I'm Learning to Undo the Toxic Way of Thinking About My Acne Scars

The idea of having perfect skin is something everyone struggles with to some degree. If you’re blemish-free 99% of the time and one massive zit appears, just face it, you’re going to panic. But if you’re dealing with months, or even years, of prolonged acne and pimples, it’s hard acknowledging that feeling of defeat every time you look closely at your skin.

Then there is me, a girl with a lot more than just some odd zits here and there. As soon as teenhood began for me, so did my struggle with acne. And after years of having it, well into adulthood, I’ve gotten a sizable amount of the “aftermath” on my cheeks, chin and forehead. Yup, I mean acne scars, the cherry on top of skin worries.

From hyper- and hypo-pigmentation to skin indentations, these types of skin imperfections seem more serious, especially since acne scars can be so tough to heal. While carrying these spots on my face, I was met with many insecurities. How does someone like myself overcome the insecurities that accompany acne-prone skin? Like most self-confidence issues, it’s not a one-step solution, but a journey of self-care and self-love to slowly come to term with acne scars and accept your skin as beautiful, even if stubborn acne pops up here and there, and even if it leaves its mark on you for a long time.

Assess what you should change in taking care of your skin. 

For years, I ventured through Ulta Beauty, Sephora, and K-beauty shops to find the heaviest full-coverage foundation out there. Deep down I knew that if I put heavy foundation on every day, I risked clogging my pores and worsening my acne. It’s great to enjoy wearing makeup, but I think it should highlight your natural features ­– not hide them.

I realized only very recently, that I need to embrace the skin I have, scars and all. I have to see what I can do better in taking care of my face, but accept that I can’t control every situation that affects my skin either. Too, I didn’t just want to hide my scars because I believed they were ugly, I wanted to hide how I was making them worse.

I picked at my skin regularly, and I had to admit that to work to change that habit. When I did, then moving on and making it better became much easier because I knew in my heart I was doing everything I could possibly do to make them better.

Don’t blame yourself for your scars.

Acne is a natural thing; your genes simply coded for having it as opposed to not. And there are more people that do have acne, skin ailments and even acne scars than people don’t have them. My acne scars are a part of me, so I cannot hate them. I have to embrace that they are just another part of my body, and I will care for them. I deserve that self-love, and so do you.

I took progress videos of my skin as I used skincare products, and I remember how insecure they made me feel at first. I really had to look at my whole face instead of training myself to ignore the marks all over it. But I eventually, as I watched my skin in these videos, I became more used to my scars. It took so much time, but I transformed my mindset just a bit and it helped enormously. One day at the end of the year, I looked in the mirror, really looked at myself, at my scars. Instead of stressfully counting all the ones I had, I focused smiling into the mirror and acknowledging my beauty with all those marks on my face; I focused on feeling happy with the way I look even as scars grace my beautiful face. They are marks of who I am and how I can grow as a person.

Related: How To Deal With Acne on Your Back, Chest & Body

Don’t linger on how acne feels unfair.

When you’re told to just “love yourself”, sometimes you get more frustrated than comforted. I can’t just erase all the insecurities I feel when I see people with clear skin. I’m upset with the skin I was given, and still struggle with feeling hopeless and like it’s just unfair. I think, “It’s not fair, why do I have scars while their skin is clear?” Sometimes I even voice that to friends—“At least your skin isn’t like this.”

But when I do that, I neglect any insecurities that friend, that acquaintance, that Instagram model has. Everyone feels insecure about things, and we should focus on building each other up instead of comparing. Body image shouldn’t be a comparison game of the best skin, body, or hair.

Educate yourself about skincare.

I had to do a lot of research on steps to take to heal and fade my acne scars, and in that process I was constantly frustrated over the lack of progress and/or the amount of products I needed. Fading acne scars requires patience and investment.

Work towards visiting a dermatologist. It may be costly since not all insurance providers will cover it, but your skin is so important—especially when it affects your self-esteem—so know that learning about your skin is both a health and mental-health issue, not just a cosmetic one.

Dermatologists can be expensive, but there are resources out there for making them more affordable. If you run into trouble, check out articles which guide you through paying for a visit to the dermatologist, like insurance coverage options financing and also what procedures can and cannot be covered.

Related: Is There a Connection Between What You Eat & Your Skin? We Investigate

Accept trial and error.

After educating yourself on your skin’s needs, invest in products that will help fade scarring. Look for serums with gentle, brightening ingredients like Vitamin C and Glycolic acid, collagen-producing products, and a solid sunscreen to prevent further hyperpigmentation.

What I've learned is this: The first few products you try may not be effective in fading your scars. You have to be okay with trial and error, and look at everything together as an investment. Skincare is a process, so try and have fun with sampling new products instead of rushing through and hoping for instant results.

I found a collection of products that I am trying out and my skin is loving them (so far). Still, it will still be some time before I can see just how much all these products affect my scars, and that brings me to another point: patience. Please be patient with yourself and remember to love the skin that you’re in, even if it isn’t improving as quickly as you would like. Acne scars take time to heal, so be patient and learn what ingredients work best for you.

Work within your limits because while it may seem like you need the $100+ “miracle cream,” there are budget-friendly options that might work as well or better for your skin. Focus on learning what ingredients are good for your skin type specifically, and then use sites like SkinCarisma and Influenster to check ingredients and reviews on products. It’s inevitable that you’re gonna love something, hate something, and be confused about a product. Give yourself a three-week window of time where you regularly use one new acne-scar product within your current skincare regimen and see how it affects your skin.

Your skin is a part of you, but not all of you. 

Even if you embrace your scars, there is still a fear of judgment by others, isn’t there? I began to think just a few months ago, “I can think I’m beautiful but what if everyone else doesn’t?” The way I remedy these negative thoughts is evaluating how I look at other people. When I see my friends, do I immediately want to leave them because they have a new breakout? When I meet a new acquaintance, I’m focused on what they say, do, and think. I focus on a smile they give, on the way they speak, on getting to know their personality—literally, their skin is the last thing I’m thinking about.

And that is how it is for almost everyone. No one is shooting you down as a potential friend, employee, or love interest based on your skin and if they are, then they probably are not worth being around anyway. Your scars are not an ugly attribute, and if people bring them up, wear your scars with pride or change the conversation then and there—you don’t have to talk about them if you don’t want to. Altogether, work toward looking at your scars as just a part of your beautiful face. They are unique to you, and they are a part of you, but your beauty stems more from your personality and all of the things that make up who you are.  

All of these realizations came from years and years of trying to combat my own insecurities. I had loved ones in my life voice so much “concern” over my scars.  They were telling me to do x, y, and z to fix them, touching my face and praying the scars would fade away, worrying about my future prospects now that I have such “bad” skin. Dealing with those comments that somehow made me feel less was so hard. Couple that with seeing people with great skin and telling myself I was lesser than them. It’s a toxic way of thinking that I am working to undo little by little.

Having a support system to voice your insecurities to, people who will uplift you and validate your feelings, who will help you learn that you’re beautiful with your scars helps so much. I truly hope you find that system, because I think learning to be confident also requires some love from others who love the real you (even if your confidence never should rely on the opinions of others).

Be kind to yourself as you come to terms with your scars. I hope the next step for you is to love them. If there is one thing I realize now it is this: I am beautiful with my scars, but I will do whatever I can to take care of them. You can love yourself and try to better yourself, because we are all works in progress.