My Life With Acne: Story of Samantha Ann, OPENLETR Beauty Writer and Expert

I am 25 years old and have dealt with acne both minor and severe since I was about 12 years old. And I am here to tell you that it really sucks. It just does. There are no ifs or buts about it. Acne sucks plain and simple. And if you deal with acne or have struggled fighting it in the past, you know just what a nightmare it can be.

From your self-image to your confidence and everything in between, it knocks you down. And as you get older, you think puberty is over and things will clear up on their own. But then, you hit 18 and the spots and cysts and redness persist. You tell yourself no one has perfect skin and it could be worse. But then you see your cashier at the grocery store or someone waiting in line at the DMV, their skin is poreless in real life, and it hits you all over again.

I have very few photos of myself from my first 5 or so years with acne. As you can imagine I either deleted or edited them, or just refused to have them taken. My struggle with acne was and still is one for the ages. It began at a time where just about everyone feels self-conscious and awkward. And along with that, I was very skinny and bullied for that, so the addition of pimples and pustules all over my face was just icing on the cake (or in my case garbage on top of garbage).

My confidence was beaten down brutally by acne. And then came braces, which was just aces. As I was in Middle School in the early 2000s, times in the beauty world were not the same as today. Teens today have access to so much affordable makeup and skincare, not to mention the means to use them properly thanks to the internet. But tween me was lucky to have a Smackers lip gloss let alone any coverage products. Not to say girls suffering with acne now have it any easier, but sometimes I do feel a little bitter about the timing of it all.

By the time I got to high school and was interested in dating and having a social life of some sort, my acne only intensified, from small red spots to inflamed mounds and painful cysts. The spots even sometimes looked like scabs, because I would pick, pop, and treat them until my acne bled. I never saw beauty when I looked in the mirror. I thought "how gross". Why would anyone date me? Disgusting. Ugly. And those feelings lasted for years.

I even once started concealing my face with layers of makeup and powder, and I was aware that everyone could see what was beneath. I knew people were staring at me and only saw my acne when we spoke. It was all I thought about all day. I would go to the bathroom throughout the day to make sure everything was covered and I didn’t have a bulging whitehead sprouting up.

I bought every product from ProActiv to Clean & Clear and beyond. I used home remedies like toothpaste, salt, and honey. I was distraught thinking I would never have anything close to an even and clear skin. I remember feeling furious when a friend would complain about having a zit or when people would tell me to use this product, or not wear makeup and let my skin breathe. It felt so infuriating, embarrassing, and insincere to me. Even those with the best of intentions made me think… "How on earth could you know what I should do for my skin when you don’t have acne at all? What gives you the right to think you know better?" Yet, at the same time I tried everything that was recommended.

I would lose hope then hear of a new product, and gain it again. I felt like I was the only one in my school with such bad skin, and like I was in it all alone. It seemed so unfair. So much so in fact that I thought I was being punished for something. I thought I must have done something wrong to deserve this curse. My acne was just not subsiding. There were no good and bad days, just awful days. Even at home I avoided leaving my room without makeup on, let alone leaving my house.

Acne is a cruel beast that eats away your self-esteem, confidence, and positive thoughts on beauty. I would get so mad that I would change the television channel if a commercial for ProActiv came on, because it didn’t work for me. And I know now that so many other girls went through this and still do.

Thanks to the internet, once I got to college, I had a community online who could relate to my concerns. It didn’t do much for my skin, but it made me feel less alone. And as I launched my online beauty career, my skin got better. I was still suffering with acne, but it had lessened. It was no longer as physically painful; it was easier to treat, and I could finally breathe. So I thought I would share my story and experiences with anyone who could gain something from it. I tried products, offered reviews, and recommendations. And even eventually had clear skin, for a time.

Now my skin has never been perfect and it never will be. That is something I have come to accept and even like about myself. And within the last few years, my acne has remained on and off. With everything from stress to hormones, my diet and beauty routine, I’ve had cystic bumps, whiteheads, blackheads, and tons of scarring.

But from this life with acne that has beaten me down over and over again, I learned there was one silver lining… I could help others. Whether it was through product recommendations, tips, or just a sense of hope and solidarity. My life with acne was good for something. I sometimes wonder if I hadn’t suffered with it for all those years, what kind of person would I have become? Would I have been as patient as I am? Would I have been more confident? Would I have been interested in helping others?

It wasn’t until the last year or so that I have felt confident going out, even to the grocery store without a stitch of makeup on. And that is not solely due to the fact that my skin has gotten to a manageable point, but I decided to go with it. Acne unfortunately is a part of me. It is a part of my personality, my history, and my beauty. As much as I hate it sometimes, I’ve accepted it as a burden that I will live with in some form or another. Yes, some days I wake up with mostly clear skin, and other days I have sprouted a collection of red dots overnight, but either way I’m happy.

And one day down the line when I have children of my own and they come to me with their dermatological struggles, I’ll tell them what my mother told me, “I dealt with it too.” There is not much more than that you can say. You can go to the dermatologist, find a miracle treatment, or just grow out of it. But it will always be a part of you, and that is not something to be ashamed of.

It sounds self-righteous, but having acne builds character, at least it has for me. I know at the worst of it, it does not feel that way, not even in the slightest, but someday you will have a moment or a realization that having acne was not the worst thing ever. I mean, it totally sucks, but it is not the absolute worst.

So if you are reading this and struggling with acne, please just know you are not alone, you are not ugly, and you can and should have hope.


Cover photo courtesy of Samantha Ann