While I haven’t always been kind to my skin, I’ve spent most (if not all) of my adult life being very particular about my appearance. I firmly believe that developing trichotillomania as a kid and then being ostracized for it in middle and high school ultimately resulted in my passion for makeup and hair styling and pursuing a career in those fields. Despite dabbling in makeup since I was 15, I never paid attention to how I was treating my facial skin until about 2 years ago.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
I paid attention to how I was treating my skin, I was just going about it the entirely wrong way. I was assaulting my face with a rough, exfoliating apricot scrub twice a day and using a moisturizer loaded up with perfumes and irritants. But I thought I was doing my skin good because I never suffered any big breakouts or deep pimples. Then one day, in the summer after I’d picked my life up and moved it across the country, I came across r/skincareaddiction on Reddit and it turned everything I knew about caring for my skin upside down.
That was my face before I started my current skin care routine, and about 9 months after. Granted, the picture on the left was taken with a DSLR and the one on the right with a phone camera, but both were in natural light and no filters or alterations were applied to either.
(For anyone who’s curious, I ditched the scrub, and started cleaning my face with mineral oil. Massaged it in – it even removes makeup, better than wipes – and then wiped it all off with a warm, damp microfiber cloth. In the evening, I follow it with Alpha Hydrox enhanced lotion with 10% glycolic acid and a generous helping of Cetaphil lotion. In the morning, just lotion. I’m usually wearing BB cream that has SPF 45 broad spectrum sun protection in it. Using a sunscreen is super important if you’re using any sort of chemical exfoliant.)
Awesome, right? Absolutely! Things were going great for my face and my self-confidence, until a staph infection struck and ruined everything.
In September of last year, I’d gotten my hair cut at the salon I was working at (names shall not be named). This particular time, I had my coworker shampoo me. Within the next few days, I developed an itchy rash on the back of my neck, which quickly spread to my chest and my face. My precious, precious face; it swelled up like a balloon with an itchy, weepy rash that felt like fire if I tried applying anything on it, even Aquaphor wasn’t safe.
Having had staph infections on my face in the distant past and knowing how quickly they get (further) out of control, I sought immediate medical care. I was diagnosed with impetigo and put on a heavy duty antibiotic for a week. My face cleared up quickly, but my neck and chest did not. I continued getting pimples and rash-like formations on my neck and chest, some of which went away after washing with an antiseptic soap (recommended by a friend who has also dealt with staph infections), some of which did not. It was only a matter of time before it crept back up to my face.
By December, I was breaking out regularly. Big pimples, deep and painful pimples. Even when I was a greasy teenager, I never experienced zits like this. I went to a walk-in clinic (with my work schedule at the time, and the availability of appointments at my primary doctor’s office, it was nearly impossible for me to schedule an appointment), and they put me on yet another round of gut-ruining antibiotics. My skin cleared right up again, and was great for all of the two weeks I was on the antibiotics, but the pimples started springing up again once my course was done. Bigger, badder, deeper, more painful. They came back with a vengeance.
About a month ago, I went to the doctor again. This time, my primary care doctor. Unfortunately, the doctor who saw me is the same doctor that accused me of being on drugs when I sought help for my sky-high blood pressure issue, and she completely dismissed my concerns. I gave her a rundown of what had happened with the staph, and the medications I’d been on since then. I asked her for a prescription for Retin-A (which I’d been recently researching) and a referral for a dermatologist. She said, no, we’re going to do this instead, and gave me prescriptions for doxycycline and a benzoyl peroxide topical with orders to follow up in a month.
It’s been a month, and the only difference is that I’m not getting cystic pimples anymore. I’m still getting acne, and my face isn’t healing. The doctor I saw for my follow up was thankfully not the previous one, and he looked at my face, listened to my history, and made a recommendation for Retin-A and to see a dermatologist. Which is exactly what I wanted to begin with.
So this is what I look like now. And the way referrals work through my insurance, it’s probably going to be at least another month until I actually get in to see the derm. Better late than never, but it’s taking a huge toll out on me.
I hate looking in the mirror and seeing this. What little shred of confidence I had in my naked face is gone. Years of being bullied for my appearance turned me into a shell-shocked young woman terrified to leave her house without makeup on and someone who had actual panic attacks when faced with the mere idea of people seeing me without makeup on. A year spent in makeup school and even more time dedicated to taking care of my face (even if some of that “care” wasn’t actually helping) helped to subdue that anxiety, and even build up some confidence in myself. A dumb infection undid all of that. Working in the beauty industry only makes it worse.
Here’s hoping that the Retin-A works and that a dermatologist can guide me back on the path of good skin.