Emotionally Scarred: An Acne Story

“You have a perfect complexion.”

It’s a compliment I have received frequently. Each time, I question whether or not to confess, “I’m wearing foundation because I suffer from acne.” I know that I’m not wearing it for them to compliment me. I wear it for myself. I like having the ability to forget that it’s there. Some days, there isn’t much. Others, there isn’t any. Most days, I don’t feel right without some concealer and a thin layer of foundation before leaving the house.

Things Not to Say to Someone with Acne

“I had acne when I was a teenager.”

I’m happy for you. You experienced some typical teenaged years. I, on the other hand, never outgrew this phase of “puberty on my face.” In fact, it’s probably going to be with me until the day I die. It won’t matter how many times you or anyone else tries to sound like an expert. You had a “phase” of acne that will never return. Mine always will.

“Stop eating sugar/chocolate. Eat more healthy.”

Which university did you attend for your medical degree? Do you mind prescribing me a medication that actually gets rid of this crap for good? Oh, that’s right, you aren’t a doctor. In fact, you don’t know anything about how acne works; otherwise, you’d know that it isn’t as simple as “stop eating (that) and eat (this) instead.”

Did you know that if you stopped eating delicious sugary snacks that you would lower your cholesterol and live longer and all that stuff? I doubt you’ll do it just for that sake, though. Maybe, it’s because you’d like to enjoy your life. Well, I’d like to enjoy chocolate and sugar, rather than avoid it entirely; even if it does bother my skin. More importantly, when did I ask for your advice?

“Wash your face more.”

Thank you! I had no idea that dirt and oil could cause acne! I feel so enlightened, now. Washing my face more than twice a day is certainly not a cliche for every acne sufferer. Surely, no one has ever attempted that. I didn’t used to wash my face three times a day when I was a teenager. I am grateful that you let me know, now. Who knew that going to the dermatologist was a waste of time and money when all I needed was soap and water?

“It’s your makeup.”

You got me, there! It must be the makeup. I certainly didn’t have acne before I began wearing makeup. I mean, I know that when I was about thirteen, I used to be very anti-makeup. I used to be a snob about the other teenaged girls wearing it. Then, I realized I could use it to cover my acne. I may only wear makeup for about eight hours a day, and the rest of the time I have a clean face with products to heal and prevent breakouts, but obviously that’s enough time to severely impact my skin. I’m sure that if I just stopped wearing it altogether I would magically get clear skin. And don’t get me started on the ingredients in makeup. We all know that if an acne sufferer wears makeup, they have no idea how to choose the right types and avoid adding to their acne with harmful products.

“Don’t touch your face.”

An Ulta makeup consultant once tried to advise me not to sleep with my hands under my face. She suspected that this was why I have acne. Well, I have never and would never do that. Again, those without degrees in dermatology really shouldn’t attempt to prescribe cures for acne. It’s ridiculously common for those without acne to politely suggest to those of us with it to “stop touching our faces.” Believe it or not, most of us don’t because we know not to. Nonetheless, it doesn’t end our condition, does it? That is because it’s usually internal, not external.


I was on several prescription treatments over many years until being put on Accutane a.k.a Isotretinion. For those unfamiliar with the prescription, it is an extreme route; though, mostly successful. Due to the birth defects associated with the drug, I had to agree to either abstain from sexual activity, something I couldn’t predict as a virgin teenager, anyway, or go on the pill; therefore, I chose to go on the pill. In addition, I had to agree to regular pregnancy tests at each doctor visit. Had I ended up beginning to have sex during this time, I still don’t think it would have bothered me. Of course, it was quite amusing to have to pee on a stick, as a virgin, repeatedly. Aside from the potential birth defects for those patients able to get pregnant, it can cause long-term depression, too. Loads of fun, right?

Birth Control

I’d like to note that birth control helps some people with acne. Originally, it made no difference for me. Then, when I reached my late twenties, my body decided that I was of age to be birthing babies–something I did not and do not want. The pill caused my acne to get worse. So, after years of never having to try a second birth control pill, I was on the hunt for something that would both regulate my cycle and not give me more acne.

One of my favorite YouTubers is Taylor Wynn. She not only has makeup tutorials on covering acne and scarring, but clearing her own acne through products and lifestyle changes. A simple and frequently mentioned lifestyle change I have heard is drinking water. She mentions water in her video “How I Got Rid of Cystic Acne.” Personally, during the times I have had colds, I drink more water and tea to get over the cold faster, and I’ll find that my acne suddenly clears up, drastically; therefore, I have to agree that drinking more water is one of those small things we acne sufferers can try, at the very least. It may not clear it, entirely, but it sometimes noticeably reduces it.

In This Together

Plenty of other people have and/or have had worse acne than I have, but it affects us all the same. It diminishes our self-confidence, it causes anxiety, and it leaves us hopeless and depressed. Sometimes, this is only until we have a solution, if one exists for our individual situations. For some, those side-effects last forever. Like any condition, it is specific to our bodies. Sometimes, it is caused by our hormones and/or our genes. It isn’t only something that teenagers deal with. The sooner that society stops expecting everyone to look a certain way, the sooner that we can all stop being anxious and depressed about imperfections. Then, we can focus on loving ourselves for exactly who we are.

We are beautiful.

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