Coming Out of The Closet: Adult Acne

Earlier today I tweeted a link to an article that Scott Kelby posted about the use of Photoshop in advertising and whether the government should regulate its use. Hmmm. Personally, I think that regulation is a bit extreme, but at the same time – at my work – many of our web sites for kids include whole sections on media literacy that talk about how advertising tricks you into sucky body image. That part really makes sense to me. So much of what we see in the world around us makes us feel like crap about ourselves.

What happens when we *do* look like crap?
I have alluded to some issues with acne over the past few months, but I don’t think you all know how bad it really is.
Because I have been totally hiding it.
Due to my diabetes, and my PCOS, and my no-good dirty-rotten luck, adult acne has taken over my face like a rippling of barnacles on the bottom of a pirate ship. [Ahoy! Tomorrow is Talk Like A Pirate Day!).
I took a photo of my face last week, when my acne was at the height of it’s eviltood. I am not going to place this photo right in here in the middle of this post, on the off chance people are skimming through their Readers while eating lunch – but if you want to see the depths I have sunk to, click here.
What the hell does one DO, you might ask? Well, that day? My dermatologist shot my face with a steroid EIGHT TIMES. A long slick needle slicing into round hard bubbles on my face, causing blood to stream down onto my clenched hands. This was after shooting my face SIX times the week before. Those fuckers are huge, and they hurt like hell, and they won’t go away once they start festering, no matter how many damn antibiotics I take.
Words can’t express the pain and humiliation as tears edge down your cheek and get in the way of the doctor trying to use your chin as a pin cushion.
The good news? Makeup has come a long way. This is an untouched photo from 5 hours after the previous photo, as I headed out to hang with the Mile High Mamas.
And my friends sure are kind. I told a few of the ladies that night I hoped to write about this issue, once I ever got the gumption together to do it. As they rushed to tell me they hadn’t noticed the bumps on my chin, did it matter if they did? Because *I* did. I tossed my hair forward to cloak my face, used my hands to shadow what I didn’t want anyone to see. The hands that continue to reinfect the same areas over and over again. I know there is a probably some grand analogy for life in there somewhere, but it really isn’t coming to me right now.
Why do we all place such importance on looks? Is it because we grow up reading Vogue and Glamour and Cosmo and looking at the perfect women with their perfect skin which in reality only come close to perfection on the pages of that glossy magazine? Is it the advertising that makes us feel bad, or is the advertising just a mirror?
Is it so wrong that I will fix a pimple here and there in my photos? Where does it cross the line? When do we, as a society, stand up and recognize that beauty is far broader than the select few and our perception of it?
I don’t have the answers to these questions.
All I know is, I am tired of hiding.

This article has 33 comments

  1. Lauren

    Lovely post. I hope it clears up soon.

  2. MPPs Mom

    You know I commisserate and sympathize.

  3. Mrs. Flinger

    I’m posting a picture of my zit tomorrow. I have my post written.

    It’s huge and painful. And I don’t want to leave home because of it.

    Your timing, is perfect. We’ll, us and our zits, grab a drink somewhere.

    Doll, I love ya.

  4. @NicoleLJ

    I met you that night. I didn’t notice any acne. I noticed that you have an awesome personality and are a phenomenal photographer. I also noticed that you are interesting and funny and self-confident. I watched you and thought “I want to be like that when I grow up!” I think you are beautiful.

    I think the thing is about looks is that it’s more important to US than it is to other people. I worry about how I look, but when I meet people I don’t really notice. I notice if they have fun personalities and positive/good energy but I rarely look at someone else and think, for example “ugh! her posture is AWFUL” which is something I think about myself all the time.

    So for me I think the problem is that *I* look at advertising, etc. and reflect that on myself. I don’t look at advertising and reflect that back on other women. I realize that real women don’t look like that. I just need to extend that forgiveness to myself!

    But then again, every once in awhile I’ll be near a group of women and hear them go off about ugly toes or something and I think “WTF!? Toes can be ugly!?” and continue to wear sandals. So I am clearly and admittedly missing some girl gene. Maybe every other woman evaluates other women and finds others lacking and I simply didn’t get the memo. This wouldn’t be the first time I missed a girl memo.

    I have PCOS too. I’m in a (feels-like) lifetime cycle of pregnancy and breastfeeding right now that has kept the acne at bay. For now. Otherwise I know of which you speak. Adult acnes sucks!

  5. Jody Reale

    Because it’s embarrassing AND so, so painful, I say acne is cruel and unusual punishment. And even though makeup really has come a long way, not having to think so much about covering up is one of life’s great pleasures, advertising or no.

  6. Anonymous

    good for you. I am sure that was hard. – m

  7. Sheryl

    The pain, hassle and inconvenience must be horrible to deal with, but when I clicked on that photo I didn’t cringe or anything. Yes, it’s adult acne, but it’s…how do I explain it? Separate from you? I view it the same way I would view a port wine birthmark– yes it’s there, but there’s beauty outside of it. I think you’re very brave for posting it because of course it’s always so much more difficult revealing yourself than it is to be on the outside looking in.

  8. Angela

    That photo of you is really harsh. Ugh. I would never be able to cover that with makeup.

  9. joy

    YOu are so brave to post this picture. I got adult acne in my 20s I am almost 40.
    And it seems to be a never ending battle for me too.
    You do not seem to have any scars. And that is good

  10. Kelly

    Thank you.

    I have been there…will be there again…

    It doesn’t matter how many people tell me that they didn’t notice, or that they see past the pimples. My face frickin’ hurts. It’s a double whammy of physical and emotional pain. You’re aware of it even when you don’t look in the mirror, because it feels like your skin is crawling and growing all the time.


  11. Anonymous

    I feel your pain! I had pretty much perfect skin my whole entire life until earlier this year when I had a massive allergic reaction to an over-the-counter pain reliever (that, by the way, I’d used a million times before without any problems.) In response, the doctors put me on steroids for over a month… and now I have steroid-triggered acne and a fungal skin infection all over my face (YAY!)

  12. VDog

    Oh Aimee, I am SO sorry you have to deal with this. Bravo to you for coming out and saying it.

    I might just write up my post-surgery experience with Depends Adult Diapers, because HELL if acne isn’t embarrassing enough to write about, adult diapers might just be. Snort.

    Big hugs to you, lady. (And I also was “diagnosed” with PCOS at 18 but I’m not really sure that I am — or at least not particularly symptomatic.)

  13. zipper

    That looks painful.

  14. Chibi Jeebs

    I was one of those jerks who got one, maybe two, pimples at that time of the month until I hit 27. All of sudden, I had whiteheads all over and deep, painful cystic acne all over my chin (where I don’t think I had *ever* had a zit before). Because it came from out of left field, I couldn’t fix, and my skin was literally the ONE (physical) thing I received compliments on, this hit me HARD.

    I had days where I would crumple in front of the bathroom mirror because make-up wouldn’t do the trick. I was ashamed to leave the house. Much as you said, it didn’t matter if people didn’t notice: *I* knew it was there.

    Four years later, my skin is mostly under control, but it’s a daily battle, and I don’t think the texture of my skin will ever be the same.

    It sucks. Thank you for being brave and not hiding anymore. *hugs*

  15. amy turn sharp of doobleh-vay

    I love you babe. This sucks so bad- I know. You are so beautiful though I would never notice either. You shine and sparkle. You glow. But- I know this is not easy or fun. Just know that this will pass right? Things will clear- and no more needles. I had some cystic zits shot up in my derm office and that is hell. I am so sorry my love. So sorry. But have I told you lately how much I admire you? Yr beautiful. Inside and out.

  16. EatPlayLove

    My skin is definitely in the worse condition it’s ever been as of the last few years. My worst zones are in the area of my temples, so what’s my resort, bangs and make up. Big hugs I feel you, so deeply!

  17. Laurie

    I don’t have the answers either and I’ve struggled with these questions for various reasons for my entire life.

    What I do know is that I’m trying to work on owning some version of beauty in myself that I so easily see in my friends, like you. I hurt with your description of yourself in the doctor’s office and I’m sorry you have to go there and go through that. xo.

  18. Laurie

    I don’t have the answers either and I’ve struggled with these questions for various reasons for my entire life.

    What I do know is that I’m trying to work on owning some version of beauty in myself that I so easily see in my friends, like you. I hurt with your description of yourself in the doctor’s office and I’m sorry you have to go there and go through that. xo.

  19. Patois

    I’m sorry you’re afflicted with all this. I don’t have that particular problem, but I do get just totally adorable cold sores — or second heads, as my husband calls them — on occasion. No amount of denial from others can make me believe they’re not watching its every movement.

    Until I see someone else with a cold sore or terrible acne or what-have-you. And I don’t stare.

    Sadly, I can’t make myself remember that in the throes of double headedness.

  20. kristin

    peace to you beautiful.
    do not hide
    i am sorry for you pain inside and real physical pain. they look so painful.
    so i send you hugs and healing.

  21. Lynn@human, being

    God didn’t invent Photoshop if He didn’t want us to use it.

    (But like all good things, use it gently to tweak, not to makeover)

  22. monstergirlee

    This is an awesome post Aimee – I totally admire you for your honesty and bravery. I’m sure it was difficult to hit publish.
    I do not have acne this bad but do stuggle at certain times of the month with whitehad outbreaks. I did as a teen-ager have really bad cold sores on my lips, pretty horrible they were.
    Anyway, I just wanted to post my support for you and how Awesome I think you truly are, as a blogger, photog, entrepreneur, wife, mother, and Woman.
    Aimee Rules! Acne drools!

    ps. a little photoshop between friends? OK!

  23. Julie @ The Mom Slant

    So unfair. We slog through our teen years, shadowing our faces with our hands and experimenting with Cover Girl, believing it will get better. Then we have to deal with it all over again – some of us more than others.

    I hope it eases up soon. I want you to feel like yourself again.

  24. Bryan

    I still love you. Thanks for all the support you great supporter people. You bring a warm smile to my honey all the time.

  25. Tree

    Aimee, that looks amazingly painful, then to read about the needle in your face makes me cringe. ((HUGS)) I hope this last round is what you needed to control it and for it go away and for you to feel like yourself again.

  26. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    You all are so amazingly supportive. I got teary reading the comments and well-wishes. Thank you so much. xo

  27. Sizzle

    You’re always brave and truthful (which is why, among other reasons, I count you as a friend) and this post just proves that again. xoxo

  28. Aidan

    Great post – good for you for talking about it.

  29. Jobs Online @

    I think it hurts a lot. It’s painful. I’ve been there. I hope your fine now. Thanks for sharing it.

  30. Schmutzie

    Adult acne has attacked my face, too, with hard, deep, pressure cookers that take weeks and weeks to clear up. It’s also started sewing its seeds on my back and shoulders. It’s delightful.

    It is actually a relief to read this post and see your picture. We are not alone!

  31. Anonymous

    I got rosacea at 35 and can no longer eat most of my old favorite foods unless i want a burning painful rash all over my face that then turns into nasty pustules. Tomatoes, anyone? It is horrible to look in the mirror and hate what you see, to feel so conspicuiously awful. I even had a dental hygenist tell me, “you need ot get that stuff off your face”. Like I wasnt even trying. But I found a dermatologist I love, and now it is under control. I miss pizza and mashed potatoes and red wine but thems the breaks. More importantly, why not remove a zit from a photo? If it makes you happy to see that photo and remember that event, fix it, so you think about the people you were with that night, not agonize over how you thought you looked.

  32. Anonymous

    I came across your post when researching cystic acne online. I’ve had it since my early twenties and am now in my early thirties. After giving birth to my beautiful baby girl two months ago, it has gotten so much worse. My face, neck, and back are covered in acne and awful cysts. I find your post encouraging and brave! Thank you!! I have a dermatologist appointment next week and am hoping that something can be done. I don’t even want to leave the house and show off my gorgeous little girl or have photos taken with her 🙁 Argghhh!!

  33. Anonymous

    The pain of having cysts all over one’s face is just horrendous. Like you, I’m sick and tired of having to look at the mirror and see all the red bumps and deep scars and try all means to hide my face in dim lighting when meeting people. For once, I just want to go out without any make up on,be careless, and not feel how swollen and painful my face is! But try as i might, there are just those people who are darn insensitive and ask you “What happened to your face?” THen it’s back to square one.

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