If you are one of the millions of adults with acne, then you understand my struggle very well. It can be rough. Acne, especially after puberty, is highly stigmatized in our society — and most people with acne are constantly made to feel ashamed of their skin. Once you're out of your awkward teen years, and graduate into twenty-something adulthood (which is equally as awkward, honestly), acne is supposed to disappear. But in the real world of bad genetics, environmental pollutants, and sensitive skin, this is not always the case.
Adult acne is not as uncommon as we are made to think it is. In fact, according to the Acne Resource Center, about 20 percent of all adult Americans have acne. So you are most certainly not alone in the day to day and very real struggle of dealing with inflamed skin.
As a young adult who has learned to come to terms with and embrace their body's "flaws," I am OK with the fact that my skin is very prone to breakouts and redness. But sometimes what makes that fight for self love tougher is the rude observations of others. Under the guise of "we're just trying to help you," I've heard too many unwarranted comments about my skin from friends, family, and doctors alike. It's not always easy to deflect or be immune to this kind of negative attention. But let's talk about it in the hopes of destigmatizing our beautiful acne-prone skin. Here are some things I've heard a lot as an adult with acne:
1. "Don't you wash your face? You should be washing it more."
I hate when people ask this, as it puts me on the spot and makes me feel ashamed of my "lack of hygiene." But that's absurd because my acne is not a result of neglect. Yes, I do wash my face. Even though you don't really know me all that well, and even though there are a bunch of people around us, thanks for calling me out about my personal hygiene! There is no way that couldn't go over smoothly. And washing more is not necessarily the answer. Overwashing your skin can be harmful too, and I need to be gentle with my incredibly sensitive face.
2. "I stopped getting acne in high school."
Conrgats! And thanks for reminding me that I didn't leave my acne in my puberty years like you did. But that's perfectly fine. Not everyone grows out of it. Everyone's skin is different. You are not somehow superior to me, nor do you have superior habits, just because you grew out of it and I didn't!
3. "Why don't you just use (insert name of acne 'solution' here)? It worked wonders for me!"
That stuff burns! Trust me, I've tried about every product on the market. And harsh formulas meant to clear breakouts, like benzoyl peroxide, are not kind to my skin. Also, everyone's skin is different and we do not all react to skincare products the same way, or any product for that matter!
Acne products may help my pimples, but they're quite harsh on my eczema and dryness-prone face. It's not as simple as "just buy this product!" Dealing with skin conditions take a lot of time, patience, and experimenting with gentle skincare.
4. "You should be on acne medication."
OK, you are not a dermatologist, and have no right to say that to me! Even when it's doctors saying this type of thing, I can't stand it. I'm OK with my skin. I'm not interested in bathing my face in chemicals or taking medications that bother my stomach for a clear face. Even if I did, which I have in the past, it is only a temporary fix as my skin returns to its natural state as soon as I discontinue usage of these meds.
My acne doesn't hurt and isn't so excessive to the point of discomfort, so medicating is not an option that appeals to me in the slightest. Thanks for the unwarranted and unprofessional medical advice, though!
5. "That one looks ready to pop!"
So I hear this a lot, mostly from family. And this is quite possibly the most uncomfortable thing to hear about your acne, and no faster way to get you super embarrassed about the state of your skin. Besides the fact that it's kind of a gross thing to say!
My parents would always encourage me to pop my pimples, which I fiercely fought against, explaining that this practice can cause scarring. And teenage adventures of popping pimples that appeared on my cheeks did in fact cause scarring for me. So thanks but no thanks.
My first instinct isn't to attack my skin with more invasive irritation at the sight of a pimple. Just let it chill. If it's "ready to pop," it's ready to pop. Let it do its thing, and don't make me feel weird about it!
6. "You could just cover that up with some foundation or concealer."
Why are you saying this to me? I have yet to find foundation that doesn't clog my pores. Any face makeup, once used more than once, causes my skin to break out in either acne or eczema. So you can understand why I'm not so enthusiastically reaching for the concealer stick.
Plus, why do I need to cover up in the first place? I have nothing to hide... I'm not ashamed of my pimples. It's a perfectly natural byproduct of my body, and everyone gets pimples at least once in a while. I refuse to give so much into the stigma of acne that I would wear makeup simply to cover up my "imperfections."
7. "You've got some scarring on your face."
Thanks, I didn't notice. If I let my pimples be, uncovered and un-popped, you question my actions. And if I pop them, which for me causes scarring, I'm damned, too.
Rule of thumb: Stop making comments about my acne and how I maintain my body. It's none of your business, and it's not going to keep me from walking around being the proud and glowing human being I am. Pimples on my face and all.
Images: Meg Zulch; Giphy (7)