The picture of myself at the top of the page is me without any makeup on and absolutely no filter. You can see the discoloration on my skin where the blemishes are. Ironically enough, the picture didn’t turn out as gross as I thought it would meaning I either have a really polite camera or I make the problem so much worse in my head. My guess, the latter.
A Mama’s Body Image Series: Acne
With all these self-image articles moving around social media like crazy, I felt I needed to address the idea of a mom’s body image. I feel it’s especially important because I haven’t always had a great body image, but now that I’m a mom I want to raise strong children who know that they’re attractive no matter what society says. My first issue and the one that has caused me the most pain in my life is acne.
I have had acne since I was 11 years old. I’m 24 now, so it’s a long time to live with something that can make you feel so isolated, ugly, and different. I’d like to think that as someone who has dealt with this for so long that I eventually came into my own skin and found my inner beauty. Most days, yes. Some days, I just want that perfect skin that other moms have. I go out and see these gorgeous women with their children and I feel lesser somehow. Like I’m not as pretty, but it makes me feel crazy because why would that even matter? Being pretty doesn’t make me a great mom, just an attractive one.
I’d say it’s because I’ve grown up at a very unusual time–social media is now an everyday norm, but growing up with the ever popular social media, it only helped to point out my inadequacies in comparison to these beautiful and perfect women you’d see on the internet, in the magazines, on the TV, in the newspapers, and on and on. Even now, as a grown woman, I feel bombarded with images that constantly make me feel less than I know I am. I never want my children to feel this way.
In an effort to become a more secure person who actually loves herself for exactly what she is–not what makeup, retouching, shapewear, etc. can turn me into, I am writing about my battle with acne. I share so that other women like me don’t have to feel alone because you’re not.
So, like I said, I got acne at 11. I imagine, like most teens, that I started using the common OTC brands like Neutrogena to absolutely no avail. The next step is usually a dermatologist and I was no exception. Off we went to the dermatologist where I got put on all manner of chemicals to clear up my skin. I used Retin-A-Micro diligently even when doing so burned my skin to the point of tears and made it look like I constantly had sunburn. I cannot even describe the feeling I had after I worked so hard to use a terrible product only to have it fail me too. I bounced around from product to product–some saying I needed to use Salicylic acid while others claimed I needed benzoyl peroxide. In the end, I was 17 getting ready to go to college and just kind of done with the whole miserable adventure. I said hell no to Accutane as the side effects list is a mile long and you have to be on birth control, use condoms, and take monthly pregnancy tests! What kind of medicine is this? I wasn’t even sexual active at the time, but it was just so off-putting.
I stayed away from ‘acne specific’ medicines for awhile just washing my face with very natural products. I hoped rather than believed that this would make a difference. My face fluctuated between okay and terrible. Never perfect. I was getting ready to graduate from college at 20 when I got hit with another spell of ‘I-need-to-fix-my-skin-at-all-costs’. Back to the dermatologist I went, but this time I got a really awesome doctor. She put me on two things: Acanya Gel in the morning and Differin at night. I was using Cetaphil to wash my face. I’ll be, if it didn’t start working! Now, my skin even to this day has never been perfect, but it was a lot better. I used this regimen for 2 straight years and was feeling really great about myself–riding the high of not having to mess with blemishes (at least, not too many) and then I found out I was pregnant and it all changed.
I couldn’t use my medicines while I was pregnant and more to the point, I refused to sacrifice my baby’s safety for my own personal vanity. Let me be the first to say, when you stop using a product that your skin has grown accustomed to, everything goes wrong. My skin FREAKED out. Combine that with first trimester hormones and anxiety and you’ve got a very moody mama. But I made it through the pregnancy with some terrible image days, but all in all happy to be expecting a beautiful baby.
Unfortunately, there was no light at the end of my tunnel because I wanted to breastfeed Logan to at least a year (almost there, yay!). Many of the medicines you can’t use while pregnant, you still can’t use while you’re breastfeeding. I’ve tried some very interesting concoctions trying to find a natural remedy in the year since Logan was born, but not much seems to touch my cystic acne. For awhile, right after Logan was born, I was using Apple Cider Vinegar, but besides not lasting long, the smell was just awful. I gave up on that idea pretty fast. I’ve since tried a variety of face washes, scrubs, toners, serums, moisturizers, and various make-up (foundation &powder). I’ll talk a little about what I use right now because the serum I have seems to add something back to my skin that I haven’t seen in a long time–hard to explain, but a certain smooth softness.
Before I go into detail on the products. I’ve got to credit Birchbox for my discovery of them. And my sister, Meghan, for getting me started with Birchbox in the first place. For those of you who don’t know, Birchbox is an online website that does a monthly box of various beauty products for women based on your person customization (I.e. skin type, hair color, skin problems, etc.). I love their products! I specified all natural/organic products and that’s what I received. Amazing!
Currently, I switch between three face washes. One has activated charcoal and I use it when I feel like my skin needs extra love (healing), another has berries and it’s just a good daily cleanser, and the last has exfoliating beads. I use this one exclusively in the shower with my Clarisonic brush. I have one toner by Glo Minerals that I procured from the dermatologist. I use it after my face wash but before serum or when I’ve been outside sweating just to help my skin feel clean again. I have one serum by Jurlique that I absolutely love! And finally I have a rose water moisturizer that has done wonders and lasts forever! You need very little to cover the whole face and neck.
For make-up, I use Supergoop! Mineral Sunscreen with tint. It’s great because I just use my finger tips to apply–fast and easy coverage. That’s really all the time I have before Logan needs me anyway. But if I’m going out, I also use Glo Minerals pressed powder and Channel blush. It’s a heavier coverage, so it’s not for everyday.
I’m very happy with my routine and I haven’t felt the need to go looking around for other options. Of course, my skin is nowhere near perfect, but it could be a heck of a lot worse, so that’s something. I spend my days now focusing all my energy on a positive self image. I’ve noticed that the less I worry about how I look, the less I look in the mirror and I think this is a really good thing. I used to constantly look in the mirror, but I wasn’t any happier for it. It just allowed me to constantly fixate on my imperfections. Who needs that?
I’m ready to be the strong mama I know I can be that way when my kids have a body image issue, they can look to me for inspiration and I don’t have to use the do as I say, not as I do method of education. The best part is this isn’t a personal sacrifice rather it’s a growing experience. Who knew grownups still had so much growing up to do?