If you have good skin, don't take it for granted. And if you don't, well, just keep fighting. Fortunately (or unfortunately), you are not alone when it comes to adult acne.
My acne woes began 6 years ago. I never ever dreamt that it would be one of the toughest battles of my adult life. Like most people, I thought that pimples were a teenage thing. I had the occasional pimple when I was younger, but never severe acne. When I was 19, I thought I had finally achieved adult flawless skin. I assumed it would last forever. I was wrong.
After that single perfect year, the case of the spots came back- worse than ever. Soon, I found myself battling something I'd never experienced in my younger years- cystic acne.
(This was two years ago with fabulous lighting to hide the angry red)
Assuming it was caused by oily skin, I scrubbed, masked and cleansed religiously. I tried all sorts of products and skincare brands: store-bought, homemade and even doctor-prescribed. Wondering if it was hormone related, I also tried a low-dose estrogen oral contraceptive pill which is meant to help hormonal acne. Hormones obviously weren't the problem for me.
Failing all those approaches, I took a hollistic spin and overhauled my diet and went on strict vitamin regimes. I probably got healtheir and learned to swallow heaps of gigantic pills (and disgustingly large amounts of Vitamin B5 powder), but my skin didn't clear up.
Finally, I discovered the magic pill: A Dermalogica clinic in Kuching. The beautician took one look at my skin and declared that I had sensitive skin. Turns out, the more I scrubbed, the more irritated my skin was becoming. The more I was stripping my skin of essential oils, the more my oil glands were working to compensate. That was my first realisation that acne is basically inflammation: it does not only plague those with oily skin, but those with dry and sensitive skin too.
The facial treatment in this clinic is pretty much magic for me. I know people who haven't had the same luck with them but gee, their regimes work wonders for me. After a two hour session, I always emerge with a lot of battle scars, but bump-free skin. I don't know how they do it. They slather lots of different products on your face, clear every single blocked pore, rub all sorts of fancy equipment over your face and ta-da…perfect skin! It's literally a miracle. A few days later, the marks will disappear and you're left with glowing skin.
The problem is though, that I live a few thousand miles away in Melbourne. I always leave Kuching with clear skin, but I can't seem to maintain it on my own. Even when I follow their prescribed skin care routine to a tee, I can't seem to stop the breakouts. The longer I'm away from Kuching, the worse my skin becomes.
Trust me- I have searched high and low for alternatives in Melbourne. The Dermalogica clinics are different. They don't use as many products or fancy equipment as the Kuching branch. Even though I have found places that do extractions, they don't do them as well. Eventually, I gave up going to beauty shops and "upgraded" to medical skincare clinics. They used expensive medical-grade product during their treatments and even prescribed antibiotics. I even gave up Dermalogica and gave "higher grade" skincare products a shot. However, all I was left with was a very big hole in my pocket.
My acne was at its all-time worst before my wedding. I went back to Kuching a month before my big day to take my pre-wedding shots and have my face treated. I'm not sure why I didn't return sooner because the depigmentation was pretty horrific. Anyway, at least it wasn't anything I couldn't cover up with makeup on the day.
Since then, I've figured out how to do my own extractions at home. It's a half-arse attempt, but it's better than any clinic in Melbourne. I've realised that I can't really stop my skin from developing congestion and all I can do is extract the whiteheads and blackheads before it becomes inflamed and ends up a pimple. This time, I managed to go a year and a half without coming back to Kuching which was quite a triumph.
I've come to accept that my reality is that my skin is probably always going to be temperamental and all I can do is try to keep on top of it. I'm never going to be the girl with great skin, but I'm just thankful that it's now reached a manageable stage, and with some help from mineral makeup powder, any marks or breakouts aren't too obvious.
Acne is something which I used to let bother me a lot. It was just hard going through this battle at a time when all my friends were enjoying clear skin. I used to wear a lot of makeup and long dangly earrings. I stopped doing that because I didn't want to draw attention to my face. Soon, I stopped bothering to dress up too or go out as well. When you have all these blotchy spots on your face, it feels like nothing looks good on. It sometimes took me an hour to muster up the courage to step out of the house. I always felt self-conscious and I hated the fact that people always assumed I was 17 because I had bad skin.
Obviously, things are better now. I've learned to manage my skin and for the last couple of years, I've been trying to put more effort into looking good again. Even when I do have a bad flare-up, I tell myself that it's not as obvious to everyone else as I feel it is. And even if it is, it's no big deal. So I have zits. Whatever. No one is going to judge me for it. I'm still the same person just with a few spots on my face. There are worse things in the world to have.
If you are curious about my current regime, I use a pretty wide variety of products because my skin has its moods (I'm always trying to "listen" to my skin and "feel" what it needs in that moment- sorry if that's too deep to understand). The current basic regime is: Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes, Dermalogica Essential Cleansing Solution (very creamy and gentle), Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner, Simple Hydrating Light Moisturiser, and a St Ives facial scrub. I also use Young Blood mineral makeup to cover up scarring and depigmentation.
Acne has taught me a lot about myself. It's probably something I could've done without in life, but since it was the cards I was dealt, I'll take it. I think it's taught me to really be strong in myself and not be bothered by something superficial. Looks aren't everything and guys aren't going to run away because you have zits. Fighting this battle has made me care more about my diet and what I put into my body. I'm pretty sure I'm healthier off because of it. I hope that one day this will all go away, but hey, I'll survive even if it doesn't.
UPDATE TO THIS POST: My Current Skincare Regime + Processing the Emotional Scars of Having Acne
The details of the Dermalogica clinic I visit:
Address: Lot 3164 Block 10 No. 191A, KCLD, 2 1/2 Miles, Jalan Rock, 93200 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia