I have started, stopped and erased the beginnings of this post about 5000 times and I still am not sure I want to write it.
You see, no one wants to admit to or highlight their flaws, especially ones that have been dealt with and endured for years by being masked as best they could be so the whole world wouldn’t notice. But I figured, there just might be someone else out there that needed to hear this, needed to relate, needed to not feel so alone, so here it is.
Up until about four months ago, you could not have paid me any amount of money to leave the house without applying a skillfully placed mask of makeup to cover up the skin on my face. You could not pay me to wash my makeup off when just relaxing at home for fear of my fiance not finding me attractive. You could not pay me to not wear makeup when working out, even though I knew how silly it made me look. You could not pay me to go on an early morning road trip without wearing makeup or go to the beach without making sure my skin was perfectly covered up, making me more high-maintenance than I ever wanted to be.
You could not have paid me, because I had severe adult acne and I HATED the way my face looked and felt.
While I always thought I had ‘bad skin’ because of the joys of puberty and chose to wear makeup from grade 8 on, I had no idea what bad skin was until I turned 26 and all hell broke loose. What used to be one or two blemishes, turned into cheek-fulls, a jawline packed and temples covered. My face was consistently swollen, red, and in so much pain. I wore my hair down 99% of the time so I would be able to somewhat shield my skin from onlookers’ eyes as no matter how much makeup I put on, the texture and surface of my skin was still a mess and I was convinced it was all people could see when they looked at me. I carried myself differently, almost always with my head down so others could not see on first glance what my face looked like. I felt like I was known as the girl with bad skin.
On top of how it made me feel about myself, I hated how it made Michael feel when he would forget and grab my face to kiss me and have me pull away with tears in my eyes from the pain.
It didn’t matter what I did, what latest, greatest product I used that promised to heal me, no matter how much money I wasted trying to figure out how to find balance in my skin, nothing worked. I had used every product imaginable, been poked, prodded and burned by micro-needling and laser therapy that was supposed to be a miracle treatment (it wasn’t… far, far from it!), fiddled with many natural remedies and sat in my dermatologist’s office more times than he or I care to admit, bawling my eyes out about my skin and how it was affecting my life, my confidence, and even my desire to plan our destination wedding. The very thought of being on a beach with my family and friends and having to get up early every day to cover up my face so no one would see the mess of my skin was giving me anxiety. I wanted to be carefree, relaxed and completely easy going that week, not worried about how my makeup was holding up so no one would see my real face.
I had had enough. I was 28 years old and should have been long grown out of this stage in my life. I thought crazy things about why it wouldn’t go away, like it was my karma showing on my skin for something I’d done in the past, or that it was my body punishing me for choosing not to have children. Crazy, crazy things!
This past October, I again found myself in my dermatologist’s office, in tears, desperate to fix it. He tried, unsuccessfully, to convince me it wasn’t that bad, at the very least not the worst he had seen and asked why I was so upset. I responded, “You clearly have never had acne in your life, nor do you really understand how much pain I am in, how much my skin hurts, stings and throbs all day.” His sheepish expression told me that he hadn’t really been putting himself in my shoes, and that he definitely hadn’t ever experienced any sort of skin problem before. He reminded me about the option of Accutane, but not until the spring due to some of the more dangerous side effects that can be magnified in the winter months. I had always been dead-set against going on such a controversial treatment, but I was desperate. Devastated that Accutane was the only available option left, I told him I would try it. To carry me through until Spring, he prescribed me a topical treatment that shared some of the same properties as Accutane and suggested I look again at some other areas of my life that could be contributing to my flare ups.
Shortly after that visit I lost my job which reduced the stress level in my life significantly and meant I didn’t HAVE to put makeup on everyday. I made the decision with Michael to go back on the pill to see if the hormone regulation would help. On top of that, I cut most dairy from my diet, increased my daily water intake, started sweating without makeup on at Moksha and religiously used the prescribed topical treatment day and night. I stopped picking and poking my skin and let it be as often as I could.
Slowly, but surely I started seeing fewer new blemishes and the old wounds healing, and every day noticing a bit more skin that resembled a face I could love and less of a face like Freddy Kruger’s. I was so happy that I wouldn’t have to take Accutane!
I don’t know what specifically, or what combination of steps taken was the key, but present day, my skin is the healthiest it has ever been. So healthy in fact that I rarely even have to think twice before I leave the house fresh-faced and makeup free, something I had only ever dreamed of being able to do. So healthy that people who have not seen me for months can’t get over how great my skin looks. So healthy that if I told you I used to have a face FULL of acne only a few months ago, you would not believe me.
I wear my hair pulled back in braids or a bun all the time now, walk with my head held high and my face proudly on display for anyone to see. Don’t tell Mike, but I even got hit on at the grocery store the other day, makeup free, something I never thought in a MILLION years would happen.
But my favourite thing about my new, healthier skin?
Michael touches my face all of the time now – to kiss, to caress, just to love – and it makes my heart so happy it could burst.
It’s made me realize even more that the people that love me, for me, are not fooled by the misconceptions I have about myself and can look past my flaws even when I’m unable to separate myself from them. I’ve also been reminded that you should never give up on being an advocate for yourself. If I had not pushed back with my dermatologist just one more time, I highly doubt my skin would be where it is right now.
My skin is not perfect, nor will it ever be. But for now, I’m enjoying my new found freedom and confidence in this skin I’m growing into, and learning to love it regardless of its problems and issues… kind of like me.