My War with Self-Esteem, Dealing with Acne & Acne Prone Skin

I developed acne when I was 12. Nearly 20 years later, I am still dealing with acne. They've been part of me as my own limbs. There isn't a day I don't dream about alien-like skin from a Glossier ad but such is not my real life and I have learned to accept my imperfect skin, my breakouts....and deal with them like an adult - meaning not letting them cripple my often fragile self-esteem.

If you want to skip my tale of woe, just scroll all the way down to the tips & steps I use to deal with my acne. But do read my disclaimer and skin reference. Its important.

I got my period when I was 12 during a summer vacation in Republika Srpska at my grandmother's house. I knew it was coming, mom was good at preparing us girls and my only freak out stemmed from seeing the blood. Mom gave me some pads, we talked about it, assured me it was natural and that my body is going through changes. Never thought those changes would be an absolute EXPLOSION of acne on my face (minor on the back & chest.) And I'm not talking minor zits but full blown red, pus-filled, painful, BIG pimples that to this date....20 years later, still haunt me on hard days. A boy in my 7th grade grabbed my face one day and straight up told me "God, you're so fucking ugly." Acne scars, soul was rough. I have no photos available from that time. Wish I did so I can gain more perspective. Alas, life goes on and his voice and words have faded from my memory, only to be brought up in examples of moments that helped (or hindered) me as a human.

When I moved to United States at the age 14, the only thing we had on our TV at the time was Jerry Springer (which my dad quickly forbade us to watch after it aired an episode of close family members fucking each other), Star Trek Voyager and Proactiv commercials. Damn those commercials. They made acne clearing look so fabulous. I was so sure that my acne days were over so I convinced mom to get me a Proactiv kit. I used it for a while until my face swelled up so badly, I looked like a busted red balloon. On top of the painful swelling, my face exploded even more in acne. Needless to say, my 14 year old fresh-into-puberty self was launched into a bodily adulthood from an "ugly" canon that would defy my mental state and existence for years to come. High school was hard but an opposite experience from my middle school days. In middle school, I was just ugly. In high school, I was invisible. Since I didn't speak English well, had eyebrows that would shame Groucho Marx, wore lesbian high-school coach style chinos, I was mostly ignored by other kids, so I quit obsessing over the acne. Well not as much as I used to. If no one is looking at your face or direction, why bother?

It wasn't all horrible, please don't feel sorry for me. I'm not detailing my sob story for sympathy or likes. I would hope my reader would come to understand me. Not everyone is meant to be a popular, "pretty" girl and that is OK. I found solace with few outcast girls, wore fairy t-shirts, had crushes on an unobtainable guys, did well with grades, planned for college, read lots of Stephen King, was perpetually sad...but f*ck it. Life went on. Fast forward to today: one major move, husband, 3 cats later....I'm 32, full time working, make up loving, politically heated feminist progressive and I still have acne. I still have enlarged pores, texture, hyper-pigmentation, scars from skin picking etc. Its nowhere near as bad as it used to be. And on some lucky days, my skin is actually clear. This is mostly due to my very skincare strict regimen, mild skin care products, peels and lots and lots and lots and LOOOOOOOOOOOTS of hydration. Half of you would faint if you knew just how much effort I put into my skin. Your makeup will only look as good as the skin underneath. And I love makeup so much, I want to make sure the base underneath it would make it pop!

I wanna share some skin tips and products that help me CONTROL my unbalanced skin. For reference, I have a natural tone, both pink & gold undertones, oily t-zone, dry chin and cheeks, combo sensitive, acne prone skin.

Disclaimer: I am not claiming that these tips and products work 100% nor that they will work for you. This is what has worked for ME (see skin reference above) and no, there are times where none of my familiar steps help. Acne will do whatever the fuck acne wants to do, and you can do everything perfect, spend $300 on LaMer (don't do that, algae broth is not that difficult to extract no matter how much they advertise it as such.)...sometimes nothing works and you just have to accept it. Since I've dealt with this issue for so long, I've learned and trained myself how to manage it and not feel shitty about myself.

On a GOOD day, my skin looks like this: 

Once in a blue moon, I experience very supple, clear skin...but you can still see hyperpigmentation and scars
  • Tip #1 - acne washes, acne creams, acne scrubs - QUIT using these. These are harsh irritants that will only aggravate your skin, make it angrier and you'll break out more. If it has those little beads in it...throw it away now. Its bad for your skin AND environment.
  • Tip #2 - Work with your acne...not against it. Physically, acne will pop to the surface if your pores are clogged & dirty. Your skin is also producing too much oil. Stripping it from natural oil will cause your pores to...create more oil, therefore more acne. The skin is under stress since you're stripping it.
  • Tip #3 - Use mild washes. If its foaming too much, its probably too harsh. Stick with gel cleansers. Avoid ANYTHING with alcohol and fragrance. Use only alcohol free toners. Thayer's Witch Hazel is basic as fuck, but its a classic. Its an extra cleansing step that won't irritate your acne. And its cheap on Amazon. I'm also a huge fan of Drunk Elephant's face soap bars. They are mild, non-irritating but leave skin very clean feeling.
Related image
Image result for drunk elephant juju bar
  • Tip #4 - if it smells nice...its probably shit. Skin care should smell like NOTHING or kinda herb-ish. Things that smell nice are usually enhanced with unnatural fragrance and it can wreck your sensitive skin
  • Tip #5 - hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more. Even if your skin is oily. Your skin can be oily and dehydrated at the same time. Water is essential in every aspect. Look for ingredients that are emollient - meaning - they retain water to your face when exposed to natural elements and pollution. Look for hyaluronic acid, lanolin, glycerin, ceramides, sorbitol, sodium hyaluronate, urea, propylene glycol, alpha hydroxy acids, sugars, etc. Just because it has a "chemically" name, it doesnt mean its bad. Quit being anti-science sheep. Water is a chemical compound. Literally everything in nature is a chemical. There are good chemicals and there are bad chemicals. Obviously, look for good ones. I'm a huge fan of BELIF and Laneige brands. Both Korean, non irritating and very moisturizing.
  • Tip #6 - accept the fact that there is no one (1) cause of acne. Acne is caused by various factors (diet, clogged pores, sugar, dirty sheets, skin picking, hormones, genetics, etc.) You can make many life changes and that still wont guarantee clear skin. I personally experience major breakouts during my period or if I have more sugar than usual. Other than that, I do try to make SOME changes in life. I have cut my meat intake by a LOT. I even got SILK pillow case and second set of towels so my I'm not sharing it with my husband. Sometimes none of it matters.
  • Tip #7- Incorporate facial oils into your routine for added moisture. But beware of some. Not all facial oils are created the same. A lot of oils WILL clog your pores and you will break out, such as coconut oil. Everyone is promoting it like its second coming of Christ, but in reality, coconut oil should never touch your face. Its highly comedogenic and you will break out. In terms of oils, I've only used ONE that I love and that never wrecks havoc on my skin and that is Drunk Elephant's Marula Oil. Its so fucking expensive so I try to use it sparingly.
  • Tip#8 - if you are using acne clearing solutions, stick to spot treatments. Grab a cotton swab, coat the tip with salicylic (or sulfuric) acid solution and dab the pimple ONLY. If you spread that shit all over your skin, it will burn, get irritated and you will break out more. Back to tip #2 - work WITH your acne. I'm a fan of Murad's spot treatment product. Use a cotton swab to apply, never fingers.
  • Tip #9 - always wash your face thoroughly before bed. If you see me going to bed with makeup on, I'm either threatened with my life, been abducted by aliens, DEAD drunk or just plain dead. It takes a severe circumstance that will keep me away from my sink before bed time. I don't care how tired I am, I am triple cleansing my face: oil cleanser, face wash, toner. Face wash will simply not do since I use a gentle one. Clean skin is essential for all your other expensive shit to work. I'm not applying $80 marula oil on filthy skin.
  • Tip #10 - clean your brushes and sponges well and often. If you are not doing that, you're just pressing bacteria against your face. Its that simple...and gross.
  • Tip #11 - play with masks. They can be VERY abrasive but for me, they REALLY get into congested pores when face washing simply won't do. I feel like they clear up any smaller pimples that start forming. Im a huge fan of Aztec Indian healing clay powder that I mix with organic apple cider. This shit is STRONG and your veins and skin will pulsate. Its the strangest feeling. But for me, it works.

That's all I got - fairly basic, common sense tips. Acne doesnt have to be or feel like the end of the world. Do the best you can to treat your face with good ingredients, invest in good skin care & make up foundation, clean your sponge often, drink water, eat well and never ever let those red, gross pimply diminish you. Its just red spots.

Yes, I wish life was this simple and I wish I can offer and do more here but i'm just a human too. Acne ridden human doing the best she can.

Everyone's experience is different. We all have different skin type, genetics and what may work for me is not going to necessarily work for you. That's why I didn't post my ENTIRE routine here. You have to invest time...and some money. Experiment and try until you find something that works. There is no magical cure. I may never experience life with clear, perfect, smooth, pore-less skin, but I'm not gonna let that ruin my existence. I'm perfectly aware that everything I see online and in magazines in filtered, facetuned, photoshopped (no shade, I fucking LOVE filters)...but I also know that's not "real" and that acknowledgment lets me move on with my life...acne and all.

I'm just wearing SPF CC cream with some highlighter. It helps when outdoors & when I don't wanna cake on ton of makeup.

"13 Reasons Why" - glamorizing suicide or bringing awareness?

I binged it in two days. One night, I just didn't even bother to sleep. Whenever you have sensitive topics such as suicide and rape, told by teenagers, its bound to be coated in layers of controversy. I see schools putting up trigger signs and warning parents. I see people criticizing the subject matter and the way it was portrayed. I haven't read Jay Asher's book. I've seen it on Goodreads and Amazon with excellent reviews, but my interest in Young Adult genre at the time was specific to medieval fantasy, science fiction & dystopia. I guess I just wasn't attracted to real-life, sensitive topics. With all that said, I'm no longer interested in just...escaping.

The buzz over 13 Reasons Why is REAL. I can't remember last time I saw something that was on exact same spectrum of love & hate. And I'm right there with it: I love it...and I hate it at the same time.

If you haven't seen the show, beware: this post will be spoiler heavy

Before I express my thoughts on a show about suicide, here are some real facts about suicide:
*38,000 people die of suicide every year in US. 
*Depression is the leading cause.
*80 to 90% of people who sought treatment are treated successfully. (This number is HUGE and telling of how important mental health and available resources are.)
*More males commit suicide while more females experience suicidal thoughts and episodes.
*Its a THIRD leading cause of death for young people between 15 and 24. (This is terrifying to me.)

There are more facts and numbers out there for you to research. I wanna dig into the show itself. More often than not, when someone commits suicide, the big question is WHY. Why would someone do that? What drove them to that? Why? Why? What were the signs? Why? 13 Reasons Why gives you just that. And I think its what shocked the people the most. You can always speculate, judge, make guesses, assume...never really know what exactly happened. Hannah Baker tells you: here are 13 reasons that drove me to that bathtub. Do not for ONE second think that the subject matter is watered down and diluted for "sensitive" eyes and minds. Hannah slitting her wrists was by far one of the most disturbing, heart wrenching things I ever watched. I caught myself looking away because its so graphic and devastating. That doesn't even include the emotional and physical abuse, rape, slutshaming, bullying, drug & alcohol abuse, poverty, homelessness, male privilege, internalized misogyny, sports worship over human beings, parental ignorance ("my special, perfect snowflake could never do such thing" - kind of bullshit), cyber bullying, etc. 13 Reasons Why covers all those bases. 

On the surface (and maybe the main reason I "hate" the show) its just that its too simple. Boys are mean to the pretty white girl and she can't have any friends since she's so pretty, other girls ignore her. So she kills herself. Please bare with me for a moment. 

Personally, I know what depression feels like. I know how badly it can alter your world view and how it can make you feel hopeless, lonely, isolated and worthless. I've been there and for a long time too. High school was a living nightmare for me. But a quiet sort of nightmare. Right at the brink of technological evolution, my high school generation was probably the last one that was cell phone free. My misery ended the moment I left that godforsaken property. Teenagers today don't stand a chance. Bullying does not end with exiting the school property. The world is brutal and it will do whatever it can to rip you to pieces. As much as I love technology, I see the deadly side of it as well, so yes younglings of today: I empathize and sympathize with you more than you can image. And no, I will not dwell into the specifics of my youth and every factor that plagued it. Just know that I was too invisible to be harassed...and please take that with a grain of salt.

I do think 13 Reasons Why is not complex enough. 

The issue of rape, suicide, depression and bullying is not to be taken and treated lightly. But maybe its not meant to be in this case. Maybe it is supposed to represent teenage fragility and cruelty down to its most basic definitions. After all, its from a POV of a teenager. I'm not saying teenagers are not complex creatures (quite opposite) but in terms of storytelling, it would be unrealistic to expect teenage mind frame on an adult level. That was one of the main issues I have with writers like John Green. His teenagers are 40 year old wise men. I don't believe in them or that they exist. I do, however, believe in girls like Hannah, Jessica, Courtney and boys like Clay, Alex and Bryce. While the show lacks complexity, it makes up for it with very cruel and real reality:  Bullying was and IS attributed to suicide.

For Hannah, it wasn't just slam to the locker room, dunk your head in the toilet - your corny cartoon type of bullying. She was sexually harassed, slutshamed, abused emotionally and brutally raped.

Is the show triggering? Potentially yes. I do feel like it made light of Hannah's tapes. I think that a suicidal person might follow this step and take the tapes to heart. Because the focus wasn't so much Hannah's mental health, but rather "This is all your faults" (which, don't get me wrong, it most certainly was) too many teens contemplate suicide out of "I'll kill myself, that'll show em!" reasons and that is problematic as fuck. I got the vibe that if you leave tapes or notes behind, people you left behind would come together in a kumbaya everyone-hold-their-hands and realize how much they've grown from someones suicide. Its bullshit. Its no longer Hannah's story, but a story of Clay - average, shy, awkward boy finally learns how to express himself. When he approached Sky in the conclusion of the story, I got the "white savior" vibe from the whole scene. Am I supposed to forget Hannah and her dead body in a tub? Motherfucker no. I feel like the balance shifted away from her, from her mental health...from her ordeal into super cheesy drive off to sunset category and rest of the teens.

I 101% agree that parents & teens really need to approach this show with an open mind and extreme caution. Its powerful story telling but its also very triggering. Some of the suicide parts may be glamorized - such as the mix of Hannah's blood with water in the tub, the way it spilled. That image CAN be construed as romantic. But then its followed by the mind and body numbing pain and her parents finding her. That anguish took breath from my lungs while watching. I've never seen anything more devastating than that particular scene.

Yes, 13 Reasons Why is FULL of flaws. Number one being the oversimplification of a complex issue. Second, the triggering aspects behind the tapes and her motivations. Third, the romantic imagery of some of the darkest moments and fourth, slew of minor characters whose overall character development was either non existent or so minor, it contributed truly nothing to the overall story. Why have them there in the first place? Why waste time?

But it also has some truly valuable lessons to be learned. When I was done with it I told my husband how important words are. How you NEVER know what's going on with someone and just how little can it take to push them over the edge. I mean, this is not something new. Don't be a fucking asshole to people - its really that simple. Also, if it took a problematic show on television for you to realize that: you are the problem and its time to re-evaluate because WORDS MATTER. Whatever you might think of 13 Reasons Why, one thing is certain: We are finally having a conversation about suicide & mental health.

To conclude: 

To find a support group, visit this website

Not ready or unable to attend a support group in person? Consider these online support groups:

If you are a victim of sexual assault, please visit RAINN website for all the resources.

If you are a victim of bullying, please call the LIFELINE at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Suicide is never ever ever evvvvvvvver an answer. NEVER. Please seek help. Someone out there cares for you. 

Make-Up Shaming

I wanna get ONE thing out of the way immediately: my purpose on this Earth is not for you to find me attractive...or ugly. My appearance is not your business. It is not a rent I pay to occupy space on this planet. If you are not financing my stuff, you only get to do two things: compliment me (no guarantee I'll care for it or take it) or say NOTHING. The only time you get to comment on the amount of my lipstick, is when it stuck on my teeth. Now that we got that out of the way, I noticed a really ugly trend on social media: make-up shaming. What is make up shaming? Basically bunch of people who love sticking their nose in other people's business and telling them what to do in terms of their appearance and just how much or how little make-up someone is wearing. Yes, apparently this is a thing in 2017. The comment sections are littered with this crap. I believe its a response to an overwhelming amount of beauty videos on Instagram & YouTube. For every Jaclyn Hill, there is a girl out there bragging how she's so awful at putting on a lipstick. Cue the laughs, cue the "omg she is so real & honest yaas." Yes, these days we brag about being terrible at something. Congrats on owning your one and only mascara for 15 years. Enjoy the pink eye. 

Explain to me the effort you put in into a video that shames girls for wearing make up and/or being good at doing make up vs. you walking into a Target or Walgreens and buying a brand new Maybeline mascara for $4.00?  Oh right. It's to be a complete f*cking asshole. I'm being harsh, yes, but this nonsense needs to end already. A lot of it has to do with "special snowflake" syndrome. "Other girls wear make up, but not me!! Aren't I fun & quirky?!"
Here you go:
This make-up shaming trend is rooted in sexism. Somehow the world convinced women that you can either be beautiful or smart. You can hold a lipstick...or a pencil. If I cake my face in foundation and red lipstick, I'm not to be taken seriously or I do it to "impress boys." Get the f*ck out with that nonsense. I did not spend $40 on a Chanel lipstick so a f*ckboy will notice it. 

"You look so much better without all that make up." 
Or on the opposite spectrum for those who don't wear make up: 
"You look tired." 

FULL STOP. That crap is insulting, unnecessary and cruel. 

"This is why you take her swimming before a date" (This is your classic f*ckboy talk. Super easy to spot and then avoid.) I guarantee you that my Dior coated lashes are bigger than your dick. But its not the men and their s*itty, unsolicited, irrelevant opinions that get to me. Its when I see other girls do it. What do you get out of it? What are you trying to accomplish with "you're so much prettier without all that crap on your face."

Lemme break it down:
  • Your validation isn't necessary. I wear make up because I LIKE IT.
  • That "crap" is $62 bottle of YSL. 
  • I enjoy the time I spend doing it. Do not belittle it.
  • Maybe I AM dealing with low-self esteem and make-up is one way to raise it. Do not belittle that either. But again, you don't know. Because I didn't tell you.
  • Who asked you?
and number 6, the most important one:

STAY IN YOUR LANE. See how I made that big n bold? You do not get to dictate someone else's life and their choices. You either be supportive or you shut the f*ck up. 

Someone's fatness, thinness, clothing choices, hair style and in this case, make up...full stop.

"You try too hard."

What does that even mean? No. Serious question. 
This just goes back to the (humble) bragging about being shitty at doing stuff. (See my first paragraph.) Oh you are sooooo special for not washing a make up brush for a whole decade. Have fun with bacteria and zits. Here is a cookie for your uniqueness and for "not being like the other girls."

Whether you wear a lot of make up or none at all, chances of you getting shamed & mocked by the Internet and people you know are pretty high. Its a godamn pissing contest and women simply cannot win. 

I'm a full blown, unapologetic, loud mouth, intersectional feminist. I love girly shit. I love make up and fashion. I live in heels. I'm obsessed with skin care. I wear ton of make up. I'm neither vain, stupid or shallow....or less feminist because of it. Make up ratio for being a good feminist does not exist. These things are not in a vacuum. You can do one, or both or bunch of other things at the same time. Its called MULTITASKING.
I enjoy the entire process of make up, shopping, the ritual of it. I got my morning cats next to me purring and sleeping, music on the phone, sometimes my favorite sitcom on iPad...
and do not get to belittle that with your unsolicited opinion.

Make-up can be whatever you want it to be. Humans have been using it since Ancient Egyptians. If you don't wanna wear it, don't wear it. If you wanna wear 150 lbs of it, you do you. If you're happy with just a $2 lipgloss...or $32.00 Hourglass crayon, more power to ya. There are no rules. 

Mocking and shaming? GTFO. Who the hell do you think you are?

Now excuse me while I re-apply my highlight.