Pretty Hurts

Group

“Shine the light on whatever’s worse

Perfection is the disease of a nation

Pretty hurts”

–  Beyoncé

It’s been almost a year. 

A year of what exactly?

A year of my skin progressively getting worse, and worse over time. 

For some a year is a pretty long time

For other’s it’s short. 

For me? 

It felt like during that time, I couldn’t remember anything from the past. 

Like the times when I wore no make-up to work. 

When I didn’t feel as if the first thing noticed by strangers was my skin.

When I felt comfortable and confident just having the occasional two spots on my skin. 

When I wasn’t paranoid thinking that when people looked at me, all they saw was an insecure acne riddled girl. 

To me, within the space of 365 days, I’d forgotten everything. 

Pretty terrible I know. 

And with my acne, like all things, it started off small. 

Two bumps on my cheek. 

Which I popped, like I’ve done so many times before. 

Then something different happened. 

The two bumps came back, bigger this time, AND they brought two other friends with them. 

So again, I thought, no big deal.

Been here.

Done this. 

Popped them again. 

But like a bad ex, they kept coming back. 

Soon, it wasn’t just one my one right cheek.

Now they were on my forehead.

My jawline.

My left cheek. 

My chin. 

Before I knew it, I had these bumps everywhere. 

I’d say it was like going through puberty all over again, but even in my pubescent stages; I’ve never had acne this bad. 

So obviously, like any sane rational human, I began to stress about it. 

To WebMD I went and was not-so-rationally self-diagnosed with cystic acne among other things. 

Then being the crack-MD that I am, instead of seeking treatment by a dermatologist; I decided to let Google, my local drug-store, Sephora, Amazon, and I solve this problem. 

At the time, I was sure it wasn’t a permanent thing.

That with the right products it’ll get better. 

And it is true, with the right products it would get better. 

Did I know what the right products were?

No. 

No I most certainly did not. 

But google and Instagram-self-care pages sure offered me a lot of options. 

So what did I do?

Try them all. 

The first thing I got was the Aztec Amazonian Clay Mask ($7.40USD), which I tried with the required apple cider vinegar. 

And as per some miscellaneous IG post, I steamed my face before applying it. 

To its, and everyone who’s tried this mask, credit; it worked. 

For about a week. 

Then my  face broke out in huge painful pimples. 

I thought it was just a cleansing period. 

You know, things gotta get worse before they get better type of deal. 

So I continued using it. 

And when the pimples got too out of control, I popped them. 

But like that ex, they kept coming back.

And kept making my skin (and life) worse. 

And started leaving scars. 

So now I had a 3-tone coloured cheek plus red, pus-filled pimples. 

Joy. 

It was at this time, everyone noticed my skin’s change. 

As a person who has social anxiety a lot, I can tell you it definitely was not fun that people began to greet me with, 

“OMG! What happened to your skin!?” 

“Wow, you’ve got acne!”

“When did your skin get this bad??”

Personally, I think at least know me over five years, and start the sentence with “Hi!” before you drop comments like that on someone. 

But that’s just my preference. 

With the comments, came the suggestions of what to do. 

At this point I was about 6 months into my skin getting progressively worse, and a girl was getting concerned. 

Concerned that my skin would never get better.

That I’d never be able to go out with out make up.

That it’ll get permeant. 

That I just have to accept my skin the way it is because, my mom has bad skin, my dad has bad skin, so I’ve had a good 23 years with out it; so it’s just my time now. 

I figured, what can it hurt to try a few of these suggestions. 

A saffron, honey and milk mixture was one of them. 

At the time I did not know they meant the actual turmeric root and not the spice saffron.

I wish I knew that ahead of time, because where I applied the mask on my already red, raw skin? 

It darkened it. 

Well, first it scared it so that it was covered in a scab and THEN when the scab peeled, there was a shadow of a noticeably dark spot covering my cheek to my jaw line. 

Honestly?
When I saw this, I wanted to cry. 

In fact, to be completely truthful?

I did cry. 

I cried out of horror

Out of frustration

And in anger. 

How DARE my skin decide to do this?

Did I not treat you well all these years?

Did I not pamper you?

It really be ya own peoples out here betraying you like this. 

After this, I got desperate. 

I actually gave the turmeric a shot. 

Only this time I paired it with aloes and honey.

For a while it worked. 

But good things rarely last don’t they? 

While my skin cleared up for about two-weeks with the pimples becoming less, and the spots lightening a little. 

Two weeks was as much as my own damned skin would give me. 

My acne came back with a vengeance. 

It had to make up for time lost I guess. 

Because the pimples were now huge, popping them hurt.

Sleeping on them hurt.

Touching my skin hurt. 

I began to get paranoid. 

I let no-one touch my face. 

I washed my pillow-cases twice a week. 

I washed my face IMMEDIATELY after the gym. 

My already strict diet became even stricter. 

I ate less meats.

More veggies.

Less carbs.

Less sugars.

More water. 

More grain based proteins.

At one point I was drinking kale and aloes shakes (which aren’t actually that bad).

I began washing my face several times throughout the day. 

Which lead to my skin drying out.

Which lead to my marks and scars becoming more pronounced. 

Which lead to me stressing out.

Which lead to even more breakouts. 

It was a cycle.

A terrible, never ending cycle. 

At this stage, desperate and paranoid, I decided to try a last ditch effort and buy myself some more of the products everyone raves about. 

Because I mean, with the right products it’s supposed to get better.

Right?

Before I continue, I’d just like to state for the record (and for my unpaid intern self to avoid any lawsuits) that these products simply did not work for me.

You know how on the labels there are disclaimers stating that they are side effects and exceptions? 

Well me. 

I’m the side effect. 

And the exception. 

Who could believe my luck right? 

In fact, the Azetc Amazonian Clay mask actually worked wonders on my housemate’s skin. 

I was admittedly jealous. 

The audacity of my own product to not even work for me? 

The betrayal. 

Again, rather than see a cosmetic doctor, a dermatologist, or any doctor in fact. 

I created my own lil’ routine. 

I started off with a tea tree face wash from the Body Shop ($20USD).

Or GLAMGLOW’s Super Cleanse Daily Cleanser ($39USD). 

Next came a glycolic acid toner from the Ordinary ($9USD).

Then, came Dr. Sheffield’s Clear Zit 2% Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Cream ($20TTD). 

Followed by Sunday Riley’s Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream ($65USD).

Finally I’d spritz my face with rose water that you can find in any drugstore ($13TTD).

This was including the either clay or turmeric masks I did every other day. 

You know how you always realise in hindsight how dumb you actually were, but never while when you’re actually doing the dumb thing?

That is literally me as I typed the list of products. 

What was I thinking mixing all those different brands?
Those different chemicals?

Truthfully?  

I wasn’t. 

Thinking that is. 

What I was was at the end of my rope. 

Desperate. 

Willing to try whatever it took to get my skin to act right. 

Now I see that while my skin was bad, I actually played a part in how worse it got over time. 

In fact it got so much worse that I went from being the girl that just wore powder on a day out,

To being the girl that wore a full face of make up when going out. 

And I mean a full face. 

Foundation.

Concealer. 

Setting powder. 

The works. 

Even to the beach. 

Where it probably did not do my skin any favours. 

So my skin got to the point where I didn’t even wanna touch it.

Because if I did, the pimples would get irritated and hurt. 

It was the way in which it hurt, that really made me cry. 

And yeah, I’ma admit that (again).

I cried.

Over my skin. 

Because just touching it felt as if I was poking my acne with a needle. 

That’s how uncomfortable it felt. 

As if there were needles drilling into my skin. 

Because there seemed as if there wan’t anything else I could do. 

I cried. 

I went out less. 

I became super self-conscious.

I tried to blend into the background not to get noticed. 

I used a lot of filters on my pictures.

In fact, I would edit my pictures twice before posting. 

Oh the lies we live right? 

I just actually wanted one platform, 

One thing,

Where I could control how my skin looked and appeared to people. 

Even if it was just on the internet. 

As I type this, I know to those who know me, would find it hard to believe that I let my skin condition affect my entire life that much. 

Well, to you I say, have you ever heard the saying “Fake it till ya make it?”

That was me. 

For the majority of the last 6 months, I’ve literally been faking it. 

Faking feeling comfortable in my own damned skin. 

I gave up on my skin. 

I didn’t care anymore. 

If this was my skin permanently, oh well. 

I guess it was. 

There’s also another saying, “You’ve gotta hit rock bottom before you can go up”

And believe me, I was at rock-bottom. 

Rock bottom and scrolling through instagram being salty about all those people who had amazing skin. 

In the midst of scrolling I saw that the Skin Health Institute commanded by the female power doctor, Dr. Rachael Eckel, was having a promotional competition for Acne Awareness Month. 

Well while being hyper-aware of my acne, I kept on scrolling. 

There was no way I was gonna show case my acne for the world to see. 

No way in hell. 

Instagram’s new algorithm is pretty annoying right? 

Cause it keeps certain posts popping up on your TL, and others it just pushes down. 

Well that’s what I owe to seeing the same post 2 days later. 

Call me corny, but it seemed like a sign. 

The deadline hadn’t passed. 

I had my boyfriend, my friends, my housemate, and my mom badgering me to enter. 

What did I have to lose right?
I mean it couldn’t hurt, right?

While I had the motivation and determination in me, I dragged my sick friend out of bed to be my camera-woman, 

Reviewed my post Supermodel to get an idea of what I wanted to say,

Did a mini script,

Practiced for two minutes, 

Dragged my sniffling friend and her wall tapestry outside, 

Making a contraption with a spray paint bottle, and a bottle of sand we hooked her tapestry to a wall, 

And began filming. 

It took us a few tries.

Her telling me not to quit the 15 times I said I was going to.

Her doing as many takes as I felt we needed. 

But we got it. 

We got footage. 

I edited it as best I can (all the while trying not to talk myself out of posting it). 

Then came the moment to click share on Instagram, and I kid you not my finger hovered over that button for a solid 5 minutes as I contemplated if I was really ready to share my skin with the internet. 

Clicking share was one of the best decisions I ever made. 

Not only did I win the promotion, 

But I got so much support. 

From friends. 

From random strangers. 

So many people related to my struggle, 

Told me I was being brave. 

It was overwhelming in the best way possible. 

It gave me hope. 

But like the pessimist I am.

I didn’t keep that hope for too long. 

What could possibly happen? You ask… 

I mean I did get my movie-like ending?

I thought so too, until it came time to get me an appointment at the Skin Health Institute (SHI).

I won the promotion in July. 

My appointment was rescheduled 3 times. 

Making me loose all hope that I’d ever get it. 

That I’d ever get clear skin.

So on the 4th try, I honestly went into SHI a pessimist. 

Ready to dislike every one there. 

But I just couldn’t.

Believe me I tried (For all of 5minutes). 

They just wouldn’t let me. 

Yep. 

I’ll blame it all on them. 

They were just too nice. 

And I’m a push over. 

Offer me chocolate mousse and shots (albeit healthy shots), and you’ve won me over. 

That and everyone was so amazingly friendly. 

If you do plan to go, heads up; they’re huggers. 

They will literally hug you. 

And not in a half-assed way. 

An actually real, it’s-gonna-be-okay-hug. 

I mean, I could be reading into it, but that’s what it felt like. 

So not only is the location of the place beautiful. 

But so is the staff. 

Inside and out. 

While you wait they’d tell you that they get it, they’ve been there, they’ve had acne too. 

Hell, they’ll even show you their before and after pictures if you don’t believe them (which I didn’t, until they did). 

And then hope blossomed again. 

My cringe worthy before pictures were taken.

And then I met Dr. Nadia Manna. 

Truthfully, I knew Nadia from before.

Let’s call it a friend of a friend thing. 

The thing is, I know the nerdy Nadia, the loves Game of Thrones Nadia. 

I did not know DOCTOR. Nadia Manna. 

Lemme tell ya, she has earned every right to be called doctor. 

Even though she’s still relatively new to the SHI, 

She.

Knows.

Her.

Stuff. 

She went through my assessment of my skin with me, 

The products to be used, 

Why I’m using them,

When to use them,

What to expect, 

How to use them. 

And as she went through each stage, I was more and more impressed. 

There’s no way I would’ve thought that she had only been at SHI for approximately a year. 

Her knowledge on each product was amazing.

Because she’s used the products herself, her relatableness was comforting. 

Her breaking down the complex medical terms to ways my little brain could understand was reassuring. 

While being treated by Dr. Manna, I was no longer a skeptic or a pessimist. 

I was impressed, and optimistic. 

Then I met Dr. Rachael Eckel herself. 

Truth be told, powerful women are always intimidating, with Dr. Eckel being no exception. 

Without speaking, she exudes confidence.

And I mean, why not?
She and her skin are utterly flawless. 

Dr. Eckel explained to me a bit of what I already know, our skin’s outcome is intricately tied to our diet. 

Except she dropped some facts on me that I didn’t even know. 

Like how I always thought that I could not eat lots of processed sugars like chocolate and gummies, but eat fruit and I’d be okay on the sugar front. 

But like a lot of times in my life, I was wrong. 

While I thought my diet was healthy, it actually was unhealthily disproportioned. 

I mean at this point I should be a walking ad for, don’t ever think you can DIY it. 

Your skin.

Your diet. 

Just suck it up and see a doctor. 

Web-MD lies, and so do IG accounts. 

I left the SHI with a bag full of products, a folder packed with information, and a chest full of hope. 

Night one of using the ZO® Skin Health Products: 

In the morning my skin actually looked better. 

I am not even kidding. 

Around day 3 though? 

I began to peel and panic. 

I know Dr. Manna said to expect peeling, but I didn’t expect this much peeling. 

I mean how many times can I shed on my chin??

Apparently, the answer is a lot. 

My skin is really damaged, ergo it’ll take a few peelings for it to get better. 

What I like so far? 

That this is gradual peeling as opposed to constant harsh chemical peels. 

That my skin is healing, but in a way where it’s not painful.

Okay that’s a lie. 

By day 4 using the Oil Control Pads involved me talking to myself in the mirror before using it. 

“You got this!”

“This is just the worst part”

“It’ll all be worth it” 

I swear, I can barely motivate myself to wake up in the morning, but I can motivate the hell out of myself to use those pads. 

Why?
Because they work. 

And I mean work, work. 

Like actually, visibly see the dead skin cells coming off. 

It stings like hell. 

But have you encountered something that’s good for you that doest feel/taste/smell horrible? 

No? 

Me neither. 

So it’s about a week into my treatment and I had to do my first set of extractions. 

Why do extractions? 

Can you move on to a new bae if you still keep your ex around? 

No, no you cannot. 

It’s kinda the same thing with your skin actually, for it to move on and fully heal; you’ve got to remove all the toxins aka the things pimples have in them, 

Now here’s the thing about extractions. 

It was like getting my first tattoo all over again. 

Everyone told me it would hurt like hell. 

So I went into the room anxious, asking all sorts of questions to hopefully delay the process. 

And then you lean back on the chair and let the professional, in my case the lovely aesthetician Lauren, do their thing, and you realise it’s not as bad. 

It really isn’t. 

And when it gets to being a little uncomfortable, all you gots to think about is your end result. 

Let that your mantra. 

That it’ll all be worth it. 

The extractions. 

The peels. 

The stinging pads. 

The red sore skin. 

It’ll all be worth it. 

Because truth be told, it can be a lot worse.

And you’ve had it a lot worse. 

You’ve tried worse treatments.

Worse facials.

Worse products. 

And all those things didn’t work. 

They promised they would but they didn’t. 

The treatment and products from the SHI? 

They’re that new beau, that’s treating you the way you deserve to be treated. 

They’re delivering on all their promises. 

They don’t lie. 

They come through with the results. 

And they’re there for you when you need them. 

For me that was when I was at rock bottom. 

So even though it’s only been a little over a week. 

The results are there.

I mean sure, there’s a little discomfort here and there but when has anything that has been truly good for you ever been easy? 

I mean veggies don’t always taste well but they’re good for your skin & health.

Cod liver oil makes me gag, but it does wonders for the skin. 

Catch my drift? 

Is it as smooth sailing as I thought? 

No. 

Is rough and terrible? 

No. 

Do I think it’s worth it? 

I dunno, you tell me… 

If you had the chance to gain your self-confidence back,

To step out into the world and not think that your every flaw is flashing in neon signs to every stranger,

Would you take it?

At the end of the day, some people are born pretty and flawless,

Some use filters,

And some go to Dr.Rachael Eckel’s Skin Health Institute. 

So I guess the one thing the internet got right is that it takes the right products.

For me that’s the ZO Skin Health products.

And you know what? 

The old saying isn’t true,

Pretty doesn’t hurt. 

It’s just a little red, and peel-y. 

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