Living With Acne

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.

Love, Sjoukje


  1. What a heart felt and sincere story, and sharing it here may help others experiencing the same with their skin. Warm greetings and best wishes!

  2. I love to read it because it felt so honestly and it is like i can look inside you. I have also a difficult skin but i can say it is getting better and better. Because I have stoped agressieve stuff and use vaseline. But every skin must treat different. I felt the same when it was worse and i felt so unhappy. But i think you are so right. We al have something.


  3. I've never related to a post more, thanks for sharing this you're very brave.

  4. Wauw, wat prachtig verwoord, Sjoukje. Ik kan niet anders dan je bedanken. Ik had zoveel "hey, ik ook"-momenten, terwijl ik dat las - soms vergeet ik dat we allemaal in hetzelfde schuitje zitten; dat iedereen onzekerheden heeft. For what it's worth: iedereen heeft wel eens van die momenten dat je in de spiegel kijkt en het liefst jezelf zou opsluiten in je kamer en er niet meer uit zou komen. Maar die onzekerheden, of 'flaws', maken een ieder juist uniek, interessant en MOOI. Dit moet ik vaak herhalen voor de spiegel, maar ik geloof er heilig in, en alles komt met tijd. Heel tof dat je je zo open stelt en anderen inspireert! En heel knap dat je dat durft, ik weet hoe moeilijk zulke dingen zijn. Dankjewel, Sjoukje! Heeel fijn weekend, liefs x

  5. Wauw, wat een hartverscheurend verhaal! *Virtual hug* Ik heb me nooit gerealiseerd dat het zo een impact op je kan hebben. Ik bedoel het zeker niet om je gevoelens te bagataliseren, maar acne is voor jezelf 10x erger dan het voor anderen is. Ik merk het eigenlijk niet eens op als de persoon met wie ik praat een slechte huid heeft, laat staan dat ik me eraan erger of iets dergelijks. Ontzettend goed om te horen dat het beter gaat! En heel erg moedig dat je er zo open over praat. Misschien helpt de anticonceptie pil? Sinds ik die slik heb ik zelden last van puistjes en het is minder ingrijpend dan acutane (denk ik).

    1. Hoi Floortje, bedankt voor je hele lieve reactie. Ik heb van mijn 14e tot mijn 16e ongeveer de anticonceptipil geslikt maar ik slikte een 'foute' variant waardoor ik blijkbaar óók puistjes kreeg (wat een pech wat een pech), nu slik ik niks meer en heb ik ook minder hoofdpijn en is mijn huid wat schoner (klinkt paradoxaal, I know!) Voorlopig hou ik het even op niks maar ik wil in de toekomst wel eens een andere pil gaan slikken - om te kijken of dat dan wél helpt. Liefs!

  6. First of all~ you are beautiful, thank you for sharing such a personal story, it was a very moving read. I am SO happy that you decided to NOT take Accutane. IT IS SO HORRIBLE. I'm so glad you Google'd "illegally" haha!!
    I didn't realize you were 17, you are so mature!! Not that I'm much older than you, but I know some 17/18 year olds who are just total brats. It's so good that you start developing a gentle-skincare routine now, the water is even better!! I still need to work on drinking lots of water, but it's hard for me as I just don't DRINK that much in a day. I don't require it, you know? But I understand the importance of staying hydrated, I've had close calls with de-hydration and it is NOT fun!!
    I agree, it's very important that others hear that insecurities are part of growing up! It's unfortunate and unpleasant but EVERYONE has something and if we all are kind and accepting, it makes it a lot easier for all!

    PS; I HONESTLY never thought you had problem/acne-skin, in your photos you always look so sweet and glowing!! Just wanted to give you an outsider's opinion ;)

    MUCH LOVE!!!!!

  7. I've been getting more acne lately, not only on my face, but even on my body, which has never happened before. My face is alright, the acne's concentrated on my chin and there's a huge zit on my forehead, but the zits on my chest and armpits (tmi?) I'm really not a fan of. One of my closest friends, a guy, has acne all over his face, and his body too I'm assuming. More of his face is covered in pimples than of bare skin, and spending time with him is making me realise how stupid my insecurities are. Who cares if I don't have perfect skin? He has the worst skin I've ever seen, and I couldn't care less, I still love him, and I'm not embarrassed to be around him at all. When I say it like that it sounds totally pathetic that I could even think that someone would love me less because of the layer of cells covering my body. I'm glad you're coming to terms with your face and thank you for sharing your story!
    Marianne :)

  8. Hi there! Just wanted to let you know I'm dealing with acne myself and I'm 23 years old. It started about a little more than a year ago when I went off oral contraception and it only got worse. The way I'm fighting it is using no products on my face that contain alcohol denat. or irritating fragrances (best thing is no fragrance at all) and - and this made a major difference - using chemical exfoliators aka salycilic acid and glycolic acid. If you want to try it be sure to read up on it beforehand because you need to go slow with these and be gentle with your skin AND it means you have to wear sunscreen EVERY SINGLE DAY - no matter which weather. And of course neither sunscreen nor exfoliators should contain bad (meaning irritating) ingredients which is what makes it quite expensive as a hell of a lot of sunscreens contain alcohol denat. To me it's well worth it but it means I have to read all the INCI lists on products and learn what they mean. I still have acne, I'm still full of scarring but the spots I get aren't nearly as painful as they used to be and they heal more quickly.
    By the way I haven't worn foundation for more than half a year, don't let your insecurities rule your life, you are beautiful no matter what your skin looks like!
    Lots of love