• Josina Miles

A Simple Cure for Teenage Acne

We all desire clear, unblemished, non-problematic skin, but for a lot of us, it's a continuous struggle. What began in puberty and has continued through the teenage years, even into adulthood. It can be the main source of insecurity in both males and females especially if you're unable to control the breakouts. One day you're fine and the next day you're afraid to show your face to the world. I certainly do not have blemish free skin, no one does.

I knew something was bothering her the night before, but I didn't want to press the issue, so I let it go and said goodnight. I woke her up at the usual time to start getting ready for school. I was in the kitchen making some tea when she walked. My immediate thought was that she couldn't find her school uniform and I was ready to reprimand her for not getting her uniform ready the night before. She looked distraught and immediately broke down crying. 'What's wrong' I asked. "I don't know how to stop it" she said... "Look at my face". I saw two pimples around the mouth and I wondered at first if it was a cold sore because they looked swollen and puss filled. It wasn't, they were only pimples. I said come with me and we went to bathroom where I proceeded to pop them with slightly wet cotton pads. Of course they started bleeding. Once they were extracted, I applied antibiotic ointment. She calmed down, but still didn't want to go to school. I caved and let her stay home to calm her nerves. I took the opportunity to give her a pep talk and let her know that pimples don't make you ugly and it's all in her mind. She listened politely, but I could tell that she silently dismissed me.

During my teenage years, I recall suffering not only with breakouts, but the anxiety that usually accompanies the breakouts. Although you're encouraged to use topical treatments, applied at night and kept on until morning, you could never really prevent a new breakout from occurring or make the other ones completely disappear. The issue stemmed from internal processes and it limits your control. The frustration, hopelessness and insecurity that I felt resurfaced when my daughter reached her teenage years.

Before she hit puberty, I began to warn her about what may change because of changes in her body. I silently hoped that her father's genes which she strongly exhibited with his freckles, would over-power my defective genes that unfortunately didn't skip my generation. She turned a teenager, and the changes began, but luckily it wasn't as severe as the ones I experienced growing up. Mostly, I warned her about not fretting over them because it could only make things worse. I used to circumvent the inevitable eruptions on my face, taking drastic measures that had extreme and irreversible consequences.

In my desperation for clear skin once and for all, I visited the doctor hoping to get a prescription that would cure me of this curse. Determined to take control of my skin, I needed something stronger than over-the-counter lotions and potions. What I demanded was an over overnight miracle. I wanted to wake up in the morning and see fresh, plump, beautiful skin. I got my prescription for a topical gel like substance that came in a white tube. It felt like I was putting water on my face and I couldn't really see it, so I kept adding more. A few days later I had 2nd degree burns.

It wasn't immediately clear that I had burns because my face looked normal, just didn't feel normal. I recall not being able to move my face normally and wrinkles occurring around my mouth when I talked or smiled. I finished with the professionals yet, so instead of going back the doctor, I went to a dermatologist's office in the mall. I explained what was happening, and they laid me down on a table and swiped some cream over my forehead and cheeks. My face instantly turned black and you could see the burns. It was burn mask, and it was horrifying. I look back now in amazement because if I had continued to use the face gel, it would have removed my skin completely. It only took off the first layer.

They gave me Keri soap and a buttery cream to take home. After a few days, it started to peel. The burnt layer was shedding off and revealing a newer skin, but it wasn't pretty. It came off in patches and there were marks left behind.

It would take a couple years for my skin to get renewed.

But, I didn't stop there... I was still a teenager. I still had acne, and I was still in search of a cure.

Skin care products became my obsession, and couldn't stop buying them. I would have tried something new every day if I could, but I didn't, so I settled for at least bi-weekly. I tried so many brands of soaps, lotions, butter, scrubs, skin brushes and I was tossing them as fast as I was buying them. If I didn't see results within two days, they were out and I was on to the next product. I spent a lot of money, but my skin remained unchanged only good days and bad days, mostly bad. It wasn't until I hit my mid-twenties that I finally got a reprieve from the breakouts, confirming that hormone fluctuations was the culprit. I was uneducated on how the largest organ on your body, the skin, works or even how my consumption both internal and external affects the way my skin reacts.

My teenage years are long gone and I'm now living in the phase of an aging adult. Although my skin isn't perfect because of the damage I've caused, I have learned a few tricks that have kept my skin relatively problem free:

Keeping It Simple

I no longer use multiple step programs to clean my face. I realized that it wasn't my skin care routine that was creating the problems in the first place; it was my hormones. Eventually, I retired the 3, 4, 5 step routines, and settled for washing my face and sealing in the moisture. My skin became more compliant and less reactive.

No Soap On My Face

In high school, I noticed a friend's skin looking very flawless and refined, so I asked her what was her secret. She casually replied that she only uses water to wash her face and not solvents. Impressed, but I still couldn't bring myself to not use anything at all. I don't use soaps to wash my face anymore. I've noticed that every time I've talked myself into trying a facial cleansing product, I noticed my skin changing for the worse. It feels dry and appears to be thinner. When I ceased using soap, my skin became low maintenance. I found that I didn't need a moisturizer, but I used one anyway because I enjoyed the routine of applying some after getting out of the shower. It helps to seal in the moisture. Year ago, a friend of a friend had recommended that I apply moisturizers when my face is wet. Doing this has always made my skin feel well moisturized. My favorite product to use directly out of the shower is coconut oil. It has always been my number one product, even after trying many other products. My skin prefers single ingredient products. The only drawback is that it does nothing for scars or blemishes. My skin scars easily, so while the texture is good, the scars remain visible.

No Foundation

It makes me feel insecure. I've worn it to feel better, but it made me feel like I had something to hide, which I did, and I hated that feeling. I've nothing against foundations of any variety. The purpose is to give the appearance of flawless skin but no one has flawless skin, and sometimes the coverage looks worse than just leaving it bare. My 9 year old daughter who I've instructed not to use soap on her face because of her sensitivity to a lot of products, is the closest I've seen to flawless skin, and even she gets inflammations now and then. We don't allow kids to cover their skin with foundation. It perplexes me that once we get to a certain age, we're encouraged to cover up. Why? Pressure to wear makeup to feel better about ourselves is an act of cognitive dissonance. We don't feel confident in our real appearance.

Root Cause

The teenage years is the most pivotal time of your life. It's the bridge between childhood and adulthood so it's absolutely a stressful time. One of the major causes of acne is stress. According to Web Md they've surmised that there's a correlation between an overactive sebaceous gland and stress. It can be a vicious cycle being that stress causes acne and acne causes stress.

Their reaction to stressful situations can be the cause or exacerbate the condition. It's like a volcano. It lays dormant for a long period, then erupts by an underlying trigger event. Many people, when under stress, will make choices counterproductive for an existing issue. For instance, they may choose fast foods over healthier choices which may cause inflammations or continue a habit of picking their faces, which can introduce bacteria to the surface of the skin.

Stress is a factor of life that may not be within our immediate control. Knowing this, it's important to find coping mechanisms to minimize the effects of stress when we cannot eliminate the root cause.

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