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My final year of elementary school was quite eventful. I had my first period (I thought I was dying from blood loss) and attended my first sex education class. Through these experiences, I became increasingly aware of my maturing body, a process that was both fascinating and terrifying. However, no one prepared me for the damaging effects of hormonal acne on my self-image. The beginning of puberty and my battle with acne marked the gradual decline of my self-confidence.

Once my mother noticed my developing acne, we visited a Pediatrician who prescribed a watery cream for direct application onto my trouble areas. All I recall is the cool sensation of the liquid on my face and my silent pleas for it to work. It didn’t. So we went back to the Pediatrician who then prescribed me a Benzoyl Peroxide Gel. That one stung but middle school Jesse thought that pain meant it was working. Wrong. The gel lost its effectiveness relatively quickly. Frustrated, we turned to China-made acne products, one of which was the Bitter Gourd Detox Acne Cream. Considering my lackluster experiences with the first two products, I was apprehensive of this one but…it worked! Within days it reduced the inflammation and redness of my acne. Unfortunately, my acne breakout had covered my entire face so I used up this cream quickly. After multiple repurchases, I noticed that to my horror, it was losing its effectiveness just as the gel had!

At this point, my self-confidence was practically nonexistent. I always kept my head down in school or public and rarely spoke in class. I didn’t want people to stare and judge me based on my acne-ridden face. I felt hideous and ashamed but mostly defeated, because nothing was working. Fortunately, my parents were persistent in finding a long-term solution. My father took me to see a Dermatologist who prescribed antibiotics and sprayed my face with liquid Nitrogen to reduce the appearance of my acne. The pills were only moderately effective and we ceased future appointments once the pills ran out. Perhaps another professional’s opinion would be the answer to my skin troubles. To the next Dermatologist, we went. She recommended laser treatment which aimed to gradually reduce the appearance and severity of my acne breakouts. I saw obvious results after three sessions but ceased further treatment because each laser session cost hundreds of dollars.

By the time high school rolled around, I was in treatment limbo. I’d tried everything: gels, creams, pills, lasers, but nothing lasted. After a severe breakout over the summer, I visited a Chinese herbalist who implemented an aggressive and detoxifying treatment plan. During each session, she opened my pores with a humidifier and then proceeded to prick and forcibly squeeze my acne. If this sounds painful to you, it was. I cried after the first session but was too desperate to look elsewhere. In addition to this, I had to drink a bitter herbal concoction twice a day. While this treatment was the most painful and unpleasant, it was effective. I ultimately stopped seeing her because this treatment was also costly. My hunt for an effective and affordable acne treatment continued.

Until my senior year of high school, I experimented with various Korean skincare products. Effectiveness varied but I accepted that it was better than nothing. Years of different treatment products left me hollow and emotionally exhausted. I cleansed and exfoliated my face 1-2 times a day but that did little to curb the onset of new pimples. Desperate, my mother contacted a relative residing in China to export a China-made acne cream. I had low expectations for the product but slowly and surely, it reduced my acne and faded my scars. This is the product I still use to this day.

Jesse Qu

Brandeis '21

Jesse is a sophomore at Brandeis University studying Sociology and Legal Studies. She enjoys channeling her energy into creative projects, such as writing for Her Campus, to highlight important social, political, economic, and health issues. In her spare time, she loves watching Youtube videos, sci-fi thriller movies, old films, nature documentaries, and medical drama shows. You can contact her at jq600@brandeis.edu
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