Personal Narrative Essay: Resolving Problems With Acne


People say that inner beauty is more important than exterior beauty, but it was difficult for me to believe that when I glanced in the mirror and saw my face covered in blemishes, scars, and acne. My acne had worsened by the time I started high school, and my self-esteem was at an all-time low.

Acne hurts, whether physically or mentally. It's a misery to be constantly on the lookout for fresh pimples, only to cover them up with jackets and cosmetics. Avoiding seeing friends and relatives to only avoid the criticism that eats away at your self-worth becomes even more difficult. We live in a society where beauty counts more than we would like, with reminders everywhere of how we could improve our appearance in order to feel accepted and partly normal. From publications to social media outlets and even models themselves. Unfortunately, there will never be a day when people feel comfortable walking outside without concealing their acne. I often think to myself when I go through my Instagram feed of girls wearing stunning backless dresses or shirts, "I wish I could wear that." Or an even more enraged idea enters my mind, such as, why do these girls have such immaculate backs?! I have to remind myself, even at the age of 17, that Instagram beauty isn't necessarily reality. When I'm shopping, I get the same sentiments. "Oh, those will conceal all my acne and scars," I thought as I search for t-shirts instead of spaghetti straps or crop tops. The fear of people noticing my "bacne" is always present in my head.

I want to one day be humbled by what has often felt like a battle for my own ego. The wounds and conflict have been with me for a few years, and I'm still working on real self-acceptance. I wish I could say (honestly) that I am happy with the way my face appears; some days, I am, and other days, I am not. Even when someone kindly tells me, “I don’t see what you’re seeing” or “Your face looks fine to me,” I can’t accept their words.

In March of 2021, I started taking Accutane (also known as isotretinoin). Despite the risks and harmful side effects, which include extreme dryness and possible birth problems, I opted to undergo this painful therapy as a last option. Because of the seriousness of the drug, I had to get a blood test every month, make an appointment with my dermatologist, fill out the federal Accutane pre-screening questions, and go to the pharmacy for another 30-day supply of pills. I saw minimal change in the first several months, but my skin progressively smoothed out and returned to its natural hue. For the first time, I began to recognize myself in the mirror. 

My skin has improved, but it appears that these flaws will be a part of my skin for the rest of my life—a reality that is still difficult to accept. It took me a long time to learn that the actual challenge wasn't finding the correct solution; it was accepting that breakouts occur and that everyone has skin issues. I'm very sure no one is looking at my back the way I think they are, and I have to remind myself of that. I discovered that the more I talked about it with my friends and family, the more I realized how many other people have the same problem, which made me feel less insecure. The more I realized it wasn't just me, the easier it became to accept it and quit blaming myself. I understand that the only way to find true happiness is to accept myself first. Acne, in an unexpected way, aided me in this endeavor. Struggles, on the other hand, might be blessings in disguise. Through it all, I'm learning to value first and foremost who I am on the inside. My struggle with acne scars has taught me that our physical characteristics, whether positive or negative, do not determine our self-worth. My experience with skin-based guilt taught me that self-worth must come from within, for there is where we find our lasting beauty and authentic selves. I hope that one day, our culture will learn to value a person's character—her inside traits—rather than their exterior features. Meanwhile, those of us who have perceived “imperfections” on our faces may learn an early life lesson in a more visceral way than most—after all, beauty is only skin-deep.

I don't have any awards or medals to show for my accomplishments, but no academic honor can compare to what I gained from changing my diet, having healthier skin, more self-confidence, newfound mental strength, and, most importantly, realizing that by improving my outer appearance, I had enriched my inner appearance. Instead, I've decided to deal with my reaction today. Acne is a part of my life; it has shaped who I am, flaws and all.

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