This week, members of our community have generously contributed to the FAE Blog by telling their acne stories. Each of these individuals has had a different experience and relationship with acne, this piece is our attempt to bring this sometimes ignored conversation to the forefront. Its time we normalised skin texture, normalised acne, and empower individuals around us to feel good in their own skin. We hope you can relate to at least one of these very candid stories. Comment below if you'd like to share yours with us!Until Next Time. Stay Curious. Stay Freequal.__ __ Rachel Rodrigues | @the.morphed.gene What could be a girl's biggest nightmare the night before a much anticipated outing with the love of her life? Yeah.. I suppose there are a couple of answers to that.. one of them being.. acne! Which happens to be mine too. Well, growing up I didn't have the clearest skin or the self discipline to refrain from picking at my constant companions that not so much affected the way I felt until I entered the hospitality industry. There were a lot of faces I'd see on a daily basis.. pretty ones.. and no sooner had I realised this was probably just a good application of makeup my naive self entered the grind! I concentrated on having the perfect face base and didn't really care about what it did to my skin. So layers of makeup led to acne..scars.. more makeup.. worser skin.. and the whole lot of trauma I'd to face once I got home painstakingly stripping it off.. and falling asleep in the middle of it all. Given my high stress work environment (cashiering) and making sure I didn't mess up coupled with weird shifts and lack of sleep.. that just aggravated my already difficult to deal with skin situation. I not so recently gave up the job to pursue something more interesting though and was back to the old me that wore minimal to zero makeup but still had to deal with acne.. that's when I got obsessed with skincare.. it was a crazy phase wherein I can almost say "you name it.. I've tried it!" Still no relief. I won't lie I did enjoy pampering my self and seeing really slight results the first couple of days.. but still not having the best skin I wanted disappointed me quite a bit.. there was a point my husband looked at me and went "why do you even use so many products? It makes no difference to your skin.." I'm sure he meant it as a joke but for me that was almost like a wake-up call! I was obsessing over my skin's clarity wayyyy too much. That stressed me out and probably led to more "bobs" popping up... I had to stop! Or take a break at least. Suddenly the mental clarity I now had made my skin's clarity less of an obsession. If you ask me what phase I might be in now.. maybe the one I needed.. I've stopped using almost everything except of course a good facewash and face oil/moisturizer. And that's about all I can manage to squeeze into my routine being a mom to 7 month old twin girls. I still do breakout here and there sometimes but I'm over it.. I'm happy being myself and being a mum... acne or not! ____ @BadassbrownBeauty I was 11 when I first started breaking out. Right on cue with my first period. For the next four years, the already difficult experience of puberty was made exponentially harder for me as my acne worsened steadily, inviting every ignorant, unsolicited, rude comment under the sun. “Stop eating sugar and fried food.” (I hardly do anyway.) “Quit dairy, your skin will clear up in days!” (Tried it for a month. Didn’t make a damn bit of difference.) “You just aren’t washing your face enough.” (I can assure you that I was likely more dedicated to my personal hygiene than most teens are.) “Your face looks like a game of join-the-dots!” (I was actually told this by someone in school. Kids can be vicious!) Sadly, at that young age, I internalised all the criticism and believed that my acne had to be my fault somehow, even though I couldn’t figure out how. When I was 15, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), a super common disorder which often causes stubborn acne. My mother was dismayed at this diagnosis, but I was ecstatic! This meant that my acne wasn’t my fault after all!* I am now 26, and my acne hasn’t left me for good. In fact, I’m in the midst of a pretty bad breakout right now. It isn’t quite as stubborn as it used to be in my teenage years because I’ve figured out how to handle it a bit better, but it still makes an appearance when I’m more stressed than usual, or just haven’t been taking care of myself. My biggest insecurity as a kid was that I’d never be able to feel good about my appearance. It’s taken years of learning self-love and being surrounded by supportive people, but I’ve finally learnt how to manage this insecurity. Do I still feel sad and insecure about my skin on some days? Heck yes. But I no longer feel like stepping out without concealer on my face is not an option, and I think that’s a huge win. Over the years, I’ve learnt that acne is just one part of me. It isn’t a defining characteristic. And it certainly doesn’t diminish all the other amazing stuff about me. If someone had told all of this to my teenage self, they’d probably have been met with a scoff and a “That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t work that way in real life.” Which, well, is a fair point. It hasn’t been easy getting here, and it’s still a battle I have to fight sometimes. The fact that my acne was not just a passing teenage affliction has been hard to deal with. But life goes on, and over time, things don’t seem so bad anymore when you learn to take care of yourself. (*And hey, if you’re reading this and you have acne: whether the reason for your acne is PCOS or something else, its not your fault, I promise you.)____ Bharati | @imbinch Growing up, I considered myself to be above appearances. I wasn’t fashion-conscious, and although I was quite a hairy girl, I never really felt like it was something I had to fix- it was just there, neither good nor bad. Just a thing. Then the acne started coming in. I went from knowing that I had skin, to knowing that I had combination, acne-prone skin. Brushing my teeth went from taking two minutes to five because I’d stand in front of the mirror and obsess over every angry red bump on my skin. The funny part is my acne wasn’t even that severe, just a few pimples here and there. But it was enough to make me constantly think about it. My acne continued to flare up over the years- when I was 17, it went from angry red bumps to giant, pus-filled monstrosities that would leave pitted scars and dark marks across my face. It didn’t really help that social media inundated me with pictures of flawless, dewy skin from every corner. I had become a pseudo-expert on dermatology, researching DIY home remedies, drugstore products, even juice cleanses that would help me achieve clear skin which I only now realise is impossible without Photoshop. Looking at the mirror every morning became a chore- I’d start to brush my hair, only to stop and stare at how “ugly” my face was. When the age of imported skincare rolled in, I burnt a hole in my pocket from buying various serums and ampoules, desperate to achieve that “glass skin” look. Constant exposure to images of flawless, airbrushed skin also made me see more imperfections- earlier, I was just insecure of my active acne, but now every pore, every scar, was enough for me to spiral. I am a Psychology major. In class, we learnt about how physical changes like acne and body hair are common during puberty. It’s something everybody goes through. I knew logically, my skin was going to act out. Emotionally, though, I just couldn’t accept it. I knew I was being conditioned into thinking my skin wasn’t beautiful, but nonetheless, I couldn’t shake it off. That gnawing feeling you get when someone points out your acne, or your hairy arms… it stays with you. And one fine day, after having impulsively ordered a serum that cost me a pretty penny, I decided I was done. Self-love is a difficult journey- it isn’t necessarily looking at your flaws and celebrating them, but rather about accepting them. I look at my acne scars now as a milestone of my journey with body image, trying to solve a problem that wasn’t really one, just a fact of life. I’d be lying if I said there aren’t nights I spend staring at my hyper pigmentation and scars. The only difference is, now I know that those aren’t all that define me. Would I be happy if I woke up with clear skin? Definitely! But I’m also quite content with what I have right now. ____ Megha | @meghamazing I have been dealing with Acne and all the emotional trauma that it entails, for about 4 years now. Although my acne has not reached a severe level, it can still damage someone emotionally and psychologically. I would stare at myself in the mirror for hours on end and question myself and God as to WHY ME? Why did I have to get Acne? If I had a ‘bad skin day’ I wouldn’t go out, or I would cake my face with makeup and STILL cover my face with my hands to hide the texture. I would pick at my face and strip myself from any confidence. People would stare and ask if something was wrong with my diet, or if I washed my face, or if I took care of myself, etc. I’ve visited 3 dermatologists, and I have finally found one that is patient, listens to their client and provides knowledge and insight into all the possible factors that can cause Acne, and how to resolve the issue. On 9th August 2019, I started my Acne Page. My goal was and still is to spread the word that, ‘ACNE IS NORMAL’, it’s what makes US, US. It unifies us, and I will forever be grateful for Acne. Needless to say, I don’t have clear skin yet, but I’m enjoying the journey and I know that patience and a hopeful mind-set will be the key to achieving the skin of my dreams. I have come to love myself regardless of my spots, regardless of whether or not I got a new pimple and I believe that I AM BEAUTIFUL.