When I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with hormonal acne. It’s the kind of acne you get, not because your face is dirty or you wear too much makeup, but the kind that manifests due to the type and amount of hormones your body produces. Although I would not classify the condition of my skin as severe acne, since luckily I was taken to a dermatologist for early intervention, that does not eradicate the fact that my blemishes have been negatively affecting my life since childhood.
I have been to two different dermatologists and have tried virtually every prescription facial cleanser, wash, gel, cream, pill, and anything in between. Some medications have been more successful than others, but the only true cure for my acne is either time or a severe shift in hormone balance. What I’m about to say next is not something I have shared with many people, but I think it is important to recognize since it is something that was very real for me and still affects me to this day. I have been on birth control pills since I was in seventh grade. They were prescribed to me by my dermatologist in order to regulate my hormones, hence clearing my acne. They have proven moderately successful, however, when I was sixteen, I switched the brand of birth control pills. I did not believe that changing to a brand name was going to have negative--or really, any--effects on me at all. All brands should do the same thing, I presumed. Unfortunately, the drastic change in my hormones caused a significant portion of my hair to fall out (female hair loss is already a gene in my family as well). My once thick and luscious curls were now very fine and thin, exposing my scalp more than it ever was. I immediately switched to another birth control brand, which triggered another bout of shedding, but eventually I experienced slight hair growth and although my hair has never been what it used to be, it’s at a point now that I can be content with.
The only medication that works the best on me are antibiotics. This is considered only a bandaid to the true problem, however, because one should not take these pills for more than six months since your body can become immune to them. Another pill has been suggested to me, but it will affect my hormone levels, and although that is exactly what I need to clear my acne, it is not a risk that I think necessary considering my past difficulties with hormone balancing (and I can’t afford to lose any more hair at this point). The last option that the dermatologist always mentions is Acutane, and although this drug is highly effective in clearing acne, I do not deem my skin severe enough to deal with the monthly bloodwork or nasty side effects that comes alongside this drug.
Acne inhibits me from being the confident person that I am. If I am having a bad skin day, I find it more of a challenge to smile and look people in the eyes for fear that this will draw too much attention to the imperfections on my face. A lot of the times, my family tells me that they can’t even see the acne that I harp about, but I can still feel it. I still know it’s there. Because of these struggles, I have been dappling in makeup for a very long time. At first, I used makeup simply to cover the large, red bumps on my face, but since then I have come to know it as a form of self-expression. It is no longer a necessity for me, but it is something I choose to do and something I enjoy.
Despite my love of makeup, I truly wish that someday I will have a face that I am content enough with so that I do not feel obligated to wear it. I want to be able to go to the grocery store fresh-faced and not feel the--likely fictional--gazes, judging my complexion. The women who have blemish-free faces do not seem to understand the struggle, for I have had several comments towards me about the amount of makeup or the situation I am in that does not normally require makeup. The truth is, even if my acne disappeared tomorrow, it will still be difficult for me to flaunt my makeupless skin due to the amount of oil it secretes, the redness that plagues certain areas of my face, or the scars from my childhood that hold a permanent place on my skin. I envy the girls who don’t have to think twice in the morning when they are getting ready for work. Even though I have a passion for makeup, it would be nice to feel like I have the option to skip it if I want to. When I was in high school, I played sports, and I would wear makeup to practices even though I knew how silly it seemed. I could not build up the courage to let my teammates see what I looked like without it.
Acne has been a setback that has frustrated me for the majority of my life, a setback that I am constantly reminded of due to the scars on my face and my back. I feel that it is a part of my identity, and I don’t want it to be. At twenty-four years old, it continues to be a major inhibitor in my life. I look in the mirror after I shower and wonder when I can rip off my blemished skin to see my true face underneath. Most of the times I am too blinded by my acne to notice anything positive about my features. As a person who preaches confidence and self-worth, I feel hypocritical as I think such negative thoughts about my outwards appearance. I don’t want to be this way anymore, and it is something I attempt to work on every single day. Perhaps someday my face will be as flawless as I’ve always dreamed it would be. But until then, I need to work on accepting me for who I am and not letting this diagnosis define me.