the occurrence of inflamed or infected sebaceous glands in the skin; in particular, a condition characterized by red pimples on the face, prevalent chiefly among teenagers.
Today is the day, I’m going to share my acne story with all of you! That exclamation point makes me kind of nervous but also excited to share a part of my life that has sometimes made me feel horrible about myself but also made me strong and beautiful. I have been inspired by the many accounts on Instagram that share their acne story with the world, face first. What brave, strong women and men to share their deepest and darkest insecurity with the world, wow! You know, I have been wanting to write this post for a while but I keep holding off thinking to myself ‘what will people think of my skin? Will they think it’s gross?’. And then I realized that it really doesn’t matter because IT’S JUST SKIN, IT’S NOT ME. I truly hope to inspire those who are also dealing with acne to be brave and to be beautiful and to be strong because a cluster of zits on our chins and cheeks doesn’t define who we are.
So my story started at the beginning of the year in 2015. But let’s back up to my teenage years where you’re typically supposed to get all the pimples, or at least thats what I thought. As a teenager I got the odd pimple, here or there and mostly during my period. I had quite a few small bumps around my face but they never really turned into full pimples. So needless to say I was blessed with relatively clear skin. Which also meant I didn’t really wear much makeup, of course some eyeliner and mascara but not a lot of foundation or concealer. [Side note, these were also the days where I thought bronzer was supposed to go all over your face, dkm but like no one knew what contour was. And if you aren’t picturing it, I mean dipping my powder brush into the bronzer and putting it EVERYWHERE like it was translucent powder.] Anyway, my first two years of college I had clear skin still, again usually getting some hormonal breakouts. I tried some topical treatments for the few breakouts I got and they did nothing except dry out my skin and not help the pimples so that was a bust.
At the beginning of 2015 I started getting more and more into makeup (Thank you Michelle for introducing me to YouTube tutorials). And if I can remember correctly my skin was slowly starting to change so I wanted to get a full coverage foundation. I was getting a few more pimples than usual so of course I wanted to cover them up. For the next few months until around July my skin was okay, only a few pimples consistently. In August 2015 my skin took a turn for the worst. I started getting a lot of consistent pimples around my chin, they would come, go and come back. From there, I got a cluster of consistent pimples on my left cheek, then my right cheek, then my forehead. This happened over a period of time into the new year (2016). In addition to acne on my face I also got backne 🙂 During that time, I was moving abroad to study in Scotland for a few months so I think stress and environment change was a factor in my skin changing. But who really knows, acne has a mind of it’s own and really does whatever it wants. My skin just became worse and worse until I had consistent clusters of pimples all over my face. They were raw, they hurt and they were hard to ignore. I remember feeling disgusting like people shouldn’t have to look at my skin, I thought it was disgusting. I came to a point where I hated my skin and that hate translated into hating myself. I felt gross! Makeup can sometimes cover the redness but it doesn’t cover the bumps. I didn’t understand why at the age 20/21 I was starting to get acne, this is supposed to happen during puberty I told myself!!!
When you’re an adult and you have acne, you feel like a hot pile of shite (excuse my language mom). You look at everyone else your age and they have clear skin and then you look like a 14 year old going through puberty! Fun times! It doesn’t feel great. I remember at one point every time I took a shower I didn’t want to clean my face or even touch it because my cheeks hurt to the touch, the pimples were now causing me pain! Rude! It hurt to put moisturizer on, it hurt to pat my face dry. It sucked. I think this was the turning point where I needed to start doing something serious and visit the doctor. I did some research on my options in terms of medication and topical treatments. I had tried a few prescription topical spot treatments over the past couple years but nothing really worked. Horror story alert: I tried proactive once and it bleached all my face towels so thats a no from me, if it bleaches my towels I don’t even want to know what it does to my skin.
Finally, I felt my only safe option I could try was birth control. I really had nothing to lose at this point and I was fed up, I just wanted clear skin again. I was tired of being the only person out of my friends to have a face full of red, inflamed zits. I marked my calendar when I would start, I took my before photos and I was off. Waiting for something to change had me anxious!! You bet I was watching all the YouTube videos about acne, about birth control, I was reading the blog posts about it. I wanted to know when I would start seeing a change. My one sister always loves to tell me “Lilly, it takes more than a day for something to start working!”. Honestly, it took about two months to see a noticeable difference. I started birth control at the beginning of June and by the end of July almost all my major pimples had de-surfaced (if that makes sense). The pimples were no longer above the skin, I had nothing to pop basically. So there I was left with A TON of scars. This is the part that hurt me the most, I had always feared this would happen and I’ve seen acne scarring before and it terrifies me. That stuff hardly ever goes away no matter how many deep tissue facials you have or how expensive that serum is, they don’t go away. Writing this is making me tear up because I know how bad I felt about myself then and it hurts to know my fear was staring me back in the mirror.
I was booked to see a dermatologist in October of 2016 to see what could be the reason for this acne starting so late. I wanted answers!! Unfortunately, my experience with the dermatologist was very anti-climactic. I was given no answers to why, I was rushed out the the appointment and was still very confused. I left with a prescription for pills to take because my pimples/skin were itchy. Let me tell you, these pills sucked because there were so many rules on when to take them and how. I tried for a month I think and gave up because it seemed pointless to me.
From that point, I knew the birth control was actually controlling my acne and I was no longer getting pimples. My focus now turned full force into skincare and what I could do to improve the scarring I was left with. Every single spot I ever had a pimple was now marked with a red scar, a memory of what was there before. Other areas had even deeper scarring, my cheeks were hit the hardest with scarring as I have actual indentation from the acne. I tried several cleansers, moisturizers and serums, I can’t say that one really helped improve my skin. I think it was just really time and a consistent routine to clean my face that really helped the scars. Over time, and I mean timmmmmme the scars started to fade. There was nothing really that could speed up the progress but I was at least glad I was no longer getting pimples. Except for the odd one during my period.
Things were going well with my skin, from around July 2016 until May/June 2017. Around June 2017, I started to notice I was getting a couple pimples consistently around my chin. I thought maybe a job change, stress, etc could be a factor so I thought nothing of it. I was also getting a pimple in the exact same spot on each cheek every few weeks, and this was a big one, like one of those pimples that are so deep in the skin, so red and then they never come to a point to pop them. I started thinking the worst, that this was starting all over again, but how, I was on birth control!!!! In October I met with my doctor again to see if the birth control was no longer really helping my skin, I wanted to see if there were any other options out there. I switched types of birth control to see if that would make a difference. The first type of birth control was Tri-Cyclen Lo 21 Days and the current one is Alysena 21. And that brings us up to speed on my acne story. I sit here today with a few annoying pimples on my chin and quite a few on my jawline. My acne scars have diminished quite a bit on my cheeks and are almost gone on my forehead. I still struggle daily with how my skin looks because it seems like it will be something that never truly gets better.
You know, life goes on and you get acne. But that doesn’t mean life has to suck or you have to feel gross everyday. I have become happy and comfortable with my skin and how I look. Yeah, for sure, I have days where I hate my skin and layer on the foundation and powder but most days I feel great. I look forward to the days where I don’t have to wear makeup and I can let my skin breeeeeathe. To all my fellow acne peeps, you are beautiful, you are strong, you are not your skin. Please do not think you’re gross or that people won’t want to look at you because that’s not true. It may take some time to be comfortable with how your skin is but during the time it takes remember that it’s just that, skin.
[ Side notes: My diet has never really changed tremendously throughout my times with acne so I can’t single out a cause there but I mean I do love sweets and salty things and pizza so you know, I could cut that out a little bit and probably see a difference in my skin. Another factor perhaps influencing my acne is my skin type and genetics. My skin has really never been too oily or too dry so I have ‘self-diagnosed’ myself with combination/sensitive/acne-prone skin. In the genetics part, who knows, I’m not a scientist but you can’t change how you were made up. In terms of skincare, I have always found it difficult to find something that works 100% for scarring and acne. For makeup, I never know if something is breaking me out so I always try new foundations to see what looks best and feels the best on my skin.]
This part of the post is to the people reading who have friends and family (**who do not have acne themselves) with acne and listen up because this is serious!!! Well not so serious but I have a few pointers for you to watch what you say around those with acne because it may not seem like a big deal or you might not even think about it but sometimes it can hurt or be annoying. Sometimes, your friend may not talk about their acne so you don’t think anything of it but trust me they talk about it with themselves. Disclaimer: I am more then aware we all have our own flaws and insecurities and we are all allowed to feel bad about them and vocalize them. However, if I have the chicken pox, you wouldn’t complain to me that you have one mosquito bite because that’s just being insensitive and annoying (you get what I’m trying to say here?).
Now, acne is just some pimples on the skin but it can make those with it feel ugly and disgusting. We think that people who look at us think we’re dirty or gross. Soooo this is my favourite tip of all, please please please do not say “Ugh I got this pimple on my chin, it’s so annoying”… because you know what, I have around 5 on my chin, all the time and then the scars don’t go away for months. Tbh I understand that the one pimple can be annoying (trust me, I’ve been there lol) and ugly when you never get them but telling that to someone with acne makes them feel gross for having several. Another tip, please do not try and recommend me to just cleanse and moisturize every morning and night. Um yes, I have tried that and I do that and it does not really make a difference. Acne is is not just on top of the skin and cannot be wiped away. My sarcasm here is meant in the nicest way possible, I promise!!!! Just being honest with you.
Okay, now is the exciting part and the part I know you have all been waiting for. Drumroll please. PICTURES!!!!! But first, I want to give a shoutout to my Mom and Dad for always being there when I was having bad days about my skin and making me feel loved when I didn’t love myself. They were there for me when I wanted to make a change and always told but just what I’m telling all of you, it’s just skin. Also, thank you to my friends who always noticed when me skin was getting better. And duh, thanks to my sisters for always letting me rant about my skin and guiding me through the changes I took to get better skin. Love y’all!!!
My acne, pretty much at it’s worst… June 1st, 2016 (pre birth control)
My acne after birth control… July 26th, 2016
My acne today…. February 4th, 2017
Remember this, if you look in the mirror and think ‘wow my face is gross’ (because of acne, redness, spots, scarring, etc) remember that it’s just your skin, not your face. Your face is beautiful all the damn time, just sometimes your skin can be gross. Your skin isn’t who you are.