I stopped by Barney’s on my walk home today to pick up a new zit treatment. Something promising. Now I’m sitting on my couch writing to you with five big spots of chamomile clay paste on my face – three on my chin, two on my right cheek. I recently realized that when there's a problem, it's most often on the right side. I think that's probably because I part my hair on the far left so more hangs on the right and brushes against that side of my face throughout the day.
By the time you’re reading this, I bet you’re right in the middle of adolescent skin agony. It sucks, right? In Junior High, I'd wake up in the morning and rush straight to the mirror. I'd evaluate my skin before deciding if I was going to fake sick or get on the bus. My attendance was horrible.
People will tell you acne stops when you're twenty.
“Oh, it's just adolescence.”
“Pimples will be a thing of the past in no time."
Hadley, people who say that are lying. There’s no miracle age when your skin suddenly goes back to looking like porcelain every single day. It gets much much much better (mostly because hormones calm down, which makes both your skin and your response to your skin less volatile) but it doesn't entirely end. I wish someone had been honest about that with me when I was young so I could have spent more time figuring out how to live with breakouts instead of just skipping school and waiting for the magical moment of clarity that never came.
People will also give you warnings like:
“Leave your face alone!”
Maybe you have some supernatural willpower that goes against everything I’ve ever known about being female and you'll be able to follow that advice. But if you dont, you're normal. You will inspect. You will pick. It’s what apes do and it’s what we do. If you can, just try not to touch so much. It really is better to leave everything alone, but we both know better isn't the same as realistic.
Another untrue thing well-meaning parents or friends will say during your moments of skin panic:
“No one will even notice.”
It probably isn't nearly as bad as it looks to you, but people will notice. Because people are people and people notice the details of other people’s faces. But the important and true thing to remember is that they won’t care. Seriously, they won’t. No one worth knowing will ever love or like you less because of some zits. And I, for one, promise to love you more because of them.
I like to tell myself that breakouts are a sign my skin is alive. On days when it’s particularly alive, I fold that lie into a superiority mantra: “my skin looks this way right now because it’s so responsive, so vital, an external indication of my extra active brain.” Maybe try telling yourself that too? Sometimes it helps for a minute.
A few practical things that actually help longterm:
- Avoid sugar and dairy.
- Drink tons of water. Especially hot water with lemon. Add apple cider vinegar whenever you can.
- Be mindful of how your skin reacts to different shampoos, conditioners, and hair products. Change your part or do a ponytail when your skin is struggling.
- Use free & clear laundry detergent.
- Change your pillowcase every night.
- Get white pillowcases in case you want to use products with benzoyl peroxide (which I don’t actually recommend using because I think there are other things that work better, but I’m guessing you’ll go through a Clearasil phase at some point and the last thing you need to worry about is your mom getting mad at you for leaving bleach spots on the nice sheets).
- Don’t skimp on sleep. It's the most healing. Add extra hours when your skin is extra sensitive.
- When you get to the age where you're sleeping with someone else, make sure he (/she) does not use hair/skin/body products that irritate your skin, and tell him (/her) about free & clear laundry detergent as soon as possible, too. This will be good for your skin and also good for your relationship because it will reduce breakout blame.
- Invest in great skincare products. It seems counterintuitive, but natural and gentle really are more effective, and spending a little extra for better ingredients is well worth it.
Call me anytime your skin is on the fritz. I’m sure even ten years from now I’ll have a cabinet full of over-priced acne remedies and I’d be more than happy to share.
I love you and your alive skin,