Having acne at 20

My daily routine was much simpler than it is now. In the past, I would simply wake up, slather on moisturizer and sunscreen, then step outside. But recently, I started feeling the need to put on foundation before going to a workout class.

I never thought I would be dealing with “adult acne” in my early twenties considering I went through middle school and high school with a crystal-clear complexion. At first it wasn’t too bad. I had deep rooted pimples around the time of my menstrual cycle and tried my best not to attack my face to let my skin clear up naturally. But soon my skincare routine became more of a full-fledged makeup routine with layers of concealer and foundation. It was as if my life had changed overnight. The usual compliments on my “perfectly clear skin” have changed to be based more on my personality or outfit. The one thing I had been so proud of was now completely gone.

I did what most people do and went straight to the dermatologist. First I was prescribed Epiduo Forte and then another topical treatment which ended up failing. The unsolicited advice I received from well-meaning friends and family telling me that I just needed to “de-stress” or buy this particular brand of face wash only did add to my frustrations. I felt like I was trying every product on the shelf, every tip and trick to get clear skin, but nothing was working. In fact, it only got worse.

I have also tried to lighten my skin from within through food. My meals consisted of whole, unprocessed foods and I drank a gallon of water a day in addition to maintaining a consistent workout routine. I didn’t realize how much of an impact this had had on my self-confidence until I saw a picture of me taken during the height of my acne struggles. My smile felt forced, appearing “out” of what it really was. My facial expressions revealed how bad I felt due to my low self-esteem. I kept looking for verbal affirmation from others that my acne was not noticeable in order to get some relief.

After feeling like I had hit a plateau with my acne meds, I went back to the dermatologist and was prescribed topicals and spironolactone, which gave me hope after having googled and read success stories from people who had experience with the drug. Soon my YouTube viewing history was filled with videos of other people who had treated acne. Videos titled “My journey with acne” and “How spironolactone cleared my skin” flooded my recommended page. For the first time, I felt like someone finally understood what I was going through. Listening to hundreds of girls describe their experiences felt like they were telling my own inner thoughts.

I decided to adopt a more positive attitude towards my skin and my physical appearance. Instead of starting my mornings with negative self-talk, I moved on to expressing my gratitude for the opportunity to see a dermatologist and get the treatments I needed. I reminded myself that my acne did not define me or my beauty.

For now, I’m still learning to accept the scars on my face. I also realized that people’s first thoughts when they see me are not about my acne but rather about my personality and my energy. Confidence comes in waves and some days are much better than others, but each day is a learning experience and a new chance to love myself better, with or without my makeup.

Contact Isabel Espinoza at [email protected].

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