You’ve Got Adult Acne? Big deal, Try Having the Teenage Variety

I was formerly the World’s Ugliest Teenager™ so I should know…

May 18, 2012 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

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Me and my little sister when I was 14 and working some excellent forehead spottage. My sister's a lot taller now. She also has perfect skin. Sigh. 

According to the New York Times, more women are getting adult acne than ever before. Boo hoo, says I.

The article features several women in their 30s or 40s, who, after spending their formative years with perfect skin, are now blighted with big, fat, ugly SPOTS.

I'm not being blithe, I definitely feel their pain -- I started getting acne when I was 11, and despite my mother’s assurances that it would all be gone by the time I was 15 (not sure where she got that age from), it’s never gone away entirely. But trust me, if I had to chose between the two, I'd take adult acne over the teenage variety any day. 

Years of antibiotics, numerous contraceptive pills, topical treatments and Chinese herbs, and finally three lots of Accutane (which I had to stop taking the the third time, because my white blood cell count fell dangerously low), have left me with skin that’s still breaks out in acne around my chin one week out of four, plus scarring on my chin and cheeks that covers up pretty easily with makeup. I’m 29 now, and I guess that’s the best I’m going to get.

So, I understand the humiliation of having to try and cover up a bleeding, angry spot, right next to your mouth with a mountain of concealer 10 seconds before a big meeting (why are they always right next to your mouth???). Or how depressing it is to realise that you have grey hairs [Celebrate them! ], wrinkles [Love them! ] and acne [They're beauty marks! Ok, I will go away now. ]. But that's nothing compared to negotiating your teenage years looking like the cautionary tale in a Clearasil advert. 

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I had some professional pictures taken for my old job. The makeup artist slapped the foundation on, but you can still see the tell-tale bumps around my chin. FYI I look amazing in the Photoshopped version, which this isn't. I love Photoshop. 

Even my worst skin day now is an improvement on my teenage years, when the combination of blackheads, inflamed skin, and big, swollen, cystic spots left me looking like a plague-ridden extra from Les Miserables for five years (did they have plague victims in Les Mis? I can't remember).

It didn’t get treated at all for ages because my mum didn’t really believe that spots were something that could be treated at the doctors. It was only when the whole thing took on monstrous proportions, leaving me with swollen, sore spots and yellow heads (Phoebe's making sicky noises over my shoulder as she reads this), all over my back, neck and chest as well as my face, that she finally relented. She feels really bad about the whole thing now. 

So, my skin now is vastly improved and I have a choice in how I treat it -- I can go to the doctors, I can pay to see a dermatologist (I can just about to afford to see one privately if I’m really desperate). I can pay for good makeup, spot cream and expensive moisturisers if necessary, and when I get thoroughly sick of the whole thing, I book myself in for a facial and just hand the whole thing over to someone else to deal with for an hour.

On a really bad day, I can just plaster on foundation so thick there’s a gap between my face and my neck. Plus! Photoshop! 

But the most important difference is the fact that my peers now are actual grown-ups. They tend to be pretty nice people who don’t really care what state my skin’s in today, and can see beyond how I look. I know I don’t have to spend my days in an all-girl’s comprehensive in London, looking like I’ve been the victim of a hideous nuclear experiment gone wrong.

In comparison to teenagers, adults are incredibly restrained and polite, no matter how bad I look. Plus, most adults I know have better things to worry about.

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My face, RIGHT NOW. Lolz, etc. 

As a sufferer of adult acne, I appear to be alone in having had it as a teen as well -- all of the women featured in the New York Times piece spent their teenage years and early 20s with perfect skin. Perfect skin!

Imagine having a flawless complexion while you negotiate school, university, your first job and your first boyfriend. That was the point in my life when how I looked was really important to me -- I hadn't really worked out what sort of person I was, so what was on the outside was so much more relevant than it is now.

Of course being an adult can be difficult, but you get to chose your own path. Being a teenager is rubbish for so many reasons, and you have no autonomy over your life. The last thing you need thrown in to the mix is a face full of weepy swollen cysts. True fact.

Also, remember this? 

Full disclosure: As a teenager, my skin was REALLY bad, but I also had crazy braces, frizzy hair and ringworm as I was allergic to my parent’s cats, so it probably wasn’t just the spots.