I don’t have any pictures of what my skin used to look like, and there are a couple of reasons why. I either airbrushed, deleted, or refused to have my photo taken in the first place. My skin was a disaster. I’m not going to pretend that acne is the same thing as a missing limb, or that I looked like the Elephant Man, but for a long time, my skin was my biggest insecurity.
I know that I’m not alone in feeling that way. For those of you who survived acne without feeling gross at least once, I’m impressed. For those of you who never had acne, I hate you. Just kidding, but not really. If you haven’t had acne, you probably wouldn’t understand how it feels thinking that every time someone looks at you, they’re zeroing in on the bumps on your face. You wouldn’t know how annoying it is to feel like you have to wear makeup everywhere to hide your skin, even at the beach. In my teens, acne made me feel like I couldn’t be myself, and worse yet, made me feel ugly and dirty, even though I’m a meticulously well-groomed lady. I think it is a cruel joke that during adolescence, the time when you already feel so vulnerable and confused, you’re also prone to disgusting, oozing bumps on your face. It’s the worst two-for-one combo deal I’ve ever seen.
Apart from the occasional hormonal breakout, my acne wasn’t so bad in high school. But in my sophomore year of college, my face exploded into cystic acne all over my chin and cheeks. I had always taken off my makeup before bed, showered regularly, and basically done everything you’re supposed to do to keep your skin clean. So then I went into overdrive, became vigilant about cleansing, and my doctor gave me prescriptions. I used mud masks like I was trying to suck all the moisture out of my face. I even went on Accutane, but it made me horribly sick after three months so I had to stop. So how did I beat it? How did I go from wearing thick makeup every day to not wearing any? I’m going to tell you what I’ve been doing all year…
I hydrated. When I say (or brag really) about this change, one of the most common responses is ‘Oh I never drink enough water.’ My friends say it, and I know my parents don’t drink enough. But water makes a huge difference. I keep a bottle in my car, a glass by my bed, and I try to chug my way through every day. Luckily, there are other kinds of water to keep you from getting bored. Coconut water is great, and I like to put chlorophyll drops in any drink for added vitamins and purification. (Bonus: it helps control cravings and hunger if you’re looking to lose weight!)
I found a dermatologist that took me seriously. When I was younger, my pediatrician prescribed my acne medications, and I think that because acne is just a typical teenage ailment, he didn’t see how unhappy I was with my skin. By the time I convinced my mom to take me to a real dermatologist, I was eighteen and had tried about fifteen different prescriptions.
I did my research. I adore my derm, and she’s helped me so much; every time I see her, I just want to give her a big hug! But I also was conscious of the fact that trying out so many prescriptions probably wasn’t a healthy or sustainable practice in the long run. I also wanted to understand my body better and learn more about natural remedies. So I started reading about different oils and diets, and I made some great discoveries. My go-to for a bad zit is still my prescription ointment, but thanks to rosehip oil and a mostly dairy-free diet, I rarely have any zits anymore. It’s a combined effort!
I wore less makeup. Now you’re thinking, ‘that’s not fair, I love wearing a full face every day.’ I love doing my makeup, but I wanted to be doing it to experiment and feel more beautiful, and I spent all of my time trying to cover up acne. Wearing less makeup forced me to accept myself, flaws and all. It’s also better for your skin. I fully support rocking a full face, whatever makes you feel beautiful. But you have to work extra hard at taking care of your skin if you regularly use a lot of products. If you take the time to put it on, you have to put in the time to take it off too.
I was patient. Now, you’re probably thinking, she’s been dealing with acne on-off for ten years, and she was patient?! In the past, I was upset when a product wouldn’t give me results overnight, and I spent a lot of money trying too many products because I kept thinking that there was one magic item that could cure me right away. Even with strong prescriptions, it can take months to see results. If you give up too quickly, you’ll never be satisfied.
One year later, I’m sitting on my bed typing this on my second straight makeup-free day. I think of how far I’ve come, and I’m proud of the lessons this ordeal taught me. All these years of insecurities and tears were worth it, because I learned to love myself. XX, Gabrielle
Shop some of my favorite products!