Photography: Viivi N. Media
A few years ago after I ended my summer adventure at Camp America and headed to Finland for my exciting year abroad, I’d made endless memories, drank a little bit too much, barely had any sleep and certainly didn’t have time to wash my makeup off or look after my skin properly. WHAT EVEN IS FACE WASH THO? Within 2 months of arriving in Finland I seemed to develop acne overnight. I’d suffered from troublesome skin before, but nothing more than your average spotty teenage skin. The acne took me completely by surprise, and teamed with being far away from home and not knowing many people made me feel incredibly isolated.
The worst thing when you have acne is that even if they’re not you feel like EVERYONE is looking at your spots, not you or listening to what you’re saying but those new, red and angry eruptions that appeared on your face overnight.
No one understands. Unless you’ve suffered with acne yourself, there is no way that you can begin to imagine how it feels to live inside a body that has acne. I felt like I looked ill, I felt like people would think I ate really badly. Like LOL she actually does resemble a pizza Margherita. I felt self conscious, I doubted how I looked and it was painful. The face of acne is that it’s miserable. You feel so alone, and after trying everything on the counter, and trying one after another of recommendations you see no change. It feels like you’re going to look like this for the rest of your life.
Your outlook completely changes. I was once an incredibly confident and ‘life and soul’ type of person at the party until acne arrived. I didn’t want any focus put on me, I cowered away as I was embarrassed for people to see my skin, it was like I was fading away as a person and spiralling into a dark hole that I didn’t know if I could return from.
It’s strange how a physical problem can affect you mentally, but when something literally makes itself resident in your skin overnight, how could it not? I struggled for 6 months with acne, and when it was at it’s worse I just didn’t know what I could do or turn to. I was adamant not to seek medical advice, I was also in Finland at the time so this made it very difficult. James sent me various spot treatments and creams in the post that I couldn’t get in Finland and I was forever grateful for his support. At the time I struggled to even think how he could find me attractive and want to stay with me. You are the same person, but acne has a hold over you that can make you doubt even your strongest morals.
I wanted to be sucked into a dark hole when friends would be moaning about one spot on their face, like LOL LOOK, I am more spot than face. I went through bottles and bottles of concealer, making every effort to cake my skin and hide the fiery and painful eruptions. Let’s not even talk about the treatments that made your entire facial skin shed like a snake. Flaky and spotty, cute. There was no hiding from it. There is no mercy when you have acne. It will continue, and continue and you never know when it’s going to get better, or lord forbid it, if it will get worse. The weeks and months just blend into one. You think you’ll have it for the rest of your life.
There was a period of time where I never shared photos of myself, only the people I lived in Finland with knew I had it, with that being bad enough, I don’t know how I would have coped bumping into people I had known all my life. I didn’t look well and I didn’t want anyone to ever look at my face again. Only I have photos of what my skin once was, which I’m not sure I’ll ever share.
Those were dark days. But with time it got better. It didn’t happen overnight, it wasn’t one of those light at the end of the tunnel moments, but it was working progress. I stopped drinking alcohol, I went back to basics with a very simple skincare regime and I started eating better. The scabs and crusty formations slowly started to heal and fade, I was slowly left with a handful of scars which I think I was lucky to escape with. It’s now been 4 years since I had acne and I really hope it’s left my life for good. I still panic when I see a few new spots forming, but I always know it will get better. Acne will get better, you just need to give it time, love yourself and remember that acne certainly does not and should not dictate your life. You’re more of a person than your acne is.
Have you struggled with acne before? Can you relate to my experience in any way? How did you combat your acne?