Acne Isn’t Just for Teenagers

I don’t know how I did it, but in high school, I would wake up at 6:30 a.m. every day to ensure I had enough time to put on makeup before school. I was so self-conscious about my skin that I felt I had to cover it up every day and anytime I knew I would be seeing other people. It was hard to feel good about myself and my skin. I always had acne on and off, but when I got to college, my skin started to clear up for the first time in forever. I thought I was in the clear and that my hormonal acne was something I had left behind in high school. With that being said, just because you turned 20 doesn’t mean acne magically disappears. I started to break out again on and off throughout college. At first, it wasn’t as bad as in high school, but soon I started to look like my awkward 16-year-old self again. It’s frustrating to still be dealing with acne now at 22 when I thought my skin would be done being temperamental. One thing that has changed as I’ve gotten older is the way I view myself and my acne. When I was younger, it used to be something I was ashamed and embarrassed by. Now I know my acne does not define me or how I feel about myself overall. It took a lot of time to feel this way and unlearn the negative thoughts I would associate with my acne. Here are five things I did to feel better about myself and my journey with acne.

  1. 1. Start slow and stop wearing makeup around those you’re comfortable with

    It can get exhausting having to constantly get ready and put makeup on wherever you go. Even though it was hard to let go of the security blanket of my foundation and concealer, I knew I wanted to try to feel more comfortable in my own skin. I also didn’t have much of a choice in college of hiding my skin from everyone but my family. I had two roommates freshman year and because of this, I slowly learned to become more comfortable with people seeing my skin without anything covering up my imperfections. After I realized they didn’t care and weren’t judging me for what I looked like, I slowly started to venture out and hang out with more friends without hiding behind a mask of makeup.

    Delaney Sullivan, a 21-year-old UF English junior, agrees with this.

    “I have learned that most people don’t see it when they look at me,” Sullivan said.

    I’m a senior in college now, and I rarely wear make-up when I’m going to grab a coffee with a friend or just going out to run errands. It took a while to understand I don’t have to use makeup to hide. Instead, I’ve learned to use make-up to enhance the beauty I already hold, regardless of the state of my acne.

  2. 2. Hype yourself up!

    It can be so easy to start breaking out and think negative thoughts about yourself and your appearance. Our worth should not be connected to something we don’t fully have control over. We are all just doing the best we can, and sometimes stress, our environment or our periods can really mess with our skin. So, hype yourself up and remind yourself of all the good things you love about yourself instead. Using makeup as a way to express myself instead of as a way to hide has helped me so much. Changing your mindset and the way in which we view ourselves can change the way others view us and more importantly our mental health. I used to get stressed out if I had to go anywhere without covering up my acne at first, but now, I sometimes even forget I used to think it was a big deal to go out with no makeup on. The key is to ensure our insecurities about our acne don’t control our lives.

    “I try not to let it affect my self-esteem, and I try not to let it impact whether I go out or not,” Sullivan said.

    Making sure our acne is not limiting us and instead focusing on other positives aspects of our lives can help change our mindset. When we start to feel more confident in ourselves, that change can be seen by others and truly does radiate out.

  3. 3. You’re not alone

    I talked to a few friends here and there about how it was so annoying to still be dealing with acne in my twenties. Some of my friends related and understood where I was coming from, and others who had been blessed with perfect skin did not. But it wasn’t until I thought about writing this story that I realized how many people in college do still struggle with acne.

    Rachel Jones, a 21-year-old UF sociology junior, discussed her own acne journey with me. She expressed her frustration at having tried so many products, going to the dermatologist and even trying various birth control pills to control her acne to no avail. It’s comforting to know there are other people who struggle with acne well past their teen years.

    When I asked Jones if her relationship with acne had changed over time, she said, “Luckily, I’ve found a routine that works for me, but having acne while in college really affected my self-esteem. Over time I was able to accept my acne and see it as a neutral thing that everyone has at any age.”

  4. 4. Create a fun routine

    When I was younger and went to the dermatologist for the first time, it seemed overwhelming to have to incorporate multiple products into my skincare routine. As I’ve gotten older, I enjoy my skincare routine and not including it in my morning makes me feel off for the rest of the day. College is stressful, so it’s nice to have even 5 to 10 minutes in the morning that I dedicate to waking myself up fully, relaxing and listening to some music while I get ready. With so many new products popping up promising to clear up people’s skin, it’s easy to give in and buy them all — which I did. It can be fun to try out different skin regimes and products to see which work best for you. Ending my day with a face mask feels like the epitome of self-care and makes me feel like I’m doing something to get a step closer to the clear skin I want.

  5. 5. Listen to your body

    As Jones mentioned earlier, birth control is one way of trying to help your skin and decrease the amount of acne you have. I was on birth control for a while and did notice it helped my skin a lot. While I was on birth control, I had clearer skin and less consistent breakouts. However, over quarantine this past year, I recognized my birth control was affecting more than just my skin — it was also affecting my mental health. I was feeling depressed and bad about myself and realized it was not just quarantine that was making me feel that way. When I had the suspicion my birth control pills were causing me to feel this way, I stopped taking them. After this, my mental health improved, but my acne started to get really bad again. But to me, my mental health means more than having clear skin. I’m glad I realized something was off and listened to my body.

I’m still learning how to deal with my acne and the way it makes me feel about myself sometimes, but it helps me to realize I have gone to the dermatologist, tried a variety of creams and done pretty much everything I could to try and improve my skin. Finding a routine that works for your skin takes a while and that’s okay. Contrary to what the media might make us all believe, acne is not just something that plagues teenagers in high school. Our skin will keep changing as we get older, and we will have to start using new products to tackle new challenges we encounter. Essentially, we have our whole lives to learn what works best for our skin, so it’s unrealistic to think that by 20 we should all know what the perfect skin care routine is for us and that our skin should be blemish free from here on out.