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How I Learned to Live With Acne

How I Learned to Live With Acne

There has not been one day in my life ever since I hit puberty that I have either not got a comment about acne on my face, or stood in front of the mirror worrying about the new visitor that I didn't ask for. Living with acne even beyond my adolescence has been a gift of my hormonal conditions and I am not going to lie and put out any toxic positivity around it: it is hard to live with. Not only emotionally, it is physically excruciating to keep up with new developments on your face (sometimes even your back) without any warning. As someone who has been to countless dermatologists and other kinds of health practitioners for my "acne issue", I can vouch for the sheer struggle acne can give you. However, at the same time, I have also reached a point where I have decided to put a stop to the issue of acne in the magazine of my life problems-- it has become redundant, boring and quite honestly a dead end to keep being morose about it. Acceptance is hard and I have not achieved it completely nor I will ever, but there are some ways with which I have learned to live with it:

1. I accepted makeup!!

I accepted that makeup isn't just about enhancing your facial features and an art which is great in and of itself, it can be pretty handy to work your way around acne. There are really good foundation and primer products out there which contain Salicylic acid and other acne-fighting ingredients. On the days my face is a riot, makeup is an art I have dabbled in without any shame whatsoever. Next time you go out to shop, look out for primers, foundation and concealer for acne prone skin!

2. I started taking care of my skin beyond acne

Because acne took up so much of my face and headspace, all my skin care boiled down to fighting acne or crying about it. However, skin is the largest organ in the body and acne isn't the only thing that it carries. The hundreds of trips to doctors at least gave me knowledge about one thing beyond traumatizing talk: skin is complicated and has multiple needs! My skin needs moisture, sometimes it needs to be saved from the sun, it can get itchy and prickly and all of that needs my attention as well! Getting a skincare routine that did not centralise my acne helped me take off some pressure from trying too hard for something not entirely in my control!

3. Knowing it isn't just my problem and finding community in self care! 

Most of my acne problems have stemmed from my hormonal conditions that lead to a lot of symptoms like low metabolism, irritability and adult acne! Rather than trying to fix it which I honestly know I cannot (no matter how much the pharma industry tries to convince me), I have tried to make small, doable changes which I do not necessarily feel sad about. In my very precarious grad student life, I still try to find ways to eat home cooked meals which have affected my routine a lot. One way I have tried doing this is by doing grocery shopping with friends, trying to find community in "self care" and that has helped me feel less lonely in the journey to 'manage" the self. I say this knowing fully well how irritating it is to hear "eat good food, exercise!" but that's also because it feels like an individualistic solution to a social problem. Having a community of friends or any kind of chosen support system really helps you see that you're not alone--- and that does count for a lot. Also, in my time as an academic and as a labour organizer, I have seen that a lot of my comrades have acne and many other hormonal troubles due to the amount of stress this world can give out on a daily basis and doing social justice work can be emotionally draining and intense. Thus, giving myself more context than just "me and my acne" has helped me feel a little less daunted about negotiating with it.

4. I discovered self-pleasure!

Acne has also had an effect on my self esteem and self image. More often than not, acne has been something I self deprecatingly address to any potential date of mine because I anticipate them to say something about it. However, trying to actually find pleasure in how my body already is and addressing its needs of desire and fun outside of other people has been helpful in accepting my acne as a banal part of my body. In self pleasuring, I noticed how my acne didn't matter at all and it also made me realize: it shouldn't matter to anyone! It helped me set standards when it came to dating people--- if my acne or my body is a deal breaker, I rule them out just like I welcome breakouts on my face:

Thank you, next! 

Having said all of that, I still feel one needn't be (and in many cases, can't be) completely optimistic or positive about ac-nay and turn towards some ac-yay coping strategies. Just being kinder to yourself is of course the first step and the toughest one at that. These are some things which have helped me take that first step, and  if someone has new visitors on their face today and they read this: hopefully, you can take your first step towards giving them a nonchalant welcome. 


About the writer

Prerna Subramanian

Prerna Subramanian (she/her) is a Doctoral Candidate and labour activist at Queen's University where she studies politics of space and gender dissidence in Indian cinema. She loves cooking Indian food and unwinds with binging on her evolving collection of cringe.

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