Hawaii was simply too humid for makeup and it terrified me. Getting off the plane in Kauai, I felt it slip. It was breaking up in patches on my cheeks, my nose, my chin, and the panic were settling in. How would I get by without it?
Melodramatic as it might seem, the layer of foundation I nearly always had on my skin was a layer of armor I was unwilling to go without. It had been nearly four years since I’d let anyone see me without some form of cover-up and now, during a family vacation, it seemed inevitable that I would need to forgo it.
At this point, my skin had started to clear up. Cystic acne no longer plagued me as it once had and although I had scars on my cheeks from where I’d messed with past pimples, regular outbreaks were becoming less frequent. But still, I was embarrassed by its lack of clearness.
Waking up in the hotel room, I stared in the mirror, assessing myself. Hawaii’s humidity and heat settled over everything, pervading the bathroom. It would be impossible, I told myself and braced for what I expected to be the worst vacation of my life, embittered by a lack of self-confidence.
But what really happened was, in fact, the opposite. The humid air felt wonderful; my skin loved being able to breathe without its usual layer of concealer. I walked into places and felt lovely, fresh, as though I’d shed a painful memory. I went snorkeling and marveled at the way the salt water felt on my face, at how easily I could touch my skin without worrying about what it looked like. I started to appreciate what I had, rather than what I so desperately wanted.
In Hawaii, I realized the simple truth: I’d endured years of acne and because of it, I had acne scars. I still broke out around my period and I still occasionally messed with a pimple (no matter how many times I warned myself not to). Yes, my skin was different than others, and yes, it had made me self-conscious about my own beauty. But I shouldn’t let it diminish my self-worth, no matter how many times I had convinced myself that it should.
My skin wasn’t perfect. Perhaps it never would be. But finally, as I flew back to California, my face makeup free, I realized that was okay.