day and would have taken panic attacks and still do.
"I got cognitive behavioural therapy which helped me to deal with it; I feel so blessed I had the option to have therapy for my mental health problems. I don't think many people know how acne affects you physically and mentally, and it's something we need to create awareness of and be open about."
A turning point for Amy came in January of this year when she suffered her worst ever breakout of cysts which developed all over her face.
She decided to try and do something positive by setting up an Instagram page devoted to her acne with the hope of reaching out to others who were also suffering.
She recalls: "It was terrible and it lasted a month and when the cysts did eventually go away they left scaring.
"Mentally I was in a terrible place. I was irritated, angry and upset; I couldn't even lay my head on my pillow to get a decent night's sleep as it was so painful.
"I decided to do something positive and set up my Instagram page (@polkadotted_babe) devoted to my acne.
"Before I set up the page, I would never go out in public without make-up on and so it was a really big step posting pictures of myself with no make-up online for everyone to see.
"I am so glad now that I did. The page has helped me to deal with it in a positive way by supporting other people with acne.
"It has made me aware of just how many people actually deal with skin problems, and it has made me feel so much more confident and better about having a bad skin day.
"I'm so thankful for all my friends on my Instagram who've supported me."
Through Instagram Amy was approached by Clarol and offered the chance to try some products for her skin.
She started using them three months ago when she had several large cysts on her face.
Amy explains: "The type of cyst I had usually takes two weeks or more to start to disappear.
"Within two days of using Clarol's Sebopure, Silver Skin Flora Rebalancing Serum and the Silver & Birch Exfoliating wash, I noticed my cysts were actually receding and my skin felt a lot smoother and less angry than it usually would be.
"Within less than a week the cysts had gone. No product I have ever tried in the past has done this.
"I'm so excited about the lack of side-effects.
"I was so pleased to find that the Clarol products did not hurt my skin or feel uncomfortable when I applied them. Most acne products sting like mad when you use them and you can feel your skin getting irritated.
"The amazing thing is that they are also vegan, they aren't tested on animals, and they're more than 90% natural. Yet they actually work."
Since using the products she has been able to enjoy the freedom of going out with no make-up on for the first time.
She reveals: "I actually cried when my face cleared up so much that I had the confidence to go out without make-up for the first time.
"It was great and I have so much less anxiety now."
And she cautions: "Anyone with acne will know that what works for one person may not work the same for another, even prescription products, so I am not saying these products will work like this for everyone but they totally worked for me."
÷ Amy has been using the Clarol skincare range, which costs from £11.50 and is available from www.clarol.co.uk