Warning: this blog contains unflattering pictures of the writer. Honestly, there were times when my skin was much worse – this just shows it at stages where I even allowed it to be photographed.
I got my first pimple at summer camp when I was 9 years old. I have not had a clear complexion since.
People who have known me through my skin trials and tribulations will comment, “your skin looks really good today!” This is either due to the fact that it’s a rare occasion where I’m wearing makeup, or it’s “good” as in “better than usual.”
But back to the pimple in elementary school. When I say I haven’t had a clear complexion since, what I mean is that while I was not daily plagued with severe and visible skin issues, there has not been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t had at least one pimple, let alone some other random deformities. In middle school my pediatrician gave me a topical cream known as Benzaclin to apply to my skin every night before I went to bed, and I also partook in the standard Stridex alcohol pads–a suggestion from my mother with a note that said, “Maddie, remember to use me!” My skin was worse than the average middle schooler, but still no cause for alarm.
High school is when things took a turn… It didn’t help the fact that I was a swimmer, so although I made sure I had plenty of foundation, concealer, and powder on at school, when I was in the pool there was no hope. The chlorine also acted as an irritant to my skin, making me extra dry and my pimples extra red. And still, I stuck with the standard Stridex pads and Benzaclin.
After a swim meet in November of my sophomore year, when I looked through pictures I had taken, I was humiliated with how bad my skin was. I had “moderate” acne, which consisted of many very tiny pimples, all across my shoulders and face. I asked my mom about it, and she bought me a Clearasil face wash.
A few months later, after staring in the mirror and counting 70 pimples on my face, I came to my mom crying and asked if we could go to the dermatologist. She agreed, but warned me that it likely wasn’t going to be a “quick fix.” It was then that I began a two-year program of alternating any and every acne medicine that there was: clindamycin, minocycline, Tazorac, Differin, Adoxa, Duac, tazarotene, and I’m sure countless others that I can’t recall. The drill was always the same: get prescribed something, come in two months later, have the dermatologist say, “Yeah, that’s not working—try this instead.”
She kept mentioning Accutane, which my mom nixed each time it was brought up. There were too many bad stories associated with it, and too much risk. Towards the end of my senior year, I even went on birth control as a pre-requisite to going on Accutane, only for my mom to say, “No, I’m still too nervous about Accutane—and just because you’re on birth control doesn’t mean you can go around having sex.” The birth control (Yaz), while keeping my period regular, did nothing for my skin.
In April of my senior year of high school, I developed a cyst on my face that grew so big it had to be removed via plastic surgery, because every dermatologist refused to touch it for fear of causing major scarring.
Watch out – it’ll eat you alive.
Finally, a few months into my Freshman year of college, without my mom accompanying me to every dermatologist appointment (since now I was seeing a dermatologist in South Carolina), I started Accutane. What resulted was slightly clearer, though extremely pale, skin, and very cracked/chapped lips. It was much of the same when I went into the dermatologist, “Hm, that doesn’t seem to be working… but it should be… You’re on the highest dosage there is, so maybe just take it longer than the usual six months?”
So Pale. So Chapped. So sad.
Towards the end of my Accutane run, I developed blepharitis, chronic inflammation of the eyelids, which appeared to look both like a case of pink eye and as if I had a sunburn around my eyes.
After I finished my bout with the ‘tane (it’s street name), my skin was better than it was in high school, but still not clear. I alternated through a series of various topical ointments and face washes for years to come. For a while, my skin was “at peace” and I use quotes because, as I mentioned earlier, my skin was never quite clear. Were there days that I went without makeup? Absolutely, though not because I looked good without it, but rather I was just immensely lazy and wearing makeup irritates my skin.
Fast forward a few years later to July 2013, and all of a sudden my skin was angry—very angry. It was like the previous 14 years had all been mini battles in it’s preparation for an all out war against my appearance– as if the years of less-than-usual acne was just a Trojan Horse and my skin carefully plotted it’s revenge debut. A bizarre red rash appeared on my face, and as the days went by, it grew in both size and power. The corners of my mouth also developed what I refer to as “joker syndrome” in which they cracked every time I opened it and became very red and irritated in the corners, causing me to look like “The Joker.” My usual moisturizer only made it angrier, and after a tube of hydrocortisone cream, I booked an appointment with a dermatologist. He told me I had sebhorreic dermatitis and angular cheilitis—both chronic conditions. I spent $200 on Sumaden face wash and Desonate gel, only to have them piss of my skin more.
He prescribed my doxcycline, which for a while made everything better. Until it made everything worse by giving my an esophageal ulcer where I was unable to eat or drink anything without tremendous pain for a week and a half. They told me that that’s been known to happen, but that insurance companies won’t pay for the “safer” drugs unless you’ve had an adverse reaction to doxy.
So, here I am, almost a year later, where my skin regimen consists of taking Dorxy (a controlled-release doxycycline), Zinc and Vitamin B12 daily, while applying Rosadan cream to my chin, Locoid to the area around my eyes, Oxistat to the corners of my mouth, and coconut oil to the rest of my face. And my skin is still “okay” at best.
And because this blog was riddled with pictures from my awkward years and bad skin years (and since my bad skin years were for the majority of my life overlapped, thus resulting in horrible pictures) here’s a good picture I took recently to perk up my self esteem.
Isn’t he cute?