Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Let's Talk About: Adult Acne

Acne is one of those topics that I could talk for hours and hours about. I had good skin as a teenager, with the occasional flare-up. But then I moved to Los Angeles and my skin exploded. People who look at me today find it hard to believe, but I had acne everywhere. On my cheeks, on my chin, on my jaw, on my forehead. It was awful and humiliating and totally beyond my control. I tried everything. I started using Clearasil. Then I went to the dermatologist who first put me on RetinA and then switched me to oral anti-biotics. Nothing was working. I have a distinct memory of shopping at the Rock and Roll Ralph's over on Sunset (it's called that because of all the cool Hollywood types that shop there and it's next to Guitar Center) and literally being embarrassed to be out in public. I felt that everyone was staring at me because I was 23 and had the skin of a 16 year old.

Then my next store neighbor Jennifer recommended that I try Proactiv. I'm a huge late night infomercial fan, having bought approximately 10 items at 2am that make me think that there is possibility and hope that for $19.99 these items might in fact change my life. So I thought what the hell. I had to admit I had been watching the commercials. At the time, Jessica Simpson was the celebrity spokesperson. She seemed like she didn't have that bad of skin, but she was excited about the product. Back in the early 2000s, Proactiv used more user testimonials to sell their product, so I was convinced by both my neighbor Jennifer and the everyday women who swore it changed their life.

I got the package in the mail and started using it immediately. And nothing happened. For two and a half months. I think at that point I fell even deeper into a skin-related depression. It seemed as though nothing was going to work and I should just give up and run off to a nunnery. Except at the three month mark, my skin started to turn around. I continued to use Proactiv for six months and my skin was cleared up. From time to time in the past 12 years, I've used the repair lotion whenever I have a couple of zits or the sulphur mask as an overnight drying treatment. But I've never had to use it on a regular basis since my skin was basically clear. Not perfect by any means, but clear. I think once you've had acne and then it goes away, the bar is lowered so that you just want clear skin.

And then. Last month. My face exploded again. I got all these deep, painful, underground zits around my chin and jaw. You guys know the ones I'm talking about. You can't pop them but you try and try and try until it hurts. Yes I'm a terrible esthetician who totally pops their own zits and then tells my clients not to pick at their face. So I've been driven crazy in the past couple of weeks over my jaw and chin zits. My training let me know that pimples in that area is typically hormonally based, which makes sense since I've been messing with my birth control lately. Birth control is such a complicated thing for women. It helps acne, it causes acne, you just have to be very careful. And the big thing to remember is that the majority of adult acne cases are women, which is opposite of teenage acne, a male-dominated disease. Why? It has to do with hormones coursing through teenage boys and adult women.

I think what made my recent struggle with adult acne even more frustrating was that I've been going out on interviews to be an esthetician. My face is my fortune now. I need to have good skin in order to sell my knowledge and services. So I ran over to my esthetician friend Kelly and had her zap my skin with a high frequency machine. She also gave me a sample of Aryumedic's Retinol cream. And I zipped over to the mall to purchase my fail-safe drying cream, the Proactiv 6% Sulphur Mask. I'm happy that after two weeks all of these things have made a difference. I'm now at the scar, flakey, dried out stage, but I'm no longer experiencing new flare ups. It's such a relief to feel that I personally have control over my skin again.

To everyone out there who is suffering from some sort of skin disorder, I was in your corner before, and now even more so. I have to admit that this whole experience has reinforced my decision to leave the corporate world and become an esthetician. Some people questioned it, especially the idea that I wasn't really doing anything all that great with my life. But if I can help solve problems and make people feel better about themselves, I truly feel as though I'm doing God's work. Never underestimate the power of feeling good. Happy people don't start wars and do bad things to other people. They are too busy being happy and loving life. So if I can prevent just one bad thing from happening because I've made someone feel happy and confident and awesome, then my esthetics degree has paid for itself.

Just a quick note on Proactiv. If you visit Makeupalley.com and read reviews, you'll see that it gets three out of five lipsticks. Proactiv doesn't work for everyone. It's a low benzoyl peroxide system (2.5%) so if benzoyl peroxide doesn't work with your skin, then Proactiv isn't for you. I do recommend to everyone who is suffering from acne to give it a try for at least four months. That's the thing about acne. It's similar to other mysterious diseases (like migraines which some of you know I know a lot about). There isn't just one cure for everyone. You have to try different things and hope for the best that someday your cure is out there. The great thing is that there are so many options. Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid, Tea Tree Oil, RetinA, Differin, Topical antibiotics, Oral antibiotics, Birth Control, High Frequency, Peels, changing your diet to add in more fresh fruit and vegetables and less processed foods and the big daddy of them all, Accutane. Even if you've tried everything that I've just listed, there's probably more stuff out for you to try. Don't give up. Don't ever give up. Because then you will have to run off to a nunnery. And I don't honestly even know if nunnery still exist.