A Skincare Journey

Acne. It’s a shared woe of teenagers everywhere, a fact of life that cannot be ignored. Some are fortunate enough to escape the struggles of dealing with acne, others are not so lucky.

 

As for me, I started my long battle with acne when I was a mere nine years old. My skin was oily, it was irritated and red, and not-so-little red dots started popping up everywhere. I knew that it ran in my family, so I wasn’t that surprised. I tried everything. From the age of nine until fifteen, I was on a rollercoaster of ups and downs, trying creams and pills that would supposedly “make things worse before they got better.” My skin was apparently not to be tamed. I had cystic acne, and it was inescapable. My face, my chest, even my back were all overtaken by huge, painful pimples that inhibited me in every sense of the word. By high school, the acne on my back was bad enough that my dermatologists became concerned that I would lose a significant amount of tissue if things continued the way they were going.

 

Cystic acne, apart from the physical pain it puts you through, swallows your life whole. It makes you think that everyone must be staring at you, thinking that you’re gross, thinking that your acne is YOUR fault. You must be lazy. You must not have washed your face enough. You see people stare at you when you go to water parks with your friends. You have people ask if you’re okay when you wear a dress with spaghetti straps for a choir concert. You start to forget what it was like before you had to pick your tops carefully to make sure they didn’t show too much skin. It takes over anything and everything. It makes you feel like you’re always wearing a mask that looks like someone else, but that you can never take off.

 

Cystic acne makes you think that you’re ugly, too ugly to ever be seen without makeup. Cystic acne makes you buy bottles upon bottles of foundation over the years. It makes you put on a full face of makeup before you go to the gym. It makes you embarrassed to go to the pool with your friends and their beautiful, bare faces.

 

When I was fifteen, I made the decision to go on Accutane. For those that don’t know, Accutane is a harsh drug that sucks every last drop of moisture out of your skin. It can cause nausea, sensitivity to the sun, changes in personality or mood, and birth defects if you become pregnant while the drug is in your system. Being on Accutane was hell, both for me and for my mother, I’m sure. I took monthly blood tests at a health center to make sure I was still healthy. I became irritated at the smallest things. But after the first three months of taking it, I saw results. I FINALLY saw results. My skin was better, and not just a little bit better. I went from this…

 

...to this.

 

 

I was left with scars, sure. But scars can be covered. Here’s the thing, though: after all those years of wanting to cover up and hide, it was hard to move on and be confident in myself. I still wore the makeup, I still felt bad trying to go to the pool or the gym. Cystic acne defined who I was for so long that I didn’t remember how to function when it was gone. Even now, as a  sophomore in college, I still struggle to take off the makeup at the end of the day and leave my room without it. Whenever I get a pimple, I worry that it’s coming back, that I’ll have to go through the whole process again. Cystic acne didn’t just take away my confidence for the six years that it was around. It stole little bits and pieces of it for years afterwards. It even manages to sneak in and eat away at it now, a whole four years since it met its demise. I’ll end with this lil’  picture I took of myself not too long ago. Things are better. But it will take longer than I can say to forget what cystic acne did to me.