About a week ago, someone complimented me on my skin—your skin looks clear, she said. As I nodded my head, I recalled what I’d could easily call “my skin, my nightmare”. And it happened at one of the most vulnerable years of my life: yes I was 18 and in second year of studying English Literature at Delhi University.
Here is a very personal account of how I got acne in my adolescence, how I got rid of it, and everything else I learnt about clear skin.
Being 18, in college, and in love
I had recently fallen in love with my future-boyfriend who lived thousands of kilometers away. After many months of waiting and spending hours on the phone, I was finally going to meet him.
Off late, I started noticing this redness on both of my cheeks—a lot of friends said it’s the sun, one even blamed it on being giddy with love. Sure I used to get an odd pimple once in awhile, but I’d never had any serious problems so far. A lot of girls in school and college had battle acne and the toll it takes on your confidence.
It seemed to be my time—I’d taken my skin for granted so far. And it did not look happy.
Soon, whiteheads and redness clouded the apples of my cheeks. My friends started noticing it—the bitches in college started noticing it. But most of all, I started noticing it. I was so worried I couldn’t sleep. That’s the thing with your skin: the effects are deeper than you know. I’d text my guy, who was super supportive but a part of me couldn’t help but wonder if he’d still want to date me when felt insecure about how I looked.
I had no idea there was a name for it. In fact, I had hated the term “acne”. It sounded serious. While I’d seen my friends with cystic acne that had left their faces (and egos) scarred, what I had was a case of mild acne.
Meeting the dermatologists
My mom, the sweetheart she is, told me it was normal for every teenager to go through this phase. After seeing me panic and the redness take over the apples of my cheeks, she thought it’s time to see a dermatologist. This is back in 2001, so mind you, there weren’t many dermatologists, let alone any friendly ones.
I met a lady, who, wasn’t very sympathetic to me, diagnosed my acne as a result of my hormones (excessive amount of androgens) and that I should be prepared for a bit of hair growth or pigmentation. She then gave me a cocktail of topical ointments and a few pills to take.
Acne Treatment? Really?
In a humdrum tone, she also advised me to not eat junk food, skip Coke, and eat vegetables. I was 18, and a bit polite, so I am pretty sure my mouth was just open. The idea of eating vegetables, just vegetables, without chips seemed impossible to handle.
Weeks went by, I was supposed to fly off to meet my BAE. The topical ointments were hard to keep up with—they stained my skin, made it dry. And the pills made my acne worse. There was more redness on my cheeks than there was on a beetroot.
Will my guy dump me for my acne?
Lots of my friends had been dumped for acne, not getting waxed before their dates or straightening their hair enough. My acne had already gotten the best of self confidence, and soon, it was time to face the music.
The first guy I’d been really interested in, was standing in front of me. I was scared, I was excited.
Sure, we’d be talking for months but the last time I checked, guys were shallow AF. He wasn’t. He looked at me, and we hugged and he kissed my cheeks like he would have anyway.
I was lucky that he was a true gentleman. If he hadn’t been, it would have bruised me beyond words. So trust me, when I say, I KNOW how acne can play on your face and your mind.
So how did I get rid of my acne?
As for me, my acne lasted for about a year. I went to see another dermatologist at Max Hospital but his opening monologue “it will get worse before it gets better” put me off his medication. I wish that kind of awareness existed at that age, but there were few avenues to look up. Of course, Google was there. And with time, a bit of self-confidence and being smart, my acne started to improve.
So if you have teenage acne, or mild acne, try this:
- Give it up: I was addicted to pickles. As much as I know pickles are made with mustard oil. I noticed the days I didn’t have any pickle, my skin was pink (not red). As much as I loved pickles with my paranthas, I gave them up. I also cut down on my intake of potato chips in general. Another friend of mine had to give up on milk chocolates (dark chocolates are a life saver).
- Stop touching your face: Your hands have more germs than you can imagine. Plus the dust from my desks to the sun only made my acne worse. Because I was so used touching my face, this one took a conscious effort.
- Keep your hands clean: Trim your nails if you’re very prone to getting pimples. Wash your hands as often as you can (there were no hand sanitizers).
- Stick to the basics: Brands like Lifebuoy are amazing for a reason. They really keep you stark clean because they are anti-bacterial in nature. Sandalwood soaps like Mysore Sandal Soap or ayurvedic soaps like Medimix help maintain the pH balance of your skin as well as your hormones. So all the fancy brands are cool, but basics are basics.
- Maintain a CTM regime: Choose a medicated facewash like Cetaphil; I haven’t met anybody who hasn’t benefitted from it. Use a toner to avoid clogged pores, and finally use a good moisturiser. The goodness of vitamins and minerals will help make your skin supple. You can use an oil-free moisturiser or a clay mask. By the way, a lot of people have benefitted from Clinique’s 3 step system so you can check that out. If you have cystic acne, write to me and I’ll hook you up for a consultation with my colleagues.
It took a while for my acne to clear up and unfortunately, it didn’t end there. When I had just started interning at India Today, the stress caused redness and inflammation, leading to rosacea which basically means redenned or inflamed skin. Here are a few tips on tackling rosacea or redness.
- Try to cut out aggressors, or like in my case, don’t let it get to your skin.
- Understand your skin: I know for a fact that my cheeks are still sensitive so I never go out bare. I use a face cream with sunscreen, just sunscreen or a CC cream.
- Be more open to the idea of food: My sympathies go out to everyone who has to cut down on sugar or their favourite snack—but do it for a while, see the difference and balance it out.
- Get the right help—I didn’t, I couldn’t, but now thanks to my work I know some fabulous dermatologists across India. And I would be happy to help you.
Remember, acne is just a phase of your life. People who really love will still love you, ‘coz you ARE awesome and no amount of zits and pustule can suck the life out of you.
Write to me for getting help with a doc. Share your story in the comments’ section.
I also found Hannah Do’s (beauty blogger and founder of Thank Your Skin) article really helpful.