Ever since my teenage years, I’ve suffered from acne. Fortunately, mine is not as bad as some of the extreme cases I’ve seen on media, such as Proactiv. Though it isn’t bad, it is persistent. One pimple goes away and another comes back. It’s a vicious cycle that never seemed to stop.

And I am someone who has an extremely fragile ego. I care what people think about me; admittedly, more than I probably should. So always having a couple of pimples really damaged my self-esteem. I hated the idea of going out with a pimple because my only thoughts were: “People are looking and judging me in their head.” While I write this, I realize how irrational it is. Everyone has acne, and I highly doubt people stopped what they were doing just to look at my pimples and think to themselves: “Hah, what a loser!” Even though it’s irrational, it’s still a fear (Hello, irrational fears.)

The next sentence will undoubtedly make your head spin in frustration and confusion. I am thankful for the COVID-19 pandemic. Not for the reason you think. I hate the idea of small businesses closing, people losing their jobs, the economy coming to a crippling halt. I’m not thankful for that. I’m thankful for the masks. When one of your biggest insecurities is acne, and all of the sudden wearing face coverings is normalized, it’s like a dream come true! All those pesky pimples, while still there, are hidden from everyone. Sigh of relief.

But I’m a realist. Relying on a mask to hide that insecurity is not the way to solve it. So I did the only thing that any sane person would do. I became a pseudo-dermatologist.

“Does milk cause acne?”

“Should you wash your face once or twice a day?”

Google became my best friend. Why go see a dermatologist when WebMD and Healthline exist? And for those wondering, milk has not been directly linked to causing acne, but it has been found to influence and aggravate. Quickly, I became hyper-aware of everything I was taking into my body. I read an article that explained how washing the face twice a day leads to sebum production (and thus, potentially more acne for those prone to it).

I went from drinking dairy milk to almond milk. I stopped using whey protein (and drinking protein shakes in general) as whey is associated with the overproduction of sebum. I switched from Equate face wash to CeraVe. I started moisturizing every day and night. I went to the dermatologist and got prescribed Tretinoin and a benzoyl peroxide face wash.

Okay, let me break and tell you my struggle. Because if you’re reading this and facing the same struggle I was facing, you might be taking notes right now on things to try. Benzoyl peroxide dried my face out, bad. I was told to use it daily. I had to use it once every four just to not aggravate my skin any further. And despite common claims, “If it hurts, it’s workings,” is not necessarily true.

Morning: Wake up, take a shower, moisturize, benzoyl peroxide (every four days). Night: Brush teeth, wash face, moisturize, apply Tretinoin cream. Let me tell you, with the diet change and new routines, my acne started to improve. I think there was a solid two weeks where I had literally no pimples. Not a single one.

This was not the end-all-be-all solution. I still get breakouts, but they go away much quicker than they used to, and they are nowhere as persistent as they were. I have acne scars from before, and the Tretinoin is doing a great job at clearing them up (my dermatologist says another month or two until they are entirely gone). I stopped using benzoyl peroxide and got prescribed a clindamycin phosphate lotion instead (which is not as effective as benzoyl peroxide because of resistance, but it doesn’t utterly destroy my face.) While I’ve been on the new clindamycin lotion, I’ve gotten more pimples, but I’m hoping it’s just a purging period.

I’ve become a lot more comfortable with my self. I am still insecure when I look in the mirror and see one of those red devils, but I don’t feel the need to hide it. I am okay with the fact that I have acne, and that’s all that matters. I don’t think I would be in this position if it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic. If it weren’t for me realizing “You can’t just hide your insecurities under a mask,” I would probably still be drinking milk and chugging protein shakes and wondering “Why is there a new pimple?”

So, thank you, Mrs. Rona, for forcing a lifestyle change on me.

For those who want a list of the items I use:

  • Tretinoin (0.05%) cream (prescription)
  • CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser [Amazon.com]
  • Vanicream Facial Moisturizer [Amazon.com]
  • Clindamycin Phosphate (1%) topical lotion (prescription)

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