What it’s Like Living with Acne

Having had acne as long as I can remember, I know first hand the devastating experience it can have on your self esteem. Most people think nothing of leaving the house. They get dressed, slap on some makeup if they want and they are out of the door. For someone with acne it all depends on the state of their skin that day. Imagine your life being run by a skin infection that just won’t leave you, no matter what. It affects you on the outside as well as the inside. In my personal experience the only person to understand you if you have acne is someone else with acne. Only they know how devastating, depressing and isolating it can be.

For me, the first devastating comment on my acne came from a middle school teacher of mine. I met her about 6 years after school. I was about 23 at the time. She looked at me and with disgust commented “Your face is completely spoiled”. Imagine being 23 and someone saying this to you. The disgust on her face was what killed me inside. My day and the days that followed had been ruined. It was a never ending cycle. I got myself up and out of the house, only to be pushed back in by another insensitive comment. Trust me it was not very nice inside the house either, as I got comments there too. For me the worst comments came from family members. Of course they were all under the wonderful guise of “I’m just trying to help”.

From neighbors (who I did not even know existed) to people who came to the door for donations, everyone knew a cure for my acne. Except me of course. Somehow according to people I liked having acne and that’s why I was not going to see a dermatologist or well putting toothpaste on it. Toothpaste seemed to be among the most common solutions. The worst were comments passed by family members, especially when they thought I could not hear. They were discussing about how I may have been passed up for a campus job because of my acne. Never mind that the very next week I got a job offer.

To a young person, male or female, acne is a cruel blow. In a world where we all want to look our best, acne literally crushes you. I waited for years and years to be too old for acne. But that day never came. And I don’t think it ever will. In my twenties I had resigned myself to being single as I thought no one would like me because of my acne. Well, that is the impression I had got for myself seeing the disgust on people’s faces. Not all people to be fair, but trust me, when you have acne, even 2-3 bad opinions can form an impression. Of course there were those who told me I was being vain for feeling bad about acne. What a load of nonsense. Wanting to look good is not a crime.

When I met my now husband, for a while I did not let him see me without makeup, well because according to me he was going to leave the minute he saw my face, sans makeup. He didn’t. He stuck around. And supported me during my worst bout of acne 3 years later.

For people with acne, remember that while these comments and stares can hurt real bad, you really cannot do much about them. Staying indoors and not going out is not the answer. What you can do is work on building a strong sense of self. I had no one to guide me, so I want to share this with you. Even during my worst bout of acne, I never stayed in. I never gave up going out.

What You Can Do
  1. Acne is not your fault, even if people tell you to stop eating this or stop eating that or wash your face more often. Internalize this “Acne is not my fault”
  2. Don’t let people who make comments about your acne off easy. They are being rude. Even if it hurts at the time either tell them they are being rude or pass some comment on how they look. Take control of the conversation. Anyway it’s about you.
  3. Use makeup if it makes you feel good and gives you a boost of confidence.
  4. People remember how you make them feel. If you are depressed and bring people down, no one will want to be around you. If you smile and are fun to be with, people will automatically want to hang out with you, acne or no acne.
  5. You have to take control of your feelings. No one else will. As harsh as this may sound, it is very true but also very empowering. If you feel depressed about acne, you alone can get yourself out of it.

To those of you reading this who do not have acne, the nicest thing you can do when you know or meet someone with acne is nothing. Just treat them just like you would anyone else. No comments and no staring at the acne on their face.


Why Your Acne Treatments are Not Working

How many times have acne treatments let you down?

Let’s say you have this friend and let’s call this friend Sue. You complain to Sue about your stubborn acne which refuses to leave you, no matter what you do. Now Sue says she knows someone who went to this dermatologist and got cured of some skin disease when no other doctor could. This dermatologist with magical skills certainly seems very interesting. If he can cure this problem when no one else could, maybe he can cure your acne too.

So you implore Sue to get the number of this doctor. She does that. You make an appointment with this magical doctor, let’s call him Dr. John. His receptionist says he can see you a week from today. You mark it in the calendar and can’t wait for your appointment. The day arrives and you reach the clinic early. You take a seat and wait for your name to be called out. Finally the moment arrives and you enter the consulting room full of hope, dreaming of having clear skin in 2 weeks.

Dr. John greets you and asks you how he can help you today. You can’t help but blurt out how your acne has been troubling you. You go on to describe how no matter what you do you always seem to wake up every morning with more acne than the previous night. Dr. John nods sympathetically pulling his prescription pad towards him. He begins to write something down. Watching him you think, finally the magical solution to my problems. Clutching the paper he gives you, you walk out elated right to the nearest pharmacy. After getting all the medications that have been prescribed you go home ready to start the treatments.

A week passes and you hardly see any improvements. Maybe it needs more time, you tell yourself. Another week passes by where you religiously apply all the ointments and take all the medications. At the end of this second week your skin still looks the same as it did 2 weeks back. To make matters worse it’s peeling a bit in places. How many times have you been in this place?

So why does this happen to you time and time again?

First, if you’re above 25 years old you are suffering from adult acne which is way different from the normal teenage acne. While both are caused by an imbalance in hormones, the teenage one is caused by changes in the body during puberty. If you’re an adult, your imbalance of hormones is caused by stress, improper diet, medications you take and lack of sleep. Unless you take measures to reduce of these factors your acne may not have an expiry date like teenage acne.

Medications prescribed by doctors like antibiotics, ointments, OTC creams work by trying to kill acne causing bacteria or reducing the sebum levels in the skin. The downside of this is the good bacteria are also killed and your skin dries out and gets sensitive. Your acne remains the same. Of course you will always be told that you need to use more of the ointments or take the medications for longer but if you see no difference after 2 weeks it is more than likely that you’re never going to see one. The other downside is that your immune system will be weaker and your skin much more sensitive than before.

While some of the bacteria that cause acne may be killed, all the other factors leading to acne are still around. You are almost never told to sleep and eat well along with your prescription. As a result the acne does not stop, or even if it does stop for a while, it most probably will come back.

So before you decide to take another round of antibiotics or apply OTC creams try changing your diet just a little to see if it does help even a little bit.

Guide to Using Oils in Your Skin Care

Oils have always got a bad rap when it comes to acne. Especially skin care for acne. If you have acne you are always advised to look for products that are oil free. Oil free moisturizers and oil free face washes have always been held in high esteem by acne sufferers. Since it is assumed that acne is caused by excess oil, oil has never been a big part of any skin care routine meant for acne prone skin.

In this post however I’m going to show you how you can use oils in your skin care even when you have acne.

skin care

Why is it that people with acne are often asked to stay away from using oil on their faces? This is because it is generally assumed that acne is caused by excess oil. This is not really true. There are people who have oily skin who do not have acne. There are also people with dry skin who have severe acne. Acne is caused by a buildup of sebum i.e oil in the pore, when the pore is blocked by dead skin. This sebum is secreted by the sebaceous glands in the skin. It is nothing to do with any oil or anything that is applied on the surface of the skin.

My journey with using oil in my skin care started with OCM or Oil Cleansing Method. I found that my face wash was leaving my face dry, itchy and red. It was not helping my acne at all. I figured out I would try OCM one day and if it created problems I would stop. After a week of no problems, I continued to do this on a regular basis and actually ditched my regular face wash. Today it has been 3 years of no face wash and my skin has never looked better. I even started using coconut oil as a moisturizer and I still have no breakouts that have been caused by it.

What Oils to Use

There are 2 types of oils to consider. One is an essential oil and the other is a carrier oil. Essential oils are very strong and should never be applied directly on the skin. They should always be mixed with a carrier oil.

Best essential oil for acne prone skin are tea tree and lavender. Carrier oils are oils like olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba, rosehip oil, avocado oil, sweet almond oil, evening primrose oil and castor oil. All these can be used directly on your skin without a problem.

Why You Should Try Using Oils

Oils are very versatile and can be used as moisturizers, cleansers and makeup removers. You can use the same oil if you want to, for all 3 things. That one bottle of oil can double up as a lot of things. Oils make for great moisturizers. In winter if your favorite moisturizer does not seem to do anything for you, oil can make a great substitute. It will actually soothe dry and itchy patches.

Oils also make for great deep cleansers for your skin and this is a great thing if you have acne prone skin or clogged pores. Oil can actually remove the sebum plugs that block your pores. Essential oils like tea tree oil can help heal acne while rosehip oil can help with scars.

Do Not Try This if
  • You have active acne that are broken or inflamed
  • You have cuts or open wounds on your face
How You Can Use It

Using oil in your skin care for the first time can be scary. More so if you have acne and have always been told to go oil free. Here are some tips to help you incorporate oil into your skin care. When you start out, start with carrier oils like olive, avocado or coconut oil. Initially use it only in the evening. If you live in a hot, humid climate it is better that you only use oil in the evenings.

  • Start out by using a drop of oil in your face mask. Rosehip oil will do wonders for scars while coconut or avocado will soothe red inflamed acne.
  • If you are using a face wash mix a drop of oil with it.
  • To use as a moisturizer mix a drop of oil with plain water or rose water and apply to damp skin.
  • Add a drop to your preferred moisturizer.
  • Add 2-3 drops of oil to a coin sized amount in your body lotion.
  • To remove makeup use a cotton ball soaked in oil and then use your normal face wash

Do this once in 4-5 days so you give your skin time to get used to it and see if you have any adverse reactions. Basically this time period gives you time to observe how your skin is reacting to the oil.

Once you are fine with this you can move on to Oil Cleansing Method and incorporate oil in your daily skin care. You can even make your own oil blends with essential oils that are suitable for your skin type and its problems.

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Why I Think Acne Face Maps are Not Helpful At All

Many times while on Pinterest I come across Face Maps that say something like “What your acne is trying to tell you”. Basically it’s an outline of a face which tells you what pimples on various parts of your face mean. So pimples between eyes means that maybe your liver is not functioning well. On your cheeks may mean respiratory or metabolism issues. Basically the whole face is mapped out and linked to various body parts and function.

These maps tend to be shared a lot.  I am pretty sure most of them are shared by people who do not have acne. These people of course are trying to be helpful and hoping that it helps someone who actually has acne. As someone who has had acne on every single part of my face I can testify that if these face maps were true, my health should have been in serious jeopardy. But in all honesty my physical health was great. Just that I was not mentally as great as I was battling acne. Acne takes a toll more on a person’s mental health than physical.

While doing some reading up, as research for this post I came across one article about face maps that said if you have acne between your eyes you should cut down on junk food. I mean really? Come on. Everyone, acne or no acne, should be cutting down on junk food. And the sad truth is some people with acne may not even eat junk food.

If anyone with acne is on the internet trying to find a cure and comes across these face maps, they are going to think that they have a problem with every part of their body. How do you resolve a liver or a metabolism problem?

Don’t let these face maps fool you into thinking that certain parts of your body are not functioning well. Some even go to the extent of saying impaired kidney function which can lead people who have acne down dangerous paths. So pay no heed to these face maps. They don’t mean anything. They are also are not helpful as they never tell you what to do about a problem.

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Is Skin Purging an Actual Thing?

I’m sure you’ve heard the term skin purging. If you have acne and are using a new product for it, within a few days you might start breaking out a little more. This period when your skin actually starts getting worse is referred to as the skin purging period. So is it a real thing and how long does it last?

Skin renews itself every 28 days, i.e old cells die off and are replaced by new, healthy cells. This is known as cell turnover. Acne forms deep within your skin. So the hair follicle gets inflamed and the pore gets blocked. Eventually the inflammation makes its way to the surface of the skin and this is when you breakout. However this “breakout” has been in the lower layers of your skin for a few days before it slowly shows itself.

The reason purging happens is because some of the ingredients in the product may speed up cell turnover. When cell turnover speeds up, blocked pores that would have taken 7-8 days days to make themselves visible suddenly do it in 2-3 days. You get clusters of new pimples. However these new pimples should heal quicker as well. Since skin normally takes around 28 days to renew itself you should really see results after a month if the product is actually working for you.

I once used an “Isotretinoin” cream for a year. It was prescribed to me by my dermatologist. Each time I told her it was not working she said I was purging or it was the time of my month. Don’t be stupid like me. Keep an eye on your face and if you feel something is not right stop.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind when using a new product to know if you are purging or the product is not working and instead making you break out.

  1. Purging should last maximum for a month. If you do not see any improvement after a month it is time to stop using the product.
  2. You should not be breaking out in places you don’t normally break out. This means the new product is causing breakouts rather than purging.
  3. Please use only one new product at a time so you know which one is working. Give each product a chance and don’t hinder things by throwing another product into the mix.
  4. If your new breakouts look much different than your normal breakouts please stop using the product. For example if you normally do not have cystic acne but start getting it after using a new product, please stop.

So yes skin purging is an actual thing. But all said and done please use your judgement wisely when it comes to your face. Whatever anyone says, let your feelings have the final say in the health of your skin. A few days of not using a product will not do any harm to your face. You can always restart a product but cannot undo damage to your face.

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