By Kali Kushner
Living with adult acne felt confusing. Frustrating. Embarrassing. Eye opening. Empowering. Wonderful.
Probably not exactly the words you were expecting but trying to wrap up the whole experience of living with adult acne isn’t easy. There’s been ups, and downs, and well, everything in between. I honestly don’t even know where to start with writing this but I thought it might be helpful for someone out there to realize that there not alone in the way they are feeling.
How it All Started
My acne came out of nowhere. I always had a few pimples in high school and the occasional odd ball around my period of course, but nothing too crazy. That is until I turned 20. Then, in a matter of months, my face went from completely acne-free to covered in huge pounding, cystic spots, scarring, and hyper-pigmentation. Without a change in skincare, diet, hormones, or stress levels, I was at a loss for words. Every morning I woke up and ran to the mirror to find a new spot, I felt like with each passing day I was becoming less and less attractive, and for a 20 year old that really takes a toll on your confidence.
I was determined to feel good about myself again, I was tired of pitying myself and just wanted the whole mess to be over. With extreme dedication, I began looking into different treatment options. Since then I’ve tried the caveman regimen, oil cleansing, antibiotics, 12 step skincare systems, and have even been on accutane- with nothing ever completely clearing my skin. (To be honest, the biggest difference I’ve ever seen has been from cutting out dairy and gluten from my diet and adding in lots of fresh veggies, which was quite difficult at first but has gotten much easier as time passes.)
I started to lose hope there for a minute, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever completely been free of the grips of cystic acne, figuring it was something I had to learn to live with. And I was okay with that, until recently when my acne exploded all over again out of nowhere. I thought this constant ferris-wheel of acne doom can’t be normal. To have clear skin for a week and then 7 cysts within three days, that’s psychological warfare. And now that my skin is clear again, I wait. Wondering when it’ll come back, if it’s actually gone this time, and if it’ll leave more damage once it returns.
When Your Teenage Acne Doesn’t go Away
Having acne as a teenager I always assumed it would go away with time. “Just gotta make it through this,” I would tell myself. And even when it wasn’t really that bad, the boy in my head I would beat myself up soo harshly. I always imagined when I grew up, my acne would lessen or go away completely with time, never did I imagine a scenario where it would actually become worse. I think that’s when I realized this is a lifelong battle I’m going to deal with, I mean heck! Even my mom still gets pimples around that time of the month. And there’s nothing wrong with that, having acne is a normal thing most people go through at one point or another, but cystic acne is a whole other ball game.
I think over time my acne became worse with overusing antibiotics, topical prescriptions, and even accutane, the bacteria became extremely resistant and transformed into some sort of super acne. Which again, if this has happened to you as well know that it’s not at all your fault. Most of the time we are offered advice from medical professionals and we take it because we assume they’re both well educated and have our best interest at heart. The issue with acne is that there is no one cure, so they technically don’t know exactly how it all works and how to exactly prevent it. Most of the time what’s blamed is our hormones, diet, or simply our DNA. This is confusing and frustrating, not knowing the exact cause and blaming it on genetics leaves you feeling almost powerless.
How Other Adults Perceive You
I really wish that other adults acted like, well, adults, but to be honest most of the time they don’t. When my acne was at its worst I got countless rude stares, suggestions, and even once was accused by the police of being on drugs due to the condition of my skin. Talk about loss of confidence right there. It’s embarrassing! I’m old, no one else has acne, I’m supposed to be done with this too aren’t I?! If you’re embarrassed because of other people’s opinions, don’t be. It really doesn’t matter what others think of you, especially if they’re judging you on your looks but being 20 years old, that was a sensitive time for me. I think it honestly taught me more about other people than it did about myself.
Before, when my skin was clear, I’d receive compliments on a daily basis. Then once my acne went haywire, radio silence. And when my skin would clear up again, those same people that ignored me suddenly wanted something to do with me. Superficial really, and it was eye-opening to see the type of world we live in. It made me realize, before acne, I too was guilty of judging someone. Of thinking, “why didn’t they just wash their face?” Because I had clear skin and I never dealt with extremely persistent acne, I was incapable of understanding. I figured since I washed my face with bar soap once every two weeks, others should be able to do that too and have glowing skin just like me.
News flash to a former self, that’s not how it works.
Having Acne Empowered Me
Having acne as an adult has given me thicker skin, it’s made me stronger, and more confident in the person that I am today. It’s enabled me to share my experience online, to normalize skin issues, and to empower others to feel confident in their skin as well. Acne has taught me to be much much less superficial, and to realize your worth and value is more than your looks. It’s your soul, your heart, your entire being. I now know regardless of what life throws my way, I’ll get through it, and that it’s not the end of the world. Things may get hard at times, but they will always get easier. And, in the end, everything will work out exactly how it’s supposed to.