Learning Love Isn’t Skin Deep When You Have Severe Acne

Ever since my first major breakout at thirteen years old, my struggle with acne has been a huge part of my life. I know acne doesn’t just leave physical scars—it leaves emotional ones too. But you can heal.

While most people have the occasional whitehead, I was diagnosed by my doctor with a pretty severe and persistent case of cystic acne. These weren’t your average pimples; these were deep and inflamed sores that tended to cluster together into one huge supercell on both sides of my cheeks. I felt like I was walking around with Jupiter’s Great Red Spot on my face; my acne was a storm that never stopped brewing. For each pimple that subsided, another one would take its place. These cysts destroyed skin tissue, so I was left with pockmarks that made my face look like a lunar landscape.  And there wasn’t much I could do about it. All that was within my power was to listen to my doctor, use my prescriptions, and hope for the best.

By my mid-teens, the boils on my face were too large and brightly colored to cover up with foundation or concealer. In any case, going to makeup stores was really embarrassing because the salespeople would start hawking acne treatments when I really just came in for lip gloss. It was something everyone noticed because it was on my face. I couldn’t hide it and knew that I would likely be dealing with acne for the foreseeable future. I didn’t feel beautiful and didn’t think I could be. I didn’t think a guy would give me a second glance.

But then one did. At that point the volcano that was my face had largely cooled down, but there were a few pools of lava left. It was still an insecurity. Now that I could cover my acne up, I started wearing more makeup and always wore at least some when I was around him.

After a long day together at an outdoor festival, the makeup I was wearing had pretty much melted off my face. So I was really surprised when he said he thought I was cute.

“Even with my acne?” my barefaced self responded.

“Everybody’s got their thing,” he said with a shrug and a smile. He caressed my face with his hand and kissed me.

I had spent so much of my life examining my face in the mirror, fearing each new eruption would make me more unattractive than I already felt. Yet my pimples was an afterthought to him. He saw me for who I was—acne scars and all—and accepted me. I felt beautiful. His comment put my flaws into perspective. It helped me accept my acne as part of who I am.

Even though my acne isn’t as active now that I’m in my mid-twenties, I still have to treat it everyday and go to the dermatologist. I don’t and probably never will have smooth skin. But I’m not ashamed of my acne. Life is about dealing with our imperfections, not airbrushing them out of existence.  I’m wearing less makeup now. I put a little bit of tinted moisturizer on my face to control redness, but that’s about it. Why? I want people to see me for who I am. I no longer see my acne as something that makes me unattractive. I’ve learned that what makes a woman truly beautiful isn’t perfect skin, it’s confidence and self-acceptance. 

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