Dealing with adult acne in college

Film, Miss Representation---an analysis of how the media effects women today.

Film, Miss Representation—an analysis of how the media effects women today.

There’s no other way to phrase it. Acne sucks. If you’re like me, you’ve had acne since you were a tween and still struggle with it now as an adult. My life since I graduated from high school in 2008 has been consumed with the idea of “controlling” break-outs, rather than appreciating my skin!

I’ve always felt that being in college meant that I am now a “grown up” and dealing with pimples was something teenagers only had to deal with. Of course, I was mistaken. Most medical articles about acne will state that people of varying ages deal with acne.

Now, I’m all about loving and accepting one’s self! It took me a while to accept this idea– I was critical of my physical appearance for a long time (which shouldn’t be much of a surprise for any girl growing up today). Many blame the media (movies, TV, ads) for the distorted perception women have about physical appearances.  There’s no doubt that seeing expertly made-up and Photoshopped folks on TV and in magazines growing up may take a toll on one’s psyche. What adds to this conundrum is seeing ads and commercials claiming that the answer to getting rid of those pesky red bumps is through over the counter medications. No only are we obsessed with looking like an unattainable ideal… we learn that we can get it through spending our money.

Now that I’ve experienced acne through my teenage years and now my adult years, I’ve come to learn a lot from it! Believe it or not…positive things!

Jean Killbourn's"Killing Us Softly"---A film on the damaging effects of ads on women.

Jean Killbourn’s”Killing Us Softly”—A film on the damaging effects of ads on women.

I was told early on that acne was bad because it’s “unsightly”. But, I want to challenge that notion. I believe that coining acne as bad within that framework can lead to skin complexes in young people–as it did for me. From what I’ve learned from dealing with this for so long is that paying attention to acne is important because it may be an indicator that something is going awry within the body. After scaling the internet and reading just about every article about the topic, one common thread that I’ve seen though out is the over production of sebum in the skin can cause acne when it is combined with dead skin cells and bacteria. It has nothing to do with eating too much chocolate or perhaps not washing your face enough or with the right products. Other sources claim that hormone imbalances may cause acne outbreaks too. To keep it short and sweet, the “causes” may be endless–and many of the causes seem to be literally out of the control of the person.

Whatever the cause, I’ve learned a few limitlessons though this experience.

1. There’s no point obsessing over it! You sort of get to a point where you realize that it’s difficult to pin point the exact reason WHY they’re there in the first place, especially after you’ve tried every product in the acne isle at Target AND saw a physician about it. As long as your staying positive, following Dr.’s orders, staying hopeful, and doing something about it, in time it’ll get better.

a) But if you must obsess… (as I do sometimes), there is a trick that I’ve learned to help make it less noticeable. I get my breakouts along my jawline and my checks. Being that I sport curly large hair, wearing my hair down and around my face makes them not noticeable at all. When I used to get them on my forehead as a teenager, I rocked bangs. I’ve read that having hair on or around the face region might contribute to acne, but for me it has not. Concealing it isn’t a testament to how I feel its “ugly” or “unsightly”. It simply helps me focus on LIFE more so that I’m not focused on…pimples! But, I do long for the day when I can rock a ponytail again!

2. Acne doesn’t define who you are as a person. Try this: make a list of all the things you are. When I did this, I wrote:

Nowhere on this list did I include “acne sufferer…”. That would just be silly wouldn’t it? I sort of giggle when I even think about it. After internalizing who I AM and stopped feeling sad about a temporary condition, I felt better about it. And, at the same time, I felt like people noticed it LESS when I thought about it LESS. Funny how that works, huh?

3. Do try to figure out what causes it for you. I’ve read that acne can be a very “individualized” condition. Something that works for one person may not work for another! I forget where I read this, but I really do believe it. While, for example, my sister can wash her face with regular bar soap and water twice a day, I can almost guarantee that if I did the same I’d be a pizza face by the next week.

After really observing myself for the past 3 months, I noticed some patterns.

a) Working up a sweat at least 6 times a week helps! (doing aerobic exercise, lifting weights. And might I say, it helps you stay fit, too!)

b) Do see a Dr. Using prescription strength medication can work wonders once Oxy and Neturogena stop working on their own. I found that using over the counter products with prescription strength makes a difference. Dr.’s can also assess what kind of acne you have and address it accordingly.

c) I avoid milk. After reading report after report about how milk, specifically skim milk, can cause acne flair ups, I finally tried cutting it out of my diet. Low and behold, my acne cleared up something FIERCE afterwards.

d) I go easy on my make-up. I realized that most of the time I used make-up (mainly foundation) was to cover up the acne. Even though I used products that “doesn’t clog pores” I almost always got a new pimple. I use it sparingly now.

e) I make sure I eat healthy. Many sources will tell you that what you eat may not have a strong correlation with the occurrence of acne. I believe this, because I don’t think having a piece of chocolate or a slice of pizza will do anyone any harm.

However, I do believe that acne may also occur if one leads an unhealthy lifestyle overall. As a teenager, I never really paid attention to if I was eating enough fruits and vegetables. I probably didn’t pay attention to if I was enjoying a balanced diet or not. Now that I do, I’ve noticed that the overall health of my skin (including the acne) has gotten better. Not only that, but I feel so much healthier and better as a whole, too. A great starting point for me was the USDA’s My Plate.

4. Be patient with the scars. I still struggle with this one. I feel so proud of myself when the pimples go away, and it feels very annoying when there’s a dark mark left over afterwards. I’ve read that it takes a while for them to fade, but they eventually do. (Once I get to the point to where the flareup’s are gone and completely under control, I’ll consider using a gentle make-up from time to time to help them blend into my complexion a bit more sometimes).

5. Use sunscreen. I was advised by a physician that using sunscreen is not only healthy for the skin but helps with the fading away of scars. (It worked for me!)

At the end of the day, it’s not about how it makes you “look”, its about figuring out why it’s happening, and making sure that you are healthy inside and out. I’ll keep everyone updated on my progress! Good luck!

also–some articles to come:

Staying fit on a budget: The pros and cons of the P90X method,Healthy dinners for 2 with less than a handful of ingredients, The perfect healthy trail mix to keep hunger at bay that you can make at home.

Health: Skin products that work, Acne updates

6 thoughts on “Dealing with adult acne in college

  1. I have noticed that Bare Minerals foundation does not make me break out. I agree with you on the scars, what I have noticed to slowly take them away is my weekly Mayan clay mask. I really like how you wrote your blog, and considered people’s feelings on them. Acutane was such a horrible drug for acne, and a lot of people started having intestinal malfunction long after they had used it.

    • I’ll give Bare Minerals a try. I get skeptical with products if I first see them on infomercials, but once I see them start to mainstream I tend to want to try them. I’ve never heard of the Mayan clay mask, can you tell me more about it? And I’ve heard horror stories about Acutane! Oh my goodness.
      & I always tend to write with “feeling” in mind. I like for my blogs to evoke a feel good vibe. Because I feel good and I want to share it (=

      • Thanks for sharing! I really appreciate organic products. You should blog about it! Lol. It kind of relates to the other blog you did about beauty products and how they are stereotyping women. I feel like legit natural products that come from mother earth don’t do that to female consumers…hmmm

      • You are right! I love things that come from mother nature because they are versatile and do many jobs. It is also for everyone, and does not have to do with societal views about anyone! Nature is not discriminating that way. Maybe one of these days I should do a review about this!

  2. I’m halfway through my third semester, and I have still had acne since I was 14. It’s exhausting! College and acne are two things that just don’t mix. Between classes, stress, crazy relationships and trying to eat healthy, it’s hard to keep up the best skincare routine. I love this College Fashion article, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll take all the tips and advice you can get. I would greatly also recommend this article:
    It’s all about getting clear skin and being healthy, even with a crazy busy college lifestyle. It’ll help!

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