By Kali Kushner
Life with adult acne was confusing. Frustrating. Embarrassing. Eye opening. Qualifications. Wonderful.
Probably not exactly the words you were expecting, but it is not easy to sum up the entire experience of life with adult acne. There were ups and downs and everything in between. I honestly don't know where to start, but I thought it could be helpful if someone noticed that they didn't feel alone.
How it all started
My acne came out of nowhere. I always had a few pimples in high school and occasionally a strange ball during my period, but nothing too crazy. That is until I turned 20. Then, in a few months, my face went from completely acne-free to covered with huge throbbing, cystic spots, scars, and hyperpigmentation. Without a change in skin care, diet, hormones, or stress levels, I was lacking the words. Every morning I woke up and ran to the mirror to find a new place. Every day I felt less and less attractive, and for a 20-year-old who really takes a toll, trust.
I was determined to feel good again, I was tired of feeling sorry for myself and just wanted the mess to be over. With the utmost dedication, I began to look at various treatment options. Since then, I've tried the Caveman regime, oil cleansing, antibiotics, and 12-step skin care systems, and I've even been acute – with nothing ever completely cleaning my skin. (To be honest, the biggest difference I've ever seen was to cut dairy and gluten from my diet and add lots of fresh vegetables. It was difficult at first, but it got a lot easier over time.)
I lost hope for a minute. I wasn't sure if I would ever be completely free from cystic fibrosis. I thought I had to learn to live with it. And I agreed until my acne exploded out of thin air recently. I thought this constant ferris wheel of acne fate couldn't be normal. Having clear skin for a week and then 7 cysts within three days is psychological warfare. And now that my skin is clear again, I'm waiting. I wonder when it will come back, whether it has actually disappeared this time, and whether it will do more damage when it returns.
When your youthful acne doesn't go away
After I had acne as a teenager, I always assumed it would go away over time. "I just have to get through it," I said to myself. And even if it wasn't really that bad, boy in my head, I would hit myself so hard. I always imagined my acne would go away or go away over time. I would never have imagined a scenario where it would actually get worse. I think when I realized that this is a lifelong fight I'm going to deal with, I mean, damn it! Even my mother is still getting pimples at this time of the month. And there is nothing wrong with that, having acne is a normal thing that most people go through at one time or another, but cystic acne is a completely different ball game.
I think my acne got worse over time due to overuse of antibiotics, topical prescriptions and even acute acne. The bacteria became extremely resistant and turned into a kind of super acne. And if that happened to you too, you know it's not your fault. Most of the time we are advised and accepted by medical professionals because we assume that they are both well trained and in our best interest. The problem with acne is that there isn't a single cure, so they don't technically know exactly how it all works and how it can be prevented. Mostly, our hormones, our diet or simply our DNA are blamed for this. This is confusing and frustrating. If you don't know the exact cause and blame genetics for it, you feel almost powerless.
How other adults perceive you
I really wish other adults would behave like adults, but to be honest they don't most of the time. When my acne was at its worst, I got countless rude looks, suggestions, and was even accused by the police of taking drugs for the condition of my skin. Talk about losing trust right there. It's embarrassing! I'm old, no one else has acne, I should be able to cope with it too, right ?! If you're ashamed of other people's opinions, don't do it. It really doesn't matter what others think about you, especially if they judge you by their looks, but are 20 years old, it was a delicate time for me. I think it honestly taught me more about other people than about myself.
In the past, when my skin was clear, I received compliments every day. Then my acne got mixed up, radio silence. And when my skin lightened up again, the same people who ignored me suddenly wanted something to do with me. Really superficial and it opened my eyes to see the kind of world we live in. Before acne I realized that I was guilty of judging someone. I thought, "Why didn't you just wash your face?" Since I had clear skin and never had to deal with extremely stubborn acne, I was unable to understand. I assumed that I washed my face with pieces of soap every two weeks, others should be able to do that and have glowing skin like me.
Short messages to the former self, that's not how it works.
Acne strengthened me
When I have acne as an adult, I have thicker skin that makes me stronger and safer in the person I am today. This way I can share my experiences online, normalize skin problems and empower others to feel safe in their skin too. Acne taught me to be very superficial and to recognize that your worth and worth is more than your appearance. It is your soul, your heart, your whole being. I know now, regardless of how my life develops, I will get through it and that it is not the end of the world. It can be difficult at times, but it is getting easier. And in the end everything will go exactly as it should.