That’s why, for me, not being able to achieve fair skin made me feel like I couldn’t be an adult. I believed I was unable to take care of myself every time I broke, ignoring the fact that acne is often caused by a complex combination of factors. I was too stressed, I told myself one day. I needed to cut dairy products, I would say the following. I needed to hydrate more. Then hydrate less.
The amount of distress and obsessive-compulsive behavior my adult acne has inspired is not unusual. Studies have found anxiety and depression are actually more common in adults with acne than in adolescents with acne. “If you’re sitting in a high school classroom, there’s a good chance your peers have acne as well,” says Dr. Danielle Samuels, who has conducted research on the links between mental illness and disease. ‘acne. “But in adults, acne is not as prevalent. You can look around the table at work and very well be the only one there. So there is that feeling of being out of step with your peers that makes adult acne very stressful. The heightened stress associated with acne in adults is part of the reason the SkincareAddiction forum offers calls to help refine seven-step routines primarily for adults, not time-killing teens in history class.
Sometimes it’s only when you cross the finish line that you can look back and see how ridiculous the race is.
Accutane, an oral form of retinoid that works wonders in curing severe acne (often permanently), has many negative side effects. For me it was incredibly dry skin and chapped lips and mood swings stronger than hurricane winds. But the only positive? The infamous “Accutane glow”. While I was taking the medicine for six months, my skin was effervescent. My face was dazzling and twinkling as if a spotlight was constantly shining on it. Everyone commented, fear in their eyes as they searched for my nonexistent pores. My Instagram followers, not knowing I was on Accutane, were leaving messages under my photos asking what my secret was. “SKIN GLOWING,” the praise usually read.
Why? I liked to imagine that having fair skin would coincide with other forms of clarity in my life, like better stress management or self-confidence. But that did not happen. Yes, my stress was no longer showing on my face through zits begging to be popped – but I was still stressed out. I had only painted the real problem that I had to solve. Appearing as though I was well rested and prepared and drinking eight cups of water every day didn’t really represent a better management of my life. I was overworked and overworked. And, like so many other young adults trying to be successful in New York City, I was trying to eliminate the symptoms of stress rather than the stress itself. I wish I could say I did this job now. But my work-life balance is a constant learning process, and always could be.