Coping with acne insecurities in college

Part of me thought that when I first came to college, acne would be a thing of the past. Though I have struggled with it for years, I always assumed it was some juvenile thing I would grow out of. Four years after my acne started, my skin still has its issues.

Since moving into college—because of the increased stress, changing sleep schedules, and new foods—my skin has been thrown for a loop. Acne has trickled its way back into my life, and I do not feel it stopping any time soon. I feel like I am stuck in high school, still grappling with something that other people simply aged out of.

I am frustrated. In the wise words of Lorde on Instagram, “yes, I wash my face, I’m just genetically cursed.”

-Advertisement-

But I have slowly learned that, for now, acne is a part of me, and it’s a lot easier to accept it than to constantly hide from it.

Throughout my life, all of my friends have had near-perfect skin, so I felt sad and alone in my struggles. I would buy expensive skincare products, go on all different kinds of medications, try every single product I saw in commercials, and religiously take my makeup off every night, while my peers would have naturally perfect skin without doing anything.

My freshman and sophomore years of high school, I let my acne ruin so much for me: I was constantly worried about how I looked, I hated getting pictures taken, and I forced myself to wake up early to do makeup. I used to think that if I could just cover my acne up with a little Maybelline foundation, all my problems would go away. I remember that, during the summer going into my sophomore year for my early morning driver’s ed class, I’d do my eye makeup the night before, sleep in it, then wake up early to apply layers of products onto my skin.

My already fragile self-confidence was practically nonexistent, and I was constantly wondering, “Why me?” and silently blaming my parents for passing on their bad genes.

Clearly, acne is not a new struggle for me, but there is something different about exposing my skin to people I have known since elementary school compared to people I met a month ago in college. Now that I’m living on campus, I’m forced to show my bare face to my roommates and those who live on my floor at the end of the night when I take off my makeup. I have lost the sense of privacy I once had at home, where at least I could be “ugly” in peace. Now, when I walk to class, I am no longer just surrounded by students from my school, but also dozens of others walking by.

College seems like an arbitrary marker of adulthood for some. Students here are legal adults out in the “real world” without parents or strict rules. However, upon stepping foot on campus in August, my pimples didn’t automatically vanish simply because I had a high school diploma. I moved on from my “awkward phase” braces, horizontally striped clothing, and neon Converse, yet I could not shake my acne—no matter how hard I tried.

Needless to say, I was disappointed.

However, I eventually realized that I am only making things harder for myself by being so ashamed of my skin. I always think my acne is the first thing people notice when they meet me, when in reality, it probably is not. For those who care about me, they will actually realize that I am so much more than just “bad skin.”

Now, I have a choice if I decide to wear makeup or not. If I feel like wearing it, I will; if I don’t, I won’t. I realized I was wearing makeup for the wrong reasons. Instead of using it to enhance my features or as a creative outlet, I was instead covering everything I deemed wrong with me. Though I still use makeup now to even out my skin tone or give my brows more definition, I enjoy doing it rather than doing it as a chore.

As cheesy as it sounds, life is too short to spend your life hiding from something totally normal. When I look into the mirror now, my acne and its resulting scars are still the first things I see, but I am slowly coming to terms with their existence. I would be lying if I said my acne is not a source of insecurity for me anymore. If someone would have told me I would regularly go out one day without makeup four years ago, I would not have believed them, but here we are—maybe my laziness is good for something.

At the end of the day, acne does not define your personality, your intelligence, your work ethic, your interests, your social life, or your hygiene, so why let it control your life?

Related
Did you work on The Beacon during your time at Emerson? Join The Beacon Alumni Association!