The one time I had really bad acne…

One day, I thought, my face would be clear and everything would fall into place. I would throw out all my make up products in one sweep of the arm. I’d toss all the half empty elixirs and oils and organic salves made by Buddhist nuns. I would march around town with perfect skin, reflecting the sun’s light so that it sparkled if it hit my cheek just right.

Life would begin. 

I’ve had deep acne problems since I was twelve years old. It waxed and waned in severity, but it was a constant in my life that I thought would remain with me until wrinkles replaced the spots. 

The last year from around July 2011 to May 2012 were what I call The Dark Days. 

At that time, the place I worked changed dramatically. It became toxic and unbearable to enter those walls. Everyday my colleagues and I would grip the tops of our stomachs to prevent the incessant gurgling and spasming from erupting into our mouths. A poison spread through the office that made my moderate acne turn into a festering pool of pus and dry flakes. In November, I was laid off so that added another layer of stress and anxiety to my skin. 

Thus began the Grand Experiment. 

I put more or less stuff in different combinations on my face. Or ate different stuff. Or eliminated certain stuff from my diet. Or vainly tried to reduce stress. 

Some stuff I tried: 

  • Manuka honey masks (made me break out)
  • Oil Control Method or OCM (made no difference, did a lot of laundry) 
  • No bread (actually linked to tiny spots on my forehead)
  • No milk (meh) 
  • Vegetarian (made me very low energy)
  • Green smoothies (made me feel better but didn’t really affect my skin) 
  • Slathering benzoyl peroxide on my face (left me really red and splotchy and dry and gross)

I even created a heat map of my acne to track its progress. The yellow dots represent deep, nodular acne while the blue areas are smaller but still annoying pustules: 


What ultimately cleared my skin wasn’t anything fancy. This makes me both happy and angry – angry that I hadn’t done this long ago. Taking fish oil proved to be my savior. But not before irreparable damage had been done. I have swaths of pitted scars across my cheeks and temples. 

So am I living my life under a haze of rainbow dust? Did I stop wearing make-up? Did things just start to happen for me? 

Uh, no. Life started before I became clear – new job, new guy, new stresses. I transferred my anxiety about acne into anxiety about my acne scars, the dark circles under my eyes, and the dryness of my eyelids. The tens of makeup and skin products still line my shelves because I’m wary of the day it all comes back to tear new scars on my face. 

It’s a bete eterne. 

But I’m slowly weaning myself from this superficial state of mind. I can’t think about what my life would be like if I had perfect skin. I have to look in the mirror every morning and say, “This is what my skin looks like today and that’s okay.” 



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