10 lessons I’ve learned from living with adult acne

Acne is awful. It’s gross,
painful, and can make you feel like a complete monster. I know this because
I’ve been dealing with persistent, cystic acne since I was about 12. I’m now 26
and still struggle with acne. I’ve taken every medication under the sun,
including two rounds of Accutane, and I haven’t gone a day without a blemish
since I was a kid.
Anyone with acne knows the
struggles that come along with having it. I’m used to those struggles now,
certainly, but I’ve come a long way. Since it doesn’t look like my blemishes
are going away permanently anytime soon, I thought it would be helpful to other
acne-sufferers to share the lessons the experience has taught me:
can be very mean
While there are plenty of
adults out there with acne, it doesn’t stop certain people from having an
opinion about your face. I’ve heard it all from “pizza face” to
“pimple queen.” Sure, the taunting was worse when I was younger
because kids can be mean, but it doesn’t stop when you’re an adult. It’s almost
worse, I think. People have asked me, “What’s wrong with your face?”
I’ve been told to wash my face, see a dermatologist, do better with my makeup,
stop using makeup, and more. It’s extremely disheartening and makes my
insecurities even worse. I can’t imagine saying something like that to someone,
but the bottom line is some people are mean and insensitive. You can’t change
what other people say, but you can change how you react to it. Remember that
what they say doesn’t have to matter, and you don’t have to listen to those
people when they say terrible things.
believe miracle “cures”
There are always new miracle
products being touted as acne cures. Let me be frank: there is no cure for
acne. Not yet, anyway. But every few months, a new product comes out promising
to rid you of blemishes forever! From ProActiv to DIY “cures,” there
is always something new. If something claims to cure acne, don’t expect it to
actually do so. The term “cure” is so misleading because it makes it
seem as though there’s a magic potion that will eliminate your acne forever.
It’s better to stay realistic: while there are some products that might work
incredibly well for certain people, it’s impossible to know which one will work
for you. And nothing is going to get rid of your breakouts forever. It’s better
to accept the situation for what it is than chase a fantasy.
be afraid to try new things
Trial and error is key in
finding acne treatments. I’ve tried everything under the sun from every acne
medication to slathering egg whites on my face. I try new things all the time,
just in case I stumble upon something that works better than what I’m currently
using. Don’t be afraid to experiment. If something doesn’t work, stop doing it.
But if it does, you’re golden! As long as you don’t expect perfection, don’t
shy away from trying new products. Of course, you don’t want to go overboard
and switch to a new product every week, but if something sounds interesting and
you still haven’t found a routine or product that you’re happy with, give it a
what works for YOU
One of the most important
lessons I’ve learned is to find the combination of products and treatments that
works specifically for you. I’ve had people rave about certain products
that didn’t work for me when I used them. I can’t tell you how many people push
ProActiv on me, which is so frustrating because I did try it, and it made my
skin even worse. I have finally found a regimen that works for my skin, and I’m
sticking to it. Focus on finding treatment options that you’re comfortable
using and that work for you — regardless of what anyone else says.
an advocate for yourself
When I was younger, I didn’t
advocate enough for myself and my skin. I just did whatever my dermatologist
told me to do, and then I was sorely disappointed when I didn’t have great
results. I found a new dermatologist who I really click with, and we’re a team
when in comes to treating my acne. It’s important to voice your concerns and
talk openly with your dermatologist. If you heard about a new treatment or
medication you want to try, ask about it. If you feel like something isn’t
working for you, speak up.
pick, don’t pick, don’t pick
I used to be a notorious
face-picker. I love popping zits and get great pleasure from squeezing out
blackheads. But picking is bad! There is a proper way to extract blemishes,
which I’ve fortunately learned from my esthetician. If you remove blackheads
and whiteheads the right way — and when they’re ready — they will heal faster,
be less susceptible to infection, and probably won’t scar. The majority of my
pitted scars wouldn’t have occurred had I not picked cysts that weren’t ready
to pop. I used to literally dig in with my nails and whatever tools I had.
Don’t do this! Resist the urge, trust me.
are more than your blemishes

If you have acne, it’s easier
said than done to not just see zits when you look in the mirror. When I’m
really broken out, it’s so difficult to look at my reflection and feel good
about myself. Over time, I’ve learned that I am so much more than my skin. So,
I have some zits. I’m still the same person! I’m still just as smart and
successful with acne than I am without it. Having blemishes doesn’t make me any
less me. Of course, this can be tough to remember on a bad day, but it’s
something to keep in the back of your head when you feel low.
is hard to conquer
Part of realizing you’re more
than your blemishes and overcoming insecurity is knowing that it’s hard to do.
You will have good and bad days, and some of those bad days may be really bad.
There may be times when you literally don’t want to leave the house because
you’re so upset about the state of your skin. Someone might say something about
your face, not realizing the profound affect it has on you. You might have a
bout of clear skin, only to be followed by a severe breakout that makes you
want to hide under a rock.
While I’m aware that I’m more
than my acne, I still have insecure days. Mostly, though, I’m pretty confident
in myself and feel happy despite my blemishes. It took some time, but it’s a
solid place to be. Use the fact that you have acne as an opportunity to grow
into a stronger and tougher person. Put in the effort to push away negative
thoughts and try to respond to them with positive thoughts. You have more
control over your confidence and self-esteem than you think.
might have to deal with it forever
Some people are lucky — they
grow out of their acne after puberty or have a short stint with adult acne.
Others, like myself, have to accept that it is a lifelong condition. I thought,
surely, after college I wouldn’t have to deal with my acne anymore. It wasn’t
until a candid conversation with my dermatologist that I realized I would be
dealing with zits for the rest of my life. And that’s okay! It sucks sometimes,
but I have a lot of great things going on and I always remind myself of that. I
don’t want to focus so much on my skin that I forget to live.
don’t notice your acne as much as you do
While you think everyone is
staring at the breakouts on your chin or the pimple in the middle of your
forehead, they’re more than likely not. I mean, realistically, how much are you
staring at other people’s blemishes? You’re not, really. You might notice a big
cyst for a second, but you move along. But when you have acne, it’s easy to
feel like everyone is just staring at your face. This is called the spotlight
effect. It’s basically the phenomenon that makes you feel like everyone is
paying more attention to something about you than they actually are. I promise,
not everyone is staring at your zits.
going to be okay
Until dermatologists find a
true cure for acne, people are going to struggle with it. You are not alone,
even when it feels like you are. My best advice is to find out what works for
you and your skin and try not to get discouraged. Your zits don’t define you!
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.