Written by Sneha, founding team, Uncover
I remember sitting at my desk trying to focus on an excel sheet at work. Every 10 minutes, I’d switch on the selfie mode of my iPhone and stare at my face from different angles. My skin had broken out so badly and I couldn’t help stare helplessly and wonder “how visible is it?”. The physical acne and scars were upsetting but my mental wellbeing and confidence were even worse.
It’s not like I had never had acne. I had struggled with acne since my teen years but the odd pimples linked to my period were different from this adult breakout – I’m still not exactly sure what triggered it but something happened in my late 20s and my face was suddenly covered with acne over the course of a couple of weeks. I remember walking into meetings self-conscious, thinking: “I bet they noticed”.
Out of desperation, I started asking friends for recommendations of dermatologists. I wanted to get treatment fast – after all, it was October and I had a family wedding to attend just 6 weeks later. I relayed to the dermatologist my story and pressed him for a solution. The dermatologist quickly applied a chemical peel and whipped out a plastic tube with a concoction for me to take home – something they said would fix me. Naively, I took the label-less bottle and slathered the mixture onto my face. The next day my face started peeling and the acne got worse.
The harsh mixture, unknown and unsafe high concentrations of active ingredients, and lack of patience all contributed to my acne being compounded with a burn on my face. It was a real low point. I remember being at the very wedding that I wanted clear skin for looking like I had been beaten up! I cried in my car while driving to work and asked my husband every night “how bad is it?” (To which he always told me he couldn’t see a thing – bless!). This experience was brutal for me but taught me some incredible lessons about skincare and mental health.
1. Acne can be stressful for your mental wellbeing and self-esteem
Adult acne is hard. So many women struggle with acne that is triggered by coming off the pill, stopping breastfeeding, hormonal fluctuations, stress, etc. Adult acne can evoke feelings of shame, embarrassment, and irritation: “I should have grown out of this by now”. My adult breakout was definitely one of the lowest points in my confidence. I feel like I spent so much time looking in the mirror, applying creams, serums, and home remedies that I lost so much time. It is important for us to recognize the mental health impact of acne on someone and continue to support women who are struggling with acne.
2. Let’s shift the beauty mindset – scars are normal
Felt ashamed about my scars but question why I felt this way. Yes, it’s not fun to have acne but it’s probably also because of years of entertainment showing women with clear skin vs. women with textured skin or acne. Let’s change the beauty narrative and celebrate and embrace skin of all textures and types. Acne scars should be a normal feature on the face. Real is truly beautiful and confidence shines brighter than anything else.
3. Patience is key – quick fixes don’t exist!
Skincare is about consistency and patience. Products that promise quick, permanent fixes are probably either unhealthy or lying! I wanted a “magic eraser” to help me and pushed the dermatologist to find me one but this didn’t serve me well. Using good quality products consistently over time is the best way to see results.
4. Safety First
The skincare industry is filled with a wide array of brands and practitioners. It is so important to use safe products from reliable brands. Patch-test products before use to ensure that there is no adverse reaction to the formulation.
5. Higher concentrations are not always better; Be kind to your skin
After the burn, I was forced to stop using all products on my face and simply cleanse my face for the coming weeks. My skin needed a break. I had been so unkind to it, I needed to heal and rebuild a healthy skin barrier. We often think scrubbing harder or high concentrations of active ingredients will fix us “faster” or be “better’, but more is not always better. Using too much of a certain ingredient can cause skin to get irritated and strip our skin of its nutrients. Gentle, nourishing, sustainable skincare is the healthiest.
Acne can be detrimental to mental health, during this journey, it’s important to keep positive, know that it is common and love yourself and skin!