“I woke up like this
We flawless, ladies tell ‘em
Say I, look so good tonight
– Beyoncé Knowles
Remember when I said in Pretty Hurts that I couldn’t remember what it was like to not have acne?
Well my memory is still pretty terrible, because now I can’t remember what it’s like to not have flawless skin.
I really and truly can’t.
I look at my ‘before’ pictures from the Skin Health Institute and I’m flawed.
In the literal and figurative sense.
Flawed, because that’s how I saw myself with the abundant amount of pimples all over my face (and neck).
Flawed because my brain is utterly amazed at the fact that my skin was like that a mere three months ago.
Flawed, because that’s how I felt.
I know we’re not all perfect, and we all have flaws.
Even though we know that we’ve got redeeming qualities, sometimes it’s hard to find them when all you can see; all you can focus on is your flaws.
It’s always easy to see our flaws.
Yet, is it ever easy for the first thing we see is our actual beauty?
Is it ever easy to see ourselves as perfect?
We strive for perfection, but do we ever actually feel it?
After all our efforts do we ever take a step back, sigh and utter the words,
“I’ve done it! I’m finally perfect.”
After all our chasing do we ever feel it?
That we’ve caught what we’ve been chasing, and are indeed perfect and flawless.
At any point do we ever just accept ourselves completely for who we are?
Accept ourselves, entirely and wholly for everything that we are, and we’ve become.
Such a weird concept.
It’s the satisfaction and happiness with oneself.
A concept which I’ve been thinking about quite often lately.
Whether it’s the beginning of a New Year.
We’re about to have a birthday.
Or go through a major life change.
We often think about how much we’ve changed.
How much we’ve grown.
How we’ve changed physically.
Gotten rid of acne.
How we’ve changed emotionally, and mentally.
Are we more confident?
Is our self-esteem higher?
Are we mentally happy?
Sometimes the best indictor of change, is looking at old photos.
We cringe at our eyebrows in the early 2000’s.
We’re embarrassed by that emo stage we went through.
We roll our eyes at the poses with peace signs and duck face.
We laugh at our style choices.
We flinch at our hair styles.
And for me?
I wince when looking at my skin.
My skin three months or so ago that is.
I wince because if I force my mind back, I remember how painful those huge mountains on my cheeks felt.
I remember how terrible it looked.
And how ugly I felt.
It’s weird to type that word: ugly.
“You’re not ugly! Are you insane!”
A statement I’ve had to tell myself so, so many times.
Because even though I may not actually be ‘ugly’.
It’s how I felt.
I felt ugly because when I touched my skin, I’d feel the pain of the pimples on my cheeks.
I felt ugly because I had a compulsive need to pick and pop at my skin daily.
I felt ugly because I couldn’t remember feeling pretty or confident.
And with that feeling, came one of over-whelming self-consciousness.
Looking at me now I can’t believe I let acne control my world so much.
Control my self-perception.
My level of happiness and comfort with my own damned self.
I can’t believe how I let it loom over me.
How I used it as an excuse to hide from the world.
And hide from the world I did.
It feels like living in a parallel universe when I think about it.
I say this because I can’t believe what my life was like a year ago.
Looking at old photos I see that I let my physical appearance, in those moments, influence my confidence and my mental happiness.
In fact, I wasn’t confident and I wasn’t happy.
I wasn’t happy with myself.
I wasn’t comfortable with myself.
I wasn’t comfortable being photographed.
I went back to being an insecure teen who felt awkward and scrutinized when in front of a camera.
Just like a bad angle, I didn’t want that self-perception captured in any way.
I wanted it photoshopped out.
So I took less pictures.
I’ll correct myself and say that I took different pictures.
I hit different angles.
Essentially any angle other than my face.
A direct, close up shot of my face.
I remember at one point my IG profile was a blob of the beautiful scenes of Barbados.
Or they were these ‘artsy’ pictures of me looking away from the camera.
While they looked stunning, they captured two things; the beauty of Barbados and my insecurity.
If you didn’t read my last three posts, I’mma say it one more time for the late comers:
I was insecure about my skin.
Now, through these blogs, I realise how debilitating it is having cystic acne.
How much I let it control my life.
Control how I felt about myself.
About my appearance.
It’s mind-blowing to acknowledge how much personal appearance and perception seeps into how we feel about ourselves.
I mean we’ve always heard that it’s the beauty on the inside that matters.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m a high achiever.
So I always thought why not have both?
Why do we have to choose?
Why can’t we be beautiful on the outside too?
Because if we’re being real, it’s the beauty on the outside that’s seen first.
And haven’t we been conditioned to believe first impressions count?
“Don’t judge a book by its cover”
and “First impressions matter”
Two sayings we’ve heard time and time again.
Two sayings that both focus on beauty.
Two sayings that contradict each other.
One is saying that we can’t put stock in appearances.
And the other saying that appearances set the tone for how we are judged there on out.
Whether or not I support one of those sayings over the other, it didn’t stop people from noticing and commenting on my acne, as their very first words when meeting me.
Like I said in Supermodel, it really really sucks when you’re finally having a good self-esteem day, then comes someone to ruin it all for you.
Sometimes they don’t mean it in a bad way.
They may just be curious.
They may just wanna offer unsolicited advice.
They may just be shocked because you’ve used filters on IG to hide it for a really long time.
No matter the reason for their words, it doesn’t sting any less.
The horrible reality that your skin isn’t anything like it used to be.
That it might not ever get better because you’ve tried literally everything.
Which just made it worse.
That is the truly mind-numbing, defeating feeling.
Did I want acne to cripple my self-esteem?
Of course not!
I wanted to be confident in my skin.
I wanted to not wear makeup to go out.
I wanted to meet new people without feeling overly self-conscious.
But I couldn’t.
I always thought they were staring at my skin, eyes roaming, taking in all the imperfections.
I thought my skin itself was imperfect and there was nothing I could do about it.
In a way I was right.
There was nothing I could do by myself.
I needed a whole team.
I needed Dr. Rachael Eckel and her dream team.
When I won her Acne Awareness promotion and became the Skin Health Institute’s Digital Brand Ambassador, I was over the moon.
Over the moon and utterly terrified.
Well, more pessimistic less terrified really.
Because, what could she do?
She’s nothing special.
Yeah I follow her on IG, and I look at her every post.
But what could she do that I didn’t already try?
Turns out the answer is a lot.
She, together with her team could do a lot.
Beginning treatment I was skeptical.
Throughout treatment I was doubtful.
And my self-esteem teetered and tottered more than ever before.
Because in addition to having acne, I was now red.
I was now peeling.
I now had blackheads spurting out from my nose.
I had red, raw skin from weekly extractions and using oil control pads.
I now could not hide behind makeup.
Without my quite literal mask to hide behind.
The awareness that people looked at me, seeing only my skin, sky rocketed.
Then, on my daily in-depth examinations of my face I noticed that I had less huge pimples.
Less dark spots.
Less wide open pores.
Less new breakouts.
All this coming from just using the ZO Topicals.
I thought it was.
Because these were just products, that’s it.
Just another range of products.
I tried so many other products why were these the ones to work their miracle on my skin?
It couldn’t be because they were considered high-end.
I used high-end Sephora products before and they didn’t do squat.
So what made this time different?
I’m still piecing together the answer.
And the closest thing I’ve got is: it’s not just the products.
The right products are just one part of it.
Anyone can go in Sephora or any drug store and drop serious cash on buying ‘the best’.
Is it the best for your skin though?
Do you know why you’re using this particular brand?
This particular product?
Do know what concentration of a specific ingredient you need to treat your problem?
Do you need 1%, or 4%?
All the Googling in the world, and all the IG advice on the internet can’t answer those questions.
The thing is, beauty isn’t just skin deep.
It’s our life-style influences.
It goes beyond what we actually know.
The people who do know have the words Dr. as their title.
Or have been trained in this very particular and specific field.
These medical professionals, are the ones who can actually give us honest answers and recommendations based on that initial consult and examination of our skin.
During treatment my skin was examined weekly, worked on by trained, experienced medical professionals.
Not just me and WebMD.
Or my local facialist.
My skin routine was reviewed every appointment.
My products were changed and adjusted ever so often just to keep my skin on it’s toes.
Dr. Rachael’s team consulted with each other and worked cohesively, and expertly as a team towards a single goal.
Their goal wasn’t just for me to have an acne-free face.
Their goal was to turn my skin into the best version of itself.
Rather, they wanted my overall skin to achieve a level of healthiness it never had.
Being completely real with you?
Going through treatment was a process.
Was it always easy? No.
Is it smooth sailing? Of course not.
I did at every appointment.
Not just because I wanted to know what I was experiencing was ‘normal’.
But because I wanted to know I wasn’t going through it on my own.
In it alone that is.
Rather every single member of that #DreamTeam knows what it’s like to have some form of skin impairment or the other.
Every single one of them has been through treatment.
Every single one of them knows a fraction of what you’re currently feeling.
They know the it’s hard to trust the process.
They know it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna end.
They know what it’s like to wonder how on God’s green earth the ZO products can transform the skin in a short period of time.
And I know.
The difference between us?
They can answer any possible question on the ‘how’ the products do what they do.
I know this because they’ve provided me with every answer.
The fact that the Exfoliating Polish is really good when it comes to getting rid of those annoying black heads on my nose.
The Acne Oil Control Pads helps to cleanse and tighten my pores, so that they’re less wide open and gaping.
The Melamin works to lighten the areas of heavy dark spots and sunburn.
The Melamix and Complex A works to blend the skin out as evenly as possible so I don’t like like an ombre mess.
And the peeling occurs because that’s simply my unhealthy skin getting out of the way so my newer healthy skin could shine through.
Disclaimer: They explain these things in a much more professional manner than me.
Yet they do it in such a way that even with a limited understanding of all things medical, I’m able to comprehend the ‘why’ behind using the topicals.
The ‘what about it’ is so good for my skin.
And the ‘how come’ it’s working to get rid my acne.
So now three months later?
My cheeks no longer have mountains of acne, ripe for the popping.
There’s no big bulging white heads that rocket-pop on-to a mirror.
My nose has no protruding blackheads looking like little dots decorating it.
My pores are no lower the first thing I notice when looking into the mirror.
My skin looks and feels healthier.
Is it flawless?
I still have dark spots on my cheeks, that may not go away as easily or as quickly as I want them to.
I’m not flawless.
I probably will never be.
And I probably will never feel it.
What I do feel?
Happier with myself.
More secure with myself than ever before.
Confident that I’m making good first impressions.
Confident that when people first notice my skin, they notice its glow.
It’s amazing what could be changed in a year.
Or in18 weeks.
It took years for my self-confidence and self-esteem to be chipped away.
It took 18 weeks for me to learn how to be comfortable with myself.
18 weeks for me to re-learn how to be confident.
18 weeks working with the most amazing team so I didn’t have to do it all alone.
My mental happiness has had some of it’s best days.
I’m smiling more.
I’m laughing more.
I’m going out more.
I’m taking more pictures.
Pictures of me smiling.
Pictures of me close up.
Something I’m not afraid of anymore.
Capture it all.
My cheeks and their smoothness.
My natural glow.
My almost non-non-existent pores.
My blackhead free nose.
Even my barely visible dark spot on my cheek.
I’m not hiding anymore.
I guess you could say, I’m a little more satisfied and happy with myself.
Almost as if I’ve begun accepting myself all over again.