I don’t have many memories of dealing with acne during my adolescent years, though I’m sure I purchased my fair share of Clearasil products.
I started taking birth control at 15 and I have to wonder what my skin would have looked like had I not been taking it all those years.
My acne hit me hard during college, rearing it’s ugly head whenever I switched birth control or forgot to refill my prescription. But as soon as I started taking birth control again, my skin cleared.
I met my now husband in my junior year of college. My birth control at the time—Nuva Ring—was making me extremely emotional, and short tempered. Unsurprisingly, it was negatively affecting our relationship.
I visited my gynecologist and decided to switch to a low estrogen pill. In the months that followed, my skin erupted in angry, inflamed cystic acne. Over the course of the next year, I tried Proactiv, high-end glycolic acid peels and masks, topical antibiotics and Retin-A cream.
I have vivid memories of sobbing in my bed and cancelling plans with friends. I was consistently late to work, showing up with red, tearful eyes after spending hours applying heavy makeup, only to open my car mirror and be devastated by what I saw. (PSA: NEVER look in your car mirror during a bad breakout!)
Nothing provided the overnight results I wanted. When my husband proposed at the end of 2012, I made the decision to start taking my tried and true Ortho Tri-Cyclen again to clear my skin in time for our wedding
In 2014, my husband and I started trying to get pregnant with our first baby. I was so excited to start our family but also terrified of what would happen to my skin. I braced myself for the inevitable breakout. Five months later, I was pregnant, and my skin was remarkably still clear. And it remained clear through my entire pregnancy and throughout the first two years of my child’s life. I thought, “Finally! I’ve outgrown my skin problems!”
Then, last October, I accepted a new job with a new company. Around the same time, my toddler started daycare and brought home every germ imaginable. My entire family was sick for the next six months. Between the stress of chronic illness and a major life transition, my skin started breaking out again. What began as little whiteheads quickly transitioned to deep, painful cysts. I tried a natural skincare line, oil cleansing and several strong chemical exfoliants, but everything exacerbated the inflammation.
This bout of acne has resulted in both my lowest and highest points. The low end includes my toddler pointing at my face, saying, “Momma has boo boos.”
It includes the anxiety I feel every time I catch someone looking at me and wondering if it’s because of my skin. It includes the overwhelming guilt I feel each time I jerk away from my husband as he reaches out to touch my face. But it also includes a confidence I never had six years ago, the first time I experienced cystic acne. Confidence to walk into my yoga studio barefaced. To sit by the pool wearing only translucent mineral powder in front of my husband’s coworkers. To share my story and photos with all of you.
Yesterday marked seven weeks using the acne line, Unblemish, from Rodan and Fields. During this time, I’ve also added probiotic, evening primrose and zinc supplements to my daily multivitamin. And three weeks ago, I cut out dairy with a few small exceptions, including my father-in-law’s homemade ice cream over Memorial Day weekend. I’m not in the business of total self-deprivation. I’ve realized that results take time and I’m not doing myself any favors by switching skincare routines when I don’t see results in three weeks. My skin got worse between three and five weeks of use, but I’m starting to see slow, small signs of improvement.
My skin is not where I want it to be, but I’m going to give this a good four to six months before evaluating real results. More than anything else, I’m proud of myself for learning that health is about more than having clear skin. I want to be the happiest, healthiest version of myself, and for me, that means making decisions based on more than just what I see when I look in the mirror.