The plight of a pimple-ridden adult

Illustration by Blake Fernandez

I function in a bubble of self-consciousness. The shell I live my life in is afflicted with bumps and blemishes, boils and bruises. I have had acne since I was 15 or 16 — I never thought I’d still be dealing with it at 20.

There are many terrible parts of having adult acne. No matter what I do, I never feel like an adult. My skin screams pre-pubescence. People think I’m unhygienic, despite a constant obsession with cleanliness I simply can’t shake. I have little to no control over the state of my skin.

The worst part: I can hardly look people, even friends, in the eye without convincing myself they’re repulsed by the sight of me.

I know this all sounds very dramatic, but you don’t know the trauma of acne until you experience a severe case. While my skin is much better than it was when I was in high school, I still have acne.

There is physical and psychological pain that comes from having acne. Some weeks it hurts to speak or to eat. Other days, even when my skin is relatively clear, it’s incredibly difficult to look at myself or leave the house without makeup on. I’m riddled with scars and rosacea. No matter what, my skin will never be even or smooth.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on skin care in my lifetime. What many people don’t understand is a lot of acne, including mine, is not caused by external uncleanliness. Instead, it comes from within. For some, it’s diet and water consumption. For others, like me, it’s hormones.

I closely observe my skin and the patterns of any given break out. The worst is usually revealed when I’m on my period or out of my usual routine. Being an acne-prone person on vacation is a cruel joke.

There are always steps people can take to try to improve their acne. I could stop eating so much dairy, I could go on birth control, I could go to the dermatologist or go on medication. However, it’s not always that easy. My least favorite suggestion is to be told how to fix my complexion. Different remedies work for different people. If there were a cure-all, no one would have acne.

I’ve taken steps that have drastically improved my skin. I’ve had to learn what my unpredictable, oily, sensitive skin likes the most. It’s taken me years of trial and error and some major blows to my bank account, but most days I can say I’m comfortable with the state I’m in.

Living with acne is a nuisance and at times, very difficult. On one hand, if my biggest complaint is some pimples on my face, I’m thankful for that privilege. On the other, I shall bask in the envy of others’ beautiful skin until further notice.

The worst part is a lot of this is in my head, part of twisted, convoluted obsessions and insecurities. Is my skin actually all that bad, or am I transfixed by my own imperfections?

Whenever I ask a friend how terrible my skin looks right now, they usually respond with a perplexed look or, “not terrible at all, what do you mean?” The people who love me see the good before the bad — my natural glow and sheen or anything else other than my blemishes.

As long as I remember I am more than my complexion, that my value is not reliant on the number of pimples I have at any given time, I can overpower the urge to cower and hide.

After all, my exterior is not my most important part.