One of the worst living nightmares (Yes, there are many) was having something called “microcystic acne” when I was a teenager. Wikipedia defines it as “a common human skin disease, characterized by areas of skin with seborrhea (scaly red skin), comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), papules (pinheads), pustules (pimples), Nodules (large papules) and possibly scarring.” But for the teenager I was, it was a curse. I had them all over my body.
I was new the girl in school. It was very hard to fit in and I had to bear comments that would torment me:
- “Mech chefinik ahlik?” (Aren’t your parents seeing you?)
- “Sorry, mafina ne7keh ma3ik, bte3dina” (Sorry, we can’t talk to you, you’re contagious.)
Peers would stay away from me as if I was the plague. Whether they had no idea how these words would hurt or did it on purpose, the harm was the same. My parents rode aboard my depression train. They were helpless and had no I idea what to do besides taking me every dermatologist they possibly knew and tell me all the grand-ma recipes.
The truth is that those visits were horrid. It started when a beautician noticed my trouble and proposed to give me a “nettoyage” (cleansing) session from which I used to go back home looking far worse than when I got in. It’s aggressive and useless. Then, I met this dermatologist in a local hospital, he gave me some sort of dermabrasion liquid that he made himself. It was his own “miracle solution” and he had different degrees of concentration. The only thing that it did was burn my skin painfully to make it peel. A very close relative had an extreme allergic reaction to it. At that period of time, I was so depressed that I would enjoy the burning sensation and even think that if it was burning, then it must be working. But I was wrong.
A few years passed. At around 18, I went to another dermatologist who made me this promise: “Ra7 rajje3lik wejjik metel afa el sermeyeh el jdideh” (I will make you face go like the outsole of a new shoe.) He even took pictures of my misery. What he prescribed was Roaccutane capsules containing the active ingredient isotretinoin also available in different levels of concentration for the whole year. But he warned me that should not be getting pregnant for the next 2 years because this would lead to an abnormal baby. I definitely was not going to get married… no one could be interested anyway! What I did not know was how serious the secondary effects were.
I had to get a blood test every month. My skin went so dry that my lips would bleed. I became photosensitive to the point that I could not stand to open my eyes to the light and when I thought things could not get worse my hair fell and I went suicidal and uncontrollable.
Nothing I would hear would mattered anymore. I could not take it anymore, this was going for years and I could not see the end of the tunnel. I was in my early twenties and the rage would only grow bigger pushing to do all sorts of stupid things I regretted later. Some even thought that I had cancer!
I then went to another dermatologist who gave me all sorts of creams and started to think of ways to bring my used-to-be-very-thick hair. Nothing worked.
In parallel to all this sad story, I was also observing myself closely; this is my advice if you are going through the same hell:
- Sports: Tremendously helpful. It really helped relief all the frustration and stress making my skin look a bit more at rest.
- Sleep: 8 hours minimum every night… they helped get some calm and that cell regeneration going.
- Protection: Use the highest indicator. Sun will always be the worst enemy for the skin, an appropriate moisturizer is essential to keep the skin hydrated at all times.
- Girls: Take it easy on make up only using hypoallergenic products and not overuse them.
- Cleaning: Always clean your face with an adapted foam and dry it with paper towel.
- Food: Many suggested “more of this and less of that” but it had no effect whatsoever.
- Hobbies, activities, volunteering: Getting busy will help with socializing and meet people who love and care about the same things you do. Not all people are filled with free hate and the world doesn’t stop at school nor university.
- Fun: Allow yourself to have it. Got out. Smile a lot. It’s a magnet!
And maybe most importantly, AVOID touching your face and staring in the mirror, it just won’t help; actually it will make things worse for you to handle. I would also advise against any aggressive procedure anyone would suggest to try: You do not need to be left with nasty scars.
Parents will have to arm themselves will a lot of patience, learn how to listen without judging, feeling guilty and sorry of themselves. A good communication stream will be helpful. Teens in this situation tend to be aggressive, defensive and over-reactive. They will need some leave-me-alone space. As a teenager in this situation, you need to understand that you are not alone. Your moods have a direct effect on every person around you. You want to live in a sad home? Be sad. You want to live in a happy home. Be happy. It works.
Although my experience does suggest it, I will not advise against seeing dermatologists because cases can be different.
Today, in my late twenties, acne did not disappear 100% but it doesn’t bother me as it did anymore. When I wear make-up, people don’t notice anything and ask me “Chou serr jamelik?” (What’s the secret of your beauty?) That was a 180 degrees flip for me.
During this journey, I gave my all to various activities and learned so many new things. I made peace with myself. Acne becomes less serious with time and a healthy lifestyle.
On another level, seek to keep your confidence high. When you’re confident, people get attracted to you; they become interested in you have to say. (That’s when those hobbies and everything you learned becomes useful). You will notice the real friends among the crowd of people. They are the ones who support you just the right amount.
The only positive side of acne I found after 14 years (it took a while, huh?), is that the skin who went through this doesn’t age as fast as others skin types. (Very handy and appreciated when you grow older.)
Keep smiling, love yourself and cheer up. The world needs you!