On Learning To Love Your Adult Acne


“You certainly have lots of juicy bumps.”

Ahh yes, the words every woman waits to hear in reference to her face.

If you know me even remotely well, odds are I’ve talked to you at length (likely in gross detail) about my struggles with acne. While a “normal” person probably wouldn’t mention it in effort to divert attention from it, my gut reaction tends to involve bringing it right to the forefront. In reflection, it’s probably a subconscious effort to address it before someone notices and thinks, “Wow, that really chatty, weird girl is obviously filthy. Look at that crap on her face.”

Like most who are blessed with an extra colorful face with tons of texture, I’ve tried mostly everything since my first pimple emerged at the ripe age of 11:

• Over-the-counter creams, washes, scrubs, gels, foams, lotions, toners, astringents, etc.
• Proactiv
• Covering my face with toothpaste
• Dousing it in lemon juice
• Basically everything short of rubbing my own urine on my face (which is actually a thing — I’m not just being intentionally nasty for the humor factor, I promise)

I had been to the dermatologist before and got a prescription, but was impatient and didn’t refill it once I didn’t have luminous, beautiful skin by the time the cream was out. I decided to go again, this time determined to also get oral antibiotics and follow directions precisely.

I spent a few minutes in a white, sterile room while a woman with perfect, glowy skin asked me the usual questions before the very sprightly dermatologist arrived. It was a Friday afternoon just after 3 p.m., and he obviously wanted to get out of the office, racing through his interaction with me as fast as humanly possible.

He asked if I still felt I was getting a lot of acne, then assured me that I did indeed have “lots of juicy bumps.” Mmmm.

I asked if an oral antibiotic would be advisable, to which he said, “You should.” So there was that. I asked about possible side effects, thinking, “Yeah, my skin might clear up, but I’ll also want to kill myself.” (Forgive the joke — I have no class.)

He told me the pills would likely make me nauseous and I might want to puke, especially on an empty stomach.

“Good,” Society thought. “She’ll have a decent complexion and be skinny. The American Dream.”

So I left with a prescription for the bellyache pills and a topical cream, nearly anxious to get sick in hopes of revealing my Snow White skin to the world.

Now I’ll readily acknowledge that my skin isn’t the WORST it possibly could be. It’s been worse than it currently is, but I know, in theory, it could be much more severe. Mine isn’t cystic and can be covered with a heavy hand. I count my blessings.

It’s probably just to even out the playing field — I couldn’t be THIS awesome and have beautiful skin, too, right?

I also know there are much more serious things I could be concerned with. And if I were a better person, perhaps I would give less craps if my skin was covered in juicy bumps or not — but unfortunately, I spend a good chunk of time in front of the mirror primping, and that probably won’t change any time soon.

We’re always our own worst critics, as the pharmacist told me later that Friday. But I’d just be more confident if I could get rid of it, I told him.

He smiled as he handed me my sweet, sweet bellyache pills. He was obviously experienced in the realm of young women with skin issues, telling me it really wasn’t that noticeable and if he were me, he’d be very confident.

And now let’s get sappy and weird.

Struggling with acne on some level for the past 10 years has actually taught me a lot:

1. To give less of a darn what people think. Like that one chick in sixth grade who told me I “should really pop that thing. Ew.” Hey, girl.

2. To be a contributing member to the local economy. If I could get back all the cash I collectively spent on benzoyl peroxide, I could probably afford a down payment on a house.

3. To appreciate the few times it actually completely cleared. Like that one summer I spent tubing and swimming when the local lake had a dangerous level of sewage in it. Did wonders, I’m convinced. Maybe the urine thing would have worked?

But most importantly,

I learned to laugh at myself.

I’m wildly self-deprecating by nature, and you can either get frustrated over five new whiteheads, or you can laugh and have a popping competition with your little brother in the bathroom mirror at home. #memories

Only time will tell if my bellyache pills and new cream work, but in the event that they don’t, the backup plan is to make ruddy, red skin the next big trend. Be warned, all you clear-skinned freaks.

Shotgun faces (as my father would say) unite.