By Nida Sheriff
I’ve struggled with acne my whole life, or I suppose since the age of 12–13. I’m 26 now. Not the “mild” acne that means you get one pimple now and then. I mean pretty bad acne with oily skin, huge pores, bad scarring, and blackheads and whiteheads that pop up at the most inconvenient (and embarrassing) of times. My skin is bad enough for people — strangers — to comment on, and for me to have rock bottom self esteem for all of my teen years up to this very moment. I’ll always be embarrassed by my skin.
So I poured my heart and soul into two podcasts to let others know that I’ve been through the same thing — and yeah, man, it fucking sucks. I understand. I get it. You hate yourself and want others to love you. People have said some pretty horrible things to you. People who you wanted to like you, just as you are.
Dealing with acne is really, really hard. One young man on an acne.org forum said that, in desperation, he took a ball of steel wool to his face. There have been times where I’ve thought about doing the same — or worse.
But, here’s the thing — I’m pretty sure people out there who have been blessed with “clear” skin haven’t bothered, or won’t bother listening.
Here’s why they should.
1. People with clear skin don’t know anything about acne.
Zilch. Zero. Nada. People with clear skin don’t know why acne occurs. There are dozens of different reasons, and you’re ignorant about all of them. Drinking warm water every morning is not going to get rid of my PCOS, so it isn’t going to get rid of my acne either.
2. People with clear skin are not qualified to give advice for acne.
If you don’t know the first thing about it and have never experienced it, how can you tell others what to do about their acne? It can be harmful and even dangerous to do this.
I see a lot of Youtubers who make tutorials for face masks/scrubs to “get flawless skin”. Some of these can be harmful, like baking soda or lemon juice.
3. People with clear skin, please stop bringing up our acne.
We know you care and you want us to be happier, but every time you bring up our acne, whether it is to make fun of us or to try and help us, it’s simply reminding us of our flaws. All we want is to be loved, as we are.
4. People with clear skin think they are doing something “right”, and people with acne are doing something “wrong” to get acne.
Acne is often genetic or due to an internal problem that has NOTHING to do with the number of times you wash your face, or the products you use. People with acne have acne due to reasons that are not their fault.
5. People with clear skin need to realise that people with acne have no control over their skin.
We wish we could control it. We really do. We’ve tried everything under the sun, but 99% of treatments don’t work. Don’t blame us for something we can’t control, and often what we don’t understand ourselves.
6. People with clear skin need to watch their language.
When you call someone “pizzaface”, describe someone by making a face and calling them disgusting for having acne or scars, or put someone down for having bad skin, it hurts the people around you who are struggling with acne. I’ve had friends judge someone’s character because of their skin. I’ve had friends call others unhygienic and dirty for having bad skin. I remember each and every one of those comments, in vivid detail. Because when you use language that judges or blames people for having acne, it feels like you think less of us and that you think these negative thoughts about us, too.
7. People with clear skin unknowingly feature as villains in the memories of people with acne.
As I mentioned in my previous point, we remember everything you’ve ever said about acne or people with bad skin. What you say hurts. Your words cut deeper than you think. We still hurt from comments made to us decades later. We cry about them. We understand that you were probably just a stupid teen, or said it because you really believed that acne sufferers were “dirty”, but it still cuts like a knife. Jokes you make and insults make real, long lasting impact on us.
8. Don’t tell us to “just do something” about our acne.
We want it to go away, and we’re desperate to do something about it. But we don’t understand it ourselves sometimes. This makes us feel like it’s our fault we have acne, because none of the stuff we’re trying is working! It isn’t our fault. What you can do to help is to care about us unconditionally. Our skin is only a small part of who we are. It does not define us.
Be kind to people around you. Learn about what they go through. It’s already hard being us. Don’t make it harder.