What I learned from having serious adult acne

Some people are born with naturally clear, radiant skin that glows far beyond the ether. You know the type: an angelic sheen, even in the harshest of lighting. Those with this kind of skin may not realize all the ways I envy them. They may choose to go with or without makeup, get compliments on their blemish-free canvas on the reg, and may not totally understand all the anxiety that comes with having a major breakout, say the night before a big event or first date. As much as I wish I knew, I am not one of these people.

With an early onset of puberty, I started breaking out at a very young age. Though, at the time, when curious kids in class would question all the marks on my face, I didn’t quite understand why my skin was so very different from theirs. I mean, we were the same age, mostly the same size, and yet, there I was, learning how to feel insecure way before they did, all because of something totally out of my control. It definitely took a hit on my self-esteem and self-worth before I ever entered middle school. Why can’t I wake up spot-free like everyone else? I’d often think. And the truth is, 20+ years later, I still don’t have an answer.

Now, as I’ve settled into my 30’s, a time when I’m supposed to feel more confident and self-accepting, I can’t tell you those painfully embarrassing years are behind me. I’m on more pills and creams now than I ever have been. Two capsules in the morning, two in the afternoon, one cream when I wake, one before bed, it’s enough to send anyone under the covers, crying. And these medications come with a cost. The side effects include insomnia, fatigue, muscle aches, depression, and the list goes on and on. All that for clear skin? Sadly, yes. And I’m not even on the strongest, FDA-regulated medicine the doctor mentioned because I don’t want even more side effects. Some people (me) will always have hormones that send skin out of whack, or bad genetics, or one pimple twelve years ago, that still leaves its mark.

Even as I write this, my skin is the clearest its been in a long time and yet, there are still scars and a blemish or two, almost mocking me. This made me wonder, is my desire for clear skin a mask so not to accept, and love, myself just the way I am? In my journey to feel better about myself, here’s what I’ve learned.

The scars don’t define me

When you’re forced to wear makeup everyday to cover up all the blemishes and marks, it’s easy to feel like you are the acne. But that’s not true at all. Every dark spot on my face, as with wrinkles and laugh lines, are proof I’ve lived. To erase these things is to deny some of what makes me the strong woman I am today. In not having clear skin, I’ve spent the better part of my life hiding behind foundations and concealers when I should have realized those things don’t make me me. In all the magnified examination of my face lately, I now know one can be beautiful and flawed all at once. It’s called being human.

Bad skin doesn’t make me a bad person

There are schools of thought that attribute bad skin to an unhealthy lifestyle or lack of cleanliness. I can assure you neither of these things relate to me, though, even if they did at one point (say, my careless high school years), there’s still a laundry list of medicines and creams that didn’t help clear me up. An avid runner and healthy eater of over 3 years now, I’ve not yet seen a major impact in the way my skin reacts to better choices. The point is, I am doing my part! My skin, however, tells a different story. But what I know now I didn’t before is, that’s okay. I know who I am: a devoted wife and mother, run enthusiast, writer extraordinaire, and above all else, not the product of my bad skin. If you find yourself feeling the same way, make an actual list of all your positive traits. Because sometimes you have to practice feeling good about yourself to actually feel good about yourself.

Not everyone notices my flaws the way I do

Here’s the thing about acne: it tricks you into thinking everyone’s looking at it. There have been days I’ve cancelled appointments or engagements so not to either a) put on a ton of cover-up, or b) go sans makeup. It sucks feeling un-pretty because of something so trivial. Lately, as I’ve started growing into my skin, and learning to accept myself as is, I’ve been wearing less (or no) makeup. I hold my head high and if people don’t like what they see, it’s not going to be my problem anymore. My husband reminds me often that those closest to me don’t see what I see – they never have. They look beyond my insecurities and see the person I am inside. If I throw out all the negative thoughts and do the same the next time I look into a mirror, I might finally understand why all the creams and pills in the world can never fix what’s broken. I am already worthy, I am already beautiful. Blemishes and all.

No matter what ups and downs my skin goes through, I’m still me. I will continue to fight the good fight but will also celebrate the days when there are no significant flare-ups. The small victories matter. Like a good hair day or when those old jeans fit like they used to, it all contributes to how I feel about myself before I ever leave the house. And if I feel good, everything else falls into place. There may be no magic pill or cream and I may battle with breakouts forever, but in the end, as cliché as it sounds, it truly is what’s on the inside that counts. If you find yourself feeling the same, surround yourself with people who look beyond the surface and accept you, flaws and all.

Trust me when I say, no matter what your skin looks like, you’re good enough exactly the way you are.

Blemishes and all.

[Image via Shutterstock]