Accepting Adult Acne: It’s Scars, Discomfort, and Self-Love

As children and even as teenagers, we possess this idea that things will get better as we get older. When I was younger, I was never appeased by my appearance, and as a result, I spent the energy I could’ve used to love myself to instead, tell myself that all those things would change as soon as I got older. Looking back, I realize that it was foolish: I truly believed that as soon as I hit 20, my nose would get thinner, my jawline would automatically sharpen, my personality would improve by 34%, and my hair would go from a bird’s nest to Pantene-perfect, like in the commercials.

Perhaps that’s why when I hit 19 and suddenly had a constellation of zits across my cheeks, chin, and forehead… I was shook.

The first time I noticed my breakouts, I refused to accept them. I didn’t know what to do because as a result of my prior beliefs, I wasn’t supposed to break out anymore as a “real” adult. Now was my time to have clear skin, flip my hair in boys’ faces, and take good selfies. So why was this happening to me?!

[Read Related: Clearer Skin and a Fresher Face with the Magic of Citrus Fruits]

Although I frequently noticed acne on other college students’ faces, I never thought much of it. To me, it was a fact of life and wasn’t a big deal…until it happened to me, and suddenly, acne was the most undesirable thing in the world. This led me to become unreasonably insecure; I went from being loud and outspoken to a little less loud and outspoken because I told myself stupid things like, “If you’re cute and loud, then you’re fun, but if you’re ‘ugly’ and loud, you’re annoying.” I used this kind of negative self-talk to hurt myself, and consequently became less confident in my appearance, and thus, myself.

Perhaps the worst part of it all was that I started comparing myself to others and started labeling my worth according to how “good” I looked (how clear my skin was). For example, depending on how my skin looked, I could have a good day or a bad day. I felt so self-conscious when I talked to others because I was afraid that they were staring at my acne when they were not. I always felt ugly and lesser of a person, and it showed in the way I talked about myself and how I felt. It even showed in the way I behaved with others, and sometimes I even let it prevent me from leaving my house. To a common person, this seems outrageous, but those with acne truly understand the pain and the control adult acne can take over.

Social media never helped either. In a world where skin correcting apps like Facetune and filters are the norm, it can be especially hard to love the skin you’re in. Every time I logged on to Instagram, I found myself digging myself into a deeper hole of self-pity and insecurity. It wasn’t until I saw a Youtube tutorial of an Instagram influencer showing viewers how to edit their photos to rectify their skin to perfection did I have a moment of realization that Hannah Montana was always right: Nobody’s perfect.

Another frustrating thing about acne was that even though it affects everyone, no one ever accepted it as a fact of life. Instead, it is treated as something absolutely disgusting. Have you ever noticed that the only time we discuss acne in society is when we want to find ways to get rid of it? The hardest thing about acne is that you always feel like you’re the only one when the opposite is true. Even though acne is the most common skin condition in the world and according to the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, 54 percent of women older than age 25 have some facial acne, it’s still seen as something obsolete and irregular.

So if you’re dealing with adult acne, I promise you’re not the only one. Almost everyone has or has had acne in some shape or form, but the trick is that you need to stop living in fear and not worry about it too much. Obviously, if it’s painful or unwanted you should consult a dermatologist and try the creams, ointments, pills, facials, home remedies, and washes — but know that what works for someone else may not work for you, and that’s totally okay. Everyone heals at their own pace.

Some may misconstrue my message and argue that sometimes acne can be your body’s indicator of a deeper problem, so one shouldn’t disregard it by “accepting it.” Obviously, you should take care of yourself and eat right, drink water, and wash your makeup off before bed every night, but don’t make acne the reason why you do that. Do it anyway and know that despite it, acne may still be a possibility.

We all are insecure and struggling with something, somewhere, but we won’t be able to normalize it if we don’t talk about it and hide behind the Snapchat dog filter. So I’m going to say it out loud: I have acne. And not just on my face. I have acne and acne scars on my neck. On my back. On my shoulder blades. And anyone who’s ever had acne there or anywhere will tell you that it sucks and hurts physically and emotionally, and it makes you feel ugly and undesirable. And I want to be able to say that out loud without someone offering me a face mask recipe or feeling bad for me because acne is normal and stressing about it will cause more pain since stress, anxiety, and hormone imbalance can all lead to acne.

It’s normal to want to have smooth and clear skin, but know that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. As someone who has very recently tried to accept adult acne and still struggles to do so, I can assure you that the path to acceptance is riddled with highs and lows. Some days I accept my skin and can flaunt it bare, and other days I cry and cuddle my cat because everyone and their mom have clear skin except me. The journey to self-acceptance is not easy or smooth, so it’s a good thing you’re not used to smooth things, right?!

Good luck to you all, my pimpled princesses.

By Duriba Khan

Duriba is a half Indian, half Pakistani American writer double majoring in Advertising and Political Communication at The University of … Read more ›