When I first got acne, it shook me to the core and turned my entire world upside down. I had always enjoyed the luxury of having perfectly aesthetic, clear skin as a teenager (thanks to birth control), so when I got off the pill and my face broke out in painful, full-blown acne, I didn’t have a clue what to do.
The world of skin problems and skin care products was unfamiliar and terrifying to me. There were seemingly endless acne products to choose from, and even more skin care advice from “experts” on the internet. Looking back on the experience now, having endured countless ups and downs with my skin, breakouts and remissions, trials and errors, there are some lessons that I’ve learned that have been invaluable to me in overcoming my skin anxieties and keeping my skin clear.
If I had the chance to go back in time, I would start by giving the old me a big, warm hug, and then share with myself these things I’ve learned along the way:
1- Have patience. I know it’s hard to trust the process, but I can’t stress this point enough. Have patience with your skin care products: give them time to work. Have patience with your skin: it takes time to heal the damage. And most importantly, have patience with yourself: you can’t know everything, and it’s okay to make mistakes.
2- Less is more! I know it feels like adding product on top of product will get rid of your acne faster, but it won’t. It will negatively affect how the products work and will just make your skin even worse. You’ll even create new skin problems (dermatitis) by doing this.
3- Natural doesn’t always mean better. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it won’t really harm your skin. I know you’re on a quest to do right by your body, but that doesn’t mean synthetic products should be off the table.
4- Don’t make your skin an obsession. I know it’s hard. Trust me, I know. But striving for the illusion of perfection is only going to burn you in the end, so don’t waste your valuable time and effort trying. And please don’t make your boyfriend pay for your obsession, and don’t drain your own bank account, either. I know it feels like you really need to try every new “miracle” product (because, what if?), but don’t let this cause financial strain.
5- Don’t put your life on hold until you get clear skin. You’ll be waiting a long time, and you’ll let a lot of opportunities pass you by needlessly. Please, just get out and enjoy life. Stop thinking about what should be, and learn to appreciate what is. I promise you, your acne will only hold you back if you let it, and you’ll be missing out on so much fun if you do.
6- If you want to, GO MAKEUP FREE. Don’t worry about offending other people with your acne, that’s their problem. It will feel good, and nobody is going to buckle in disgust at your sight, I swear. But if that’s not what you’re feeling that day and you want to wear some makeup, that’s okay, too. Whatever you choose, feel empowered by your decision.
7- There’s no miracle acne cure, so stop looking for one. No detox or cleanse in the world is going to magically bring you clear skin, so save your time and effort, and just focus on taking real good care of yourself – mind, body and soul (the rest will follow).
8- Stop comparing yourself to others. I know it can be addicting, but it’s just a major trigger for a plummet in self-esteem. You need to recognize that you, and your skin, are different from each and everyone else, and that these hurtful comparisons are only steering you further away from your goals.
9- You are still a worthwhile human being. Repeat: YOU ARE STILL A WORTHWHILE HUMAN BEING. Your worth is not for one second tied up in your skin, and it is not tied up in what others think of you, either. Hating yourself won’t give you clearer skin any faster than loving yourself will, and it will be a more enjoyable journey. Don’t take any mean comments to heart. Even though it stings when it happens, they will be few and far between. And don’t you dare overlook your amazing qualities by focusing on something insignificant to your worth like acne.
These may seem overly simplistic – you might be thinking that I would logically want to skip all the hardship and just tell myself the real “secret” to clearing my skin. But the truth is, these were all monumental lessons I had to learn to get here, and truthfully, the things I think that I needed to hear the most.
Having acne made me feel like a failure. It made me feel defeated, confused and alone. All I really needed to know was that this was okay, and that in time, I could be sure that things would improve. Had I known these things then, maybe I wouldn’t have gone through some of the harder times, and maybe my skin would have cleared up even sooner.