Christina’s Story: Embracing Self-love and Acceptance with Acne

“I was born in New York City, but after 9/11, my family moved to Long Island. I got my first breakout in the fifth grade. A boy came up to me, and he was like - “what’s on your face?” I didn’t answer because I really didn’t know. My mom told me that it was going to go away, but being confronted by that boy set me off on a very negative journey with self-image.”

“From that point on, I was always insecure about my skin. I also suffered with an eating disorder when I was younger. But now, I care more about how I’m perceived emotionally, and I care about genuinely connecting with other people. I just went to a birthday dinner, I went with a bare face, and I had a good time.”

“Before, I could never.”

“In middle school, I would have definitely done a full face to go to a birthday party. Along with having an eating disorder, feeling pressured to wear full-face makeup at the age of 13 was a lot.”

“I had an eating disorder where I couldn’t stop using food as a form of fulfillment. I had a bad problem with binge eating. I was in the 8th grade, and it was really intense. I had to go to a weight loss camp. At the camp, you woke up, you had morning work out, and then you ate breakfast. The people who reached their maintenance weight got yellow bands, and everyone deeply wanted that band. I remember waking up on Sundays, and not having breakfast first, but having “weigh-in.”

The first time, I was ever confronted about my weight was when I was 5. I was brought to a nutritionist, and at the age of five, not only did I fully understand the social idea of “fat and skinny,” it became a part of my life. In the first grade, a boy called me fat. And in the second grade, a boy called me thunder thighs. In the 3rd grade, girls would stare at me when we changed for gym. So, I’ve always been a little self-conscious, but I take my biggest insecurities, and I talk about them every day now. I do still struggle with my appearance, but at the same time, I’m like - “whatever, I’m alive. Thank God.” Furthermore, I’ve also become very anti-diet.”

Christina explains how she experienced this disorder along with her skin condition, which was ultimately exacerbated by stress and emotional turmoil.

“Acne isn’t just a physical state. It’s a mental and emotional condition. I even had an addiction to picking my skin and obsessing over it. It’s very difficult when something is happening to your skin, but you can’t control it. It can be one pimple or a hundred pimples, and acne will still impact you. When my skin started breaking out, my mom was very supportive. She took me to dermatologists, she took me to estheticians for weekly facials, and she took me to herbalists. She’s Korean so she even took me to doctors there so I could go through medical procedures with electric pimple extractors. I was in the 7th grade at the time, and by the time I was 17, I had tried spironolactone, clindamycin, minocycline, and doxycycline. None of it worked.”

“Finally, after I turned 17, I started birth control, and I got laser treatment for acne. At that point, I was about to go to college, and I worried even more about dealing with my skin. Surprisingly, my skin finally started to clear. But 6 months after my skin got clear, it started breaking out again because of emotional stress. I was in a relationship, and one of my boyfriend’s family members had passed away. The morning of the funeral, I woke up, and my face was incredibly inflamed. It broke out in a way that I hadn’t seen in years. Also, during this time, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer so I was trying to be supportive of my boyfriend and my mother, but I had no one to support me because she didn’t want me to tell anyone. Looking back now, I see that my acne was emotionally based because I was incredibly stressed. I was not well, and I was very broken. I got off of birth control because of the hormonal mood swings it caused me, and I got a copper IUD.”

Christina wears gold and pearl earring that dangle. Red facbric is wrapped around her hair like a head band. She gives a small smile.

“However, my body completely rejected it. I was passing out, contracting, and getting UTIs and yeast infections. I went to an endocrinologist, and she told me that I had polycystic ovary syndrome. They put me back on birth control and spironolactone, and it did not work. My skin broke out even worse than it had ever had. At this point, I was so embarrassed of myself, and I was embarrassed to be in front of my friends, my family, and my boyfriend. I could not see anyone, and I could not go to class. I’m a very social person, but I felt like I had to hide myself away. I was an extrovert put into a solitary environment so that was very hard on my soul.”

“The college environment exacerbated it. When I was in college, I was in southern California surrounded by all of these girls just looking perfect all of the time, and I felt like crap because of it. Nevertheless, I started educating myself about my skin, and that’s how I got introduced to skin positivity. This was back when it was not popular at all. Cassandra’s videos were literally the only thing on the internet, and I found so much peace in people talking about their skin. Seeing people going through the same thing within the acne community and relating to them brought me so much peace especially during April of 2019 when I had to go on Accutane.”

Christina describes how exposure to this community helped normalize acne in her mind and helped her feel more comfortable in her skin. “I started getting more comfortable in my skin because I was exhausted. I was tired of waking up and feeling upset. Even before I drank water in the morning, I would do my makeup. I was tired of that mindset, and I had to make a conscious shift. I had to make the intention and try to promise myself that I wouldn’t spend an hour in the mirror picking at my skin and that I wouldn’t spend an hour in the mirror doing a full face of makeup. I had to ween myself off of those habits. And slowly but surely, they became less a part of my schedule. At first, cutting back was not okay for me, but eventually, it started to feel good. You can get through it too, and you have to work through it. When you see your growth at the end, it’s going to feel so good. When I visualized myself without those habits, that also really helped me.”

Christina's hair is in a top pony tail with a beige scrunchy. Her head is tilted down, and she gives a curious stare and smile. She shows her natural skin with some blemishes, and the picture says "glowy skin."

Christina continues to explain how this journey not only led her to understand the definition of self-acceptance, but it led her to share it with others. “I found out that self-love and self-acceptance are two separate things, and I started my Instagram account to help others get the foundation for developing these two things. Self-love can be eating that pint of ice cream you want, budgeting, or having a night out with your friends. The harder form of self-love is self-acceptance because you have to look at your reflection and accept all of her. You have to accept all the layers of her epidermis. She is not just physical. She is the person under the skin, and you have to take care of her, you have to feed her, you have to nourish her, and you have to love her too.”

“You have to take self-love and apply it to self-acceptance. And Although I’m sitting here talking about this, I don’t accept myself fully. I’m still working on that, and that’s the point. Self-acceptance is something that you work on every day and something that you work towards progressively. We have to accept ourselves as human beings and accept that we’re here on Earth to get to know ourselves and to have human experiences. The end goal is not perfection.”