When it comes to having bad skin, I know a thing or two.
The earliest I can remember caring about my skin is probably 4th or 5th grade. Of course I was too young to actually have a skincare routine or anything, but I remember asking to borrow my mom's cover-up to conceal a pimple or two for school pictures. From then on that was pretty normal for me. I started wearing makeup in 6th grade, and therefore had to actually start washing my face. I never really had bad skin in middle school, just the typical spot here and there. Honestly, I think I was more concerned about my probably-non-existent dark circles.
High school was when I started to get a taste of what having bad skin is actually like. Sure I'd go months with crystal-clear skin, but when I started to break out, I really broke out. Junior year is when it was at the worst it had ever been at that point, so I decided something other than smudging benzoyl-peroxide all over my face needed to happen. I ended up going on the pill to try to help fix my hormones, and that helped me so much. I started having much clearer skin and no longer had painful hormonal breakouts. I also saw a dermatologist, and they pretty much said the pill should cure most of my problems because they attributed my breakouts to my hormones. Until that kicked in, they gave me antibiotic pills to kill any extra bacteria in my skin and some topical creams. However, there was one of those topical treatments soon became the worst thing for my skin: retinol.
My journey with retinol was honestly horrible. Retinol was supposed to help generate fresh, new skin and help get rid of any scarring that I had. However, I was supposed to be using it almost every day, and my skin went crazy. In remember going to school junior year and starting the day with smooth, foundation-covered skin, but hours later my skin would literally start peeling off in SHEETS. It was like having a 24/7 sunburn that would never get better. I think having my skin constantly peel off and reveal bright-red patches was even worse than having acne. I remember being so incredibly embarrassed of my skin, and I'm still nervous to try using retinol again.
Eventually I quit using retinol and tried to help heal my skin on its own. Between my junior and senior year of high school I spent at least $1000 on skincare (hey Sephora Rouge!) and got my skin to settle down right before I got to college.
Some people gain the freshman 15, but I got the worst acne of my whole entire life instead. What a treat! Within the first month or so of being at college, my skin had another flare up, coming back a million times worse than before. I can't explain enough how badly this impacted my mental health. I've probably cried hours and hours over my skin, and I dreamt of someday not having to wear makeup. At its worst, I couldn't even bring myself to take my makeup off. Being in a community bathroom and letting others see my skin gave me immense anxiety. I would literally run out of the shower and into my room at 7 a.m. because I was afraid someone would see my skin. I know "it's not that deep,"but to me it definitely was. I didn't even want my roommate to see my skin and would wait until late at night to take off my makeup in peace. I don't think my boyfriend saw my real skin for months either.
Having bad skin is so much more than "having a few pimples" — for me it was a complete mental and physical struggle. It completely twisted my self-image and got rid of all of my confidence. When I looked in the mirror I felt like I was looking at someone else. At one point I was fully convinced that I probably looked like I was doing meth because the sores on my skin were just like nothing I've ever seen acne do to anyone else.
Lots and looooots of research later, I finally found things that were able to control my acne and stop it for good. When it comes to skincare now, I pretty much know it all from spending hours doing actual research. I studied skin more than I studied for my actual classes. Oops! The summer after my freshman year I gave my skin a complete rest — no makeup, no products, no serums, nothing. By the time I entered sophomore year, my skin was finally healed. I spent sophomore year mostly trying to fade some scars, but other than that, I was finally free.
Having clear skin has been so liberating for me. I am so confident now, and literally feel good in my own skin for once. I rarely wear makeup now and love embracing my skin. I have a super minimalistic skincare routine and rarely ever breakout (thank god). I feel like I finally have perfect skin — sure it may have a few things to improve — but I'll take it after everything I've been through.