MY SKIN STORY
I have oily, acne-prone skin, thanks to my mother's genetics. At 50 years old, she still deals with regular breakouts, and I've known since I was pretty young that that would be my fate too. I started getting prescription-strength medication for my acne when I was 12.
At the time, that was the extent of my skincare routine. I wasn't really washing my face (I didn't wear makeup then), and I was still under the misconception that because my skin was oily, I needed to dry it out. I never moisturized. Along with my breakouts came lots of scars and spots. The list of insecurities I was troubled with was long, and at the very top of it was my face.
I started learning more about taking care of my skin over time, but it wasn't exactly enough. I'd get caught in these self-perpetuating cycles where I would break out from stress and sleep deprivation. These breakouts would stress me out even more, making my breakouts worse, lather, rinse, repeat. Then out of seemingly nowhere this year, I developed a skin-picking habit.
The physical impact was bad enough, but the mental impact was even worse. I'm still unlearning the idea that my skin is "bad." Even with the pimples, the scars, the big pores, and the oiliness, my skin is good skin as long as it's healthy.
Hydrocolloid patches might be one of the greatest innovations in the skincare industry. Most people know them for their ability to suck the gunk out of surface-level pimples, but they've been a massive help when it comes to my skin-picking too. Hydrocolloid is often used to dress wounds, so it's reasonable to use it on spots you've picked at. It accelerates healing and lessens the chance of scarring while acting as a protective barrier. You can't pick at pimples if they're covered by a patch.
Breaking habits isn't easy, but you can divert your impulses towards other channels over time. Find something else to do with your hands. Fidget toys are a great option. Scribble aimlessly on a piece of paper or cut it up. Play some idle games on your phone.
Some of the best advice I've gotten was from my friend Ellie. I tend to hyper-fixate on the flaws in my skin, and I'm sure many people are the same way. She told me to do my skincare routine or makeup a considerable distance from the mirror or in low lighting. It's much harder to hyper-fixate on something you can't see.
My best friend, Carissa, struggles with skin anxiety and a skin-picking habit as well. She keeps her nails short to make it harder for herself to mess with her face. I've also found that press-on nails can work the same way-- They're usually too thick to get a good grasp.
TRAINING YOUR BRAIN
Despite what Carissa sees in herself, I realized something. Even when she tells me she's having a bad skin day or that she's just picked, I don't notice at all. People don't pay as much attention to you as you think they do.
Look at some photos and videos of real skin. Scroll through the #RealSkin hashtag on social media platforms. The page celebface on Instagram has tons of raw, unedited photos of celebrities' bodies and skin. Beautiful people have skin like yours.
Lastly, try to revert your focus to things you do like about yourself. It's much easier said than done, but try; You'll probably find that those things are what people notice about you too. Besides, your physical appearance doesn't dictate your value. There's a concept I've been hearing about a lot in social media spaces called "body neutrality." It's the notion that you don't need to have strong feelings about your appearance, positive or negative. It simply just is.
Life is too short, and you're far too precious to get hung up over the state of your skin. It pains me to think of all the time I've wasted deprecating myself, but I'm learning, and now-- even though my skin is still as "bad" as it's always been-- I like myself so much more.