Acne is the only common mark of imperfection that the world will not embrace. There are movements to accept stretch marks, fat rolls, wrinkles, moles, birthmarks, skin color, and all else that makes people different. However, acne is universally taken as a disgusting flaw that needs to be ridden of. As someone who began getting severe acne before I even knew swear words, here are my experiences of half a life filled with acne.
I began getting severe acne when I was 10 years old. It crawled all over my face and my back. The acne wasn't caused by much other than genetics. As young children are often inconsiderate, I was often made fun of. Even good friends would constantly point it out, and I grew increasingly self-conscious.
When I was 11, I consulted my family doctor and was prescribed benzoyl peroxide. My acne improved for a while, but then my skin adjusted and was even more oily and acne-covered than before. I hated mirrors and being photographed.
By the time I was 12, I had looked up almost every possible way to get rid of acne. I changed my diet and exercised; I also tried natural remedies, masks, drugstore creams, and other do-it-yourself methods I had read about. Of course, nothing worked.
In the eighth grade when I was 13, a friend who had naturally clear skin asked me if I had considered using medication on my acne. I was unspeakably offended by her ignorance, considering all my efforts to get rid of acne. Her comment seemed to heave even more weight onto my shoulders, to the point where it was unbearable.
Finally, I convinced my parents to hire a dermatologist. By the time I was 15, I had gone through three dermatologists. They had tried creams, gels, masks, injections, extractions, and pills on me – all without effective results. Meanwhile, people continued to inadvertently make comments that gnawed at my self-confidence. During all those years, I researched medications in my free time to achieve a fuller understanding of what I was putting on my face. I developed knowledge of all sorts of medications which came my way. I wanted desperately to heal myself, and I searched for a solution.
Three years later when I started college at age 18, I had gone through six dermatologists in total. The final dermatologist decided that I needed Accutane - a somewhat new medication at the time. My parents had feverishly protested against me using that, and it took a long time to have them get used to the idea. Accutane is known for serious side effects and grueling upkeep. I needed to have blood drawn every month, birth control pills, and to take an online quiz every month to get a refill. I was monitored closely for signs of depression, could not take any vitamin A, and constantly warned of serious birth defects.
But it worked. After a year of Accutane, my acne went away. It was absolutely the only thing I tried, in the past decade of the struggle with acne, that has worked. Now, half a year after stopping Accutane, I'm happy that the results have stayed put. My confidence has gone up and I feel free.
I spent the past decade avoiding photos and editing my skin to look better in photos. I believed that so long as I had acne, I would never be considered attractive. And society allowed me to believe that.
If anything, they forced me to believe it. Children would approach me to ask what was on my face. Adults would recommend a list of things I could do about my skin - within minutes of meeting me. I would buy something at a shop, and the cashier would tell me to try a skin treatment. Friends would pat my face and then wipe their hands off. I tried makeup, but it rarely covered much up and if anything, made my face look even more cluttered and messy. I can never change this part of my life, but at least going forward, I'll know the burden has been lifted from my shoulders.
This part of my background has had a major influence on who I am today. Despite the suffering, this part of my life has conditioned me to withstand judgment from others, and ironically it has made me the outspoken and happy person that I am today. If I had not been under such scrutiny for so long, it is unlikely that I would be as little affected by judgmental persons as I am now. After the stress and self-criticism, I endured for such a long period in my life, I cannot stand to see friends or acquaintances have similar experiences. I know how frustrating it is to be unable to fix something about yourself and to experience bias, so I keep myself open and accepting.
For those of you who may be reading this and struggling with acne, here's my advice for you. Number 1, try Accutane. Again, it was absolutely the only thing that worked. Number 2, understand that everything bad will pass with time. It may hurt so bad in the moment, and each day, someone may deliver a new blow that brings you down more, but it will all pass. I understand you, and would never lay a judgment on you. You'll find others who accept you the way you are. Carve your inner circle out of these people, and take out anyone toxic. Just remember - it will all pass.