You know that story about WWI soldiers giving their opponents chocolate bars on Christmas eve, mid-war?
I feel like that’s the point my acne has reached. The battle certainly isn’t over, but the deep painful cysts seem to have, at least temporarily, subsided, and the little red spots all over my cheekbones and jawline are mostly just chillin’ right now.
My pores are like, “Damn, we’re pretty tired of staying open all the GD time. We’re not 18 anymore,” and all the toxins in my body are like, “Word, we are exhausted and the outside world is cruel. Let’s just stay in and work on ourselves, maybe learn how to crochet.”
But my skin has started this “recovery” process so many times before, I have little faith that this is actually the end of my troubles.
My acne started in college, when I was treating my body like shit and was constantly stressed and sad, but after a round of antibiotics, it was fairly manageable for a few years. By the time I was 23, I was like, “Thank god I discovered juicing! I think the acne storm has passed.”
Then, when I tried to go to grad school and ended up having a breakdown two months in, running away without telling anyone (long story), my face exploded.
My life was in disarray at that point. I was suddenly without a job, home, or sense of purpose in the world; I had been living off cigarettes and wine for months; and I didn’t even have a dog yet – these were dark times.
And it just got worse and worse. I went through a series of horrible jobs, like working at the front desk of a sleazy hotel, then as a data entry temp worker, then at a “good” job at a huge law firm where I just entered numbers into spreadsheets all day while listening to coworkers in ties show off about their LinkedIn connections.
I was, again, stressed and sad. I was urgent. My boyfriend and I would meet up for lunch and I would cry, being all, “I have to quit my job. If I quit my job, I could go online and find chores to do for people, and I could sell my underwear, and I could try busking, and maybe also become a really successful writer, and I could totally make rent if I saved every penny. I have to quit my job.”
My skin was just being a realist, in all its splotchy painful grandeur, saying, with a puff of smoke, “Seeya, youth. Let’s burn this motherfucker to the ground.”
I saw a dermatologist upstate who gave me antibiotics and a chemical peel. I looked like a fire victim for a few days, but then my skin got a little better.
Eventually, though, the antibiotics started to lose their effect, and I did quit my job. I started to work as a professional dog walker, which was wonderful, but I was suddenly walking between 10 and 15 miles a day, and up to 50 flights of stairs some days. I was also barely making rent.
I was constantly sweating, and I was constantly broke. No matter the weather, my face had the lovely sweat glaze, and my wallet was filled only with memories of bills past.
The worst part was my clear-skinned friends offering their unrequested advice – “I just don’t wash my face, and I’ve never had problems,” or, “Just use coconut oil. Only ever use coconut oil. For anything. Ever.” or, “I used to get one pimple on my chin when I was on my period – it was so awful! – but now I rub my face with a Brillo pad once a week and everything’s awesome.”
I tried everything I could think of, every cream on the skincare shelf at the drugstore, every supplement, every face wash, but my cysts just got bigger and deeper and redder. So I went to another dermatologist.
This dermatologist was a very chic, cosmetic city doctor (who, weirdly, was one of the only dermatologists in the city who took my shitty Obamacare insurance plan) who had a lavender vapor scent thing in the reception area of her office.
She put me back on antibiotics (big surprise), and gave me tons of expensive name-brand products to use. She was big on name-brands – “You get what you pay for!” I was in equal parts skeptical and desperate.
My skin did start to improve after a couple months, and I thought, “This is it! Finally! I’ll be able to live out the second half of my 20s in skin peace.” Then summer hit, and the acne returned, more painfully than ever before.
I went back to my dermatologist, and she was like, “More antibiotics!” and I was like, “That’ll be a whole year I’ve been on these things!” and she was like, “Mhmm?”
Fast forward, and I stopped the antibiotics. They weren’t really working anymore, anyway, and that dermatologist was some real midtown bullshit, so I just let my skin go to shit again.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll probably always have to have a pretty detailed skincare regime and I still probably won’t see great results, but things are looking up – at least a little.
My life is in a pretty stable state right now, which I think helps. I have a good job where I feel like I have some purpose and get respect, and where I’m paid fairly, and I have a good network of friends around the city. Most importantly, I have my pupper dog now (*heart melts* ❤ ❤ ❤ ).
Beyond that, though, three months ago I stopped eating gluten, and a month ago I cut dairy out of my diet. I’ve also been taking all natural skin clearing supplements, and I definitely still have a pizza face, but I’m, like, not embarrassed to go out in public without makeup, and it doesn’t hurt when I wash my face in the morning.
Moving forward, I just don’t want my skin issues to continue being an issue. This is a reminder to self – give less fucks! It’s much easier said than done, but so far, focusing on being healthy has yielded better results than anything else I’ve tried, and the more stressed I become, the worse, inevitably, my acne gets. I just have two and a half years of my twenties left (ugh good lord). Let’s fucking DO THIS.