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Acne can be a major hit to one’s self-esteem, and though I felt sympathy toward those who struggled with it in high school, I never anticipated my battle with it in the years to come.

Something about college brought a wave of constant breakouts. I couldn’t figure out whether it was the academic stress, my odd eating habits, or my skin’s irritation from living an urban area, but it was there, nevertheless. At first, I paid no mind to it. It’s not like I never got pimples before. As long as I washed my face at night, I thought, I’d be fine.

I was not fine. As my first year in college progressed, I grew more self-conscious of the breakouts that embedded themselves into my skin as long-lasting acne scars. Ugly pink and red marks dotted across my chin and jaw, and my only relief was a layer of foundation and concealer.

Over the summer, my breakouts worsened, leaving even more acne scars. My face started to feel more textured, tiny bumps cropping up along my cheekbones. By then, my self-confidence was drained. Even though the humid weather made wearing foundation feel sticky on my skin, I did it anyway for fear of what others would think about me.

If I stuck to a good skin care routine, I thought, everything else would follow suit. So I did what the internet taught me—I used a Clean & Clear cleanser, I bought an expensive toner, and moisturizer. I always took my makeup off before bed, and I exfoliated and bought Korean sheet masks. Summer ended, and I found myself facing the fall semester with the exact same skin problems I had before the break, if not worse. I continued to do what I thought was best for my skin, but the breakouts and consequent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation still kept coming, and I didn’t know what else to do.

Clear, healthy skin is now super trendy, evident by the multiple “skincare routine” YouTube videos and face-mask Instagram selfies. Everyone is obsessed with taking care of their skin, and clear skin has become even more coveted.

Pictures of everyone else’s baby-smooth skin made me feel extremely envious, but, above all, sad. Sad because I wanted to look like that and feel beautiful in my natural skin, but my pink acne marks built a barrier between me and my confidence. I couldn’t understand why I had to deal with the ugliness of a pimple even after it was long gone. Makeup-free selfies were either tilted at weird angle to hide my acne scars or masked with a Snapchat filter.

This past month, I’ve finally decided to put my foot down. I’ve decided to stop being so hard on myself on something that was natural; something that almost everyone faces and continues to grapple with. I wanted to take initiative. It was obvious that my current skin care routine wasn’t doing it, so I had to completely swap it out.

One night, upon my regular surf through YouTube skin care tutorials, I stumbled across Liah Yoo’s video on fading acne scars. The video detailed her struggle with acne and acne scars and radiated positivity by encouraging patience. For fading scars, she recommended using a serum with a potent ingredient like Vitamin C or Vitamin B3, moisturizing, applying sunscreen every day, and using a chemical exfoliator two to three times a week.

Among the many things I learned through her videos were that products labeled “oil-free” or “acne-fighting” were actually stripping my skin of natural oils, causing my skin to overproduce sebum to compensate. Because three out of the four products I used regularly were labeled just that, it was clear that a big change had to be made.

I’ve just started my new routine, and only time will tell how effective the products I’m using will be.

In the meantime, my focus is on rebuilding my confidence brick by brick. I use makeup once a week at most, and I’ve been refraining from staring at my scars in the mirror. Don’t get me wrong, I love foundation and have nothing against people who use it. I just did not like how it served as a crutch when dealing with deep self-confidence issues I needed to face. Now, I’m feeling better, and, above all, optimistic that my time for clear skin will come with patience.

I’ve realized that acne is natural. Though acne scars can be vexing, imperfections fall out of our control. How we view ourselves after the fact, however, is entirely on us.


Journalism major at Emerson College. Coffee and clothing enthusiast.
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