My skin started changing in the 8th grade. I was sleeping in the car after church, and someone took a picture of me. When I saw the picture, I was like - “Wait… what are those dots on my face???” They were on the left side of my cheek. After seeing the picture, I immediately went into the mirror, and I saw that I had pimples. I felt like I had to fix it immediately. And after that, everything went haywire. I started trying everything, but it only got worse. All throughout high school, it was so bad. I had pimples on top of pimples, and they were turning purple. When there was no space left, they started popping up on top of each other.
It got to the point that when I lightly laid my head on a pillow, some pimples would pop right away and bleed. It would soak through my pillowcase. I would wake up with crusted blood and residue on my face. Sometimes, I couldn’t even touch my face without a lesion bleeding. It was very uncomfortable and very physically painful. I used to do gymnastics, and a lot of times, they would pop during practice.
It was bad.
Like I said before, I tried everything. I tried oral antibiotics, I tried topical antibiotics, and I tried peels. I tried everything that was on the market. The very first thing I tried was proactive. I tried the kit for a few months, and not a single thing happened. So, I tried different oils, and I even tried things from different countries. When I got my first debit card, I bought a soap from Kenya that was supposed to clear skin. When I traveled home to the Philippines, I would buy two things called Eskinol and Maxi Peel. Eskinol is a very acidic toner, and it is largely made of alcohol. Maxi Peel was like a lightening agent, and it peels your skin but not in a healthy way.
By high school, I was wearing a hoodie to hide my cheeks, and I had grown out my bangs to cover my forehead. I remained a social butterfly, but I remember crying alone at night. When I was around people, I didn’t make it obvious that I was burdened by my skin. I was smiling, but I just felt like one of those kids with a pimple face in a teen movie. There were days where I hated going out.
I remember that it was my birthday, and my mom texted me during school asking - “Do you want to have dinner?”
I was like - “No, can we just go to that dermatologist next to my school?”
So, we went there, and I got my first facial steroid shot.
It helped a bit, but then in 2018, during nursing school, my acne rebounded. I was in my third year of nursing school which is the hardest year. I was taking like 25 credits during that semester, and I was also during hospital rotations so I really didn’t have sleep. My skin rebelled on me, and I was like - “Well, I’m back to square one.”
During that time, I went through huge amounts of anxiety. I would have thoughts like - “Oh, my gosh. No one is going to like me.” I have no idea how I got through it. I’ve repressed a lot of memories, but now I’m trying to root it all up because I feel like it’s important to talk about.
I’ve been through so much with acne. It was physically painful, and the biggest thing that I learned about acne is that most of its wounds are invisible. There are things about acne that go beyond the lesions and the scars. There’s the anxiety, the loss of hope, and the desperation. There’s the lack of confidence that you’re beautiful. There’s a mark that’s left on the person. There are painful memories left behind, and for people that are still going through acne, that’s something that we need to tackle so they can emotionally recover.
It’s important to be candid about the emotional and psychosocial effects of acne. So to me, it’s problematic when people with acne are pressured by others to feel happy and beautiful. I get the sentiment of self-love behind this, but we don’t have to understate the experience of acne or dress it up. People should be allowed to feel okay if they want to treat it.
Acne or not, I believe that everyone is beautiful, but while you’re going through it and even after, it’s so hard to believe that. For example, as a nurse, I’ve seen patients heal, but there’s something deeper that remains. I’ve seen patients lose hope after a diagnosis because they feel like they can’t regain their normal lives. People think they can’t do the things they used to do. And acne is kind of like that. It leaves a mark and invisible wounds beyond what people can see. For example, people have seen me cry because of my acne, but tears are surface-level. They don’t truly know the desperation that’s going on. That’s why it’s important to discuss what’s truly happening inside of a person.
Yes, helping people with acne is important, but we should also confront our feelings. I think that’s why skincare awareness and acne awareness are so important. It’s very important because we have reports of teenagers hurting themselves or worse because of skin conditions. They feel like they will never be loved, appreciated, or seen as worthy. These are very hard and important things that we have to talk about.
Overall, I’ve learned a lot from acne. Primarily, I’ve learned three rights: the right people, the right mentality, and the right product. As for the right product, you’ll find a product that works. We have enough science. Curology was something that helped me, but it was just about finding it. It will get better.
Secondly, surround yourself with the right people. It’s not just about the right esthetician or the right dermatologist. It’s about having the right people around you who accept you for who you are.
I remember connecting with some of my friends from high school, and I asked them - “Oh, my gosh. Do you remember when my acne was so bad? And they were like - “Honestly… we don’t even remember you having acne that badly.” And from that point, I knew. People who truly love us and accept us see way beyond the physical. They remember the memories and our best moments - not how we look during them.
And lastly, that leads me to having the right mentality. We can be so judgemental about how our own skin looks - so much so that we distort how our skin actually looks. If I magnify a small dot in the mirror and try to take it out, I will make it worse. So now, I’ve learned not to obsess over my skin. I’ve learned to have patience with myself in the same way that I do with my products or other people.
I think patience with oneself is the biggest part.