The story of my skin started when I was about 12 years old. I woke up one morning and noticed a pimple on the skin that used to be so smooth. Annoyed by how this newly found enemy broke the pattern of freckles on my face I squeezed and tore and popped the thing - what remained was a big red spot. I hastily covered it up with a thick layer of concealer and my day went by just like it usually did.
When I looked into the mirror the day after I saw that a pimple had formed exactly next to the little pile of misery I had popped the day before. A couple of days after this event a new pimple was born on my forehead and at a certain moment my whole face was covered in tiny little bumps - the time to call in the big guns had come. I bought my first bottle of foundation when I was about 13 years old.
I'm a scratcher, I pick on things. When I notice a scab or bump or anything that shouldn't be on my body, I have to remove it. It seems like my fingers don't care whether all that's left behind is a big hole or a bloody spot, and I usually only notice the wreckage after I have damaged my skin myself. The combination of scratching, picking, cheap suffocating foundation and my teenage hormones didn't work in a positive way for my skin and I ended up in some sort of vicious cycle: my skin was bad, I put 'dirt' in the form of foundation on it to hide the mess I had partially created myself, the dirt made my face look even worse which made me put more dirt on it - and I felt unhappier and unhappier in my own skin every day.
Sometimes I felt brave, didn't wear makeup. 'What happened to your face, Sjoukje?', is something a family member once asked me on one of those brave days. I often got comments like that, which made me hide behind a mask of a thick orange liquid every day. I think I went to school about 2 times without foundation since I was 13 and I was so, so tired after those bare days. I kept on wondering whether people were shocked to see my face, what they thought of the red spots I usually hid so carefully, if they thought I was a monster. At a certain point I was so used to my makeupped face I didn't dare to look in the mirror without coverage anymore - I had become afraid of my own reflection.
I experienced a time of skin-rebellion about half a year ago. I was so angry - why me! I only ate fruits and vegetables, had been a vegetarian for about 4 years, only sinned with crisps every once in a while, lived a healthy life overall - why did I look like this while others, who might have been stuffing their faces with chemical unhealthy foods, were blessed with beautiful and smooth complexions? I didn't wear makeup around that time and that also was the saddest time of the past year - I can remember that I was out shopping with my mom, accidentally let my gaze rest on a mirror. My eyes filled up with tears and we went straight home - I felt too insecure, too incredibly ugly. I started rubbing foundation into my pores after that again, which obviously only worsened the situation.
If I had known that I were to damage my own skin in such a terrible way let's say 5 years ago, I would've cut my hands off. I honestly didn't know how to clean and treat my face in a nice and gentle way - spent all the money I had worked so hard for on aggressive skincare products, scrubbed my face 4 times a day, put rubbing alcohol on popped pimples. It turned my face bright red and it hurt terribly and that just had to work, right?
My skin was at its worst about a year ago. Like I said, I've been a vegetarian for a few years and I have to admit that I don't always pay as much attention as I should to my vitamin B12-intake. At a certain point, my B12 levels were so low that I had to get some injections. I felt better after the first injection - I had been feeling pretty bad because of the low levels after all - but after about 3 injections all hell broke lose - and I'm referring to my face here. I had the most serious break out I'd ever experienced. My whole face was covered - my forehead and cheeks used to be the worst parts of my face but now my whole skin was covered in pimples, spots, bumps - like some kind of evil witch had puked terrible diseases all over the skin of my face. I cried and cried and cried but it just didn't get better - I never went to get the fifth injection and it fortunately all got a bit less terrible after a while.
I visited a dermatologist about half a year ago, he wanted to prescribe accutane for my acne. 'But don't Google it', he said, 'you'll come across some pretty terrifying horror stories'. I Googled it (because that's what you do when someone tells you to not do something), and decided that I didn't want to ruin my body in order to have a beautiful skin in the end. It was a very tough decision. I don't regret it and am happy I didn't do it. I don't like medicines and prefer to heal my body in a natural way. I sometimes wish there was a cure without any bad side-effects, but unfortunately such thing doesn't exist.
I think the worst part of having acne is not the finding yourself ugly-part, but the thought of how others perceive you. I hate being in brightly lit rooms, because I know this makes my makeup very visible. I hate spots on the ceiling because I know this accentuates shadows of bumps on my face. I hate it when people get close to my face when I haven't checked my makeup for a while, because I don't know what I look like. If you have acne you're never not aware of your face - it doesn't matter where you are or what you're doing. Even though you might not be thinking about it actively, the thought and insecurity snoozes in the background, like a voice in your head that just won't stop humming.
Even though my hormones and skin in general have never been kind to me, I think the main cause of my bad skin is me. I currently am 17 years old, almost 18 - and I still have pimples and also a bit more than the people around me - but it isn't as bad as it used to be. What's worst right now are the scars. An immense amount of scars. The skin of my face is stained with hundreds of tiny red dots - on places where pimples used to be there now exist spots that will always remind me of how things were. I scratched them all of - sometimes while I was sleeping, sometimes consciously - I sometimes even attacked my own skin with tweezers.
I finally dare to look in the mirror again, even without makeup. I drink tons and tons of water, don't use aggressive skincare products anymore. I still scratch, I squeeze as well, but that's a habit I won't be able to shake I'm afraid. Some time ago a friend asked me, 'but Sjoukje, your skin looks quite alright with makeup on?' - and that made me so, so happy! - but I also want to be pretty without makeup. I currently feel fine (provided that I at least have some coverage on my face), sometimes I feel pretty even with a bare face, and that's something I haven't been able to do for a very long time. A few days ago I woke up and thought, 'it isn't that bad anymore'. Having bad skin brings so so so so much sadness into ones life, insecurities too - but it also brought me good things. I'm more secure of myself, am able to see things in perspective. I don't worry about my body or hair or other stupid small things - I've got enough to worry about with my skin. I don't go to uni or appointments or work or other important events without makeup - but a while ago I felt able to shop for groceries without foundation. In a brightly lit supermarket. I felt awkward, quickly left the store, wore my scarf over my chin - but it was something I hadn't been able to do without an intensely sad feeling afterwards for a very, very long time. My skin is not perfect or beautiful and you can't even call it okay - but victories like this one are important. It will take a while, but I'll get there.
I think it's extremely important to share this story. I want to help you by letting you know you're not alone! Everyone has insecurities - for some it's their unclear skin, for others their weight, maybe the nose that you think others find big makes you sad. Insecurities are fine - they're part of getting older and shaping and developing your mind. Just don't let them rule your life. My acne has dominated my life and thoughts for a long time - I felt insecure, wasn't the person I wanted to be - but at a certain point I decided that it was enough. Loving yourself is important and nobody's perfect, and it's crucial to not ignore the imperfections, but to accept them. I have been wanting to share this thought and my 'story' for a very long time but finding the right words to describe a physical problem that had developed into a major psychological problem is hard - this was my best attempt.
Thanks for reading this and whatever it is you're struggling with - you'll get there.