Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Living With Acne and Scars: My Story

Once upon a time, when I was in high school,  I considered myself pretty.  I was tall and people would tell me I looked like Kuh Ledesma / Marina Benipayo / Ruffa Gutierrez, which thinking back now, was weird, because these three beautiful women don´t really resemble each other.  I suppose what they meant then was that I had the dusky color of Kuh Ledesma, the small oriental eyes of Miss Benipayo, and the facial shape of Ruffa.  My cousins and even taxi drivers tried to prod me  to join beauty contests or try out modelling,  but even then, I was a shy introvert and could not for the life of me, think of going out of my comfort zone,  so I retreated to books and doing good in school.

My journey to ugliness came rolling in college.  It must have been the combination of teenage  hormones, the stress of studying engineering at UP and the psychological fear I had going from a small all-girls' school into the free-for-all, do-what-you-like-as-long-as-you-pass-your-exams culture of UP.  Acne became my one constant, unwanted companion  in college.  It marred my face so horridly that even my cousins, those who just a year before were pushing me to join beauty contests,  commented how my face have "changed".  "Change"  being their gentle way of telling me how  I went from pretty to hideous.

It wasn´t for the lack of effort that my college acne wasn´t treated.  I think I went through three dermatologists all throughout my college years.  All three did nothing but prick my skin every single session.  The word "tiis-ganda" was the perfect word to describe the pain a young pubescent girl has to endure in the hands of a dermatologist who pricks her face to get rid of whiteheads, blackheads, and to push out the pus and little balls of dead skin out of those painful, swollen  zits. With all the meds  I was given,   I became an expert in Acne medications --- Clindamycin Solution,  Azelaic Acid, Erythromycin Solution, Acne Aid Soap, Benzac Wash,  Benzoyl Peroxide of all forms, Salicylic Acid and Glycolic Soaps, I have tried them all.  The dermas I saw while in college  have prescribed combinations of these supposed acne fighters in the hope of getting rid of my acne.

But despite trying out three dermas,  nothing totally eliminated my acne.  There were months when it would go from severe to mild and then all of a sudden I would have this massive flareups of zits.  In desperation,  I even tried to self-medicate with benzoyl peroxide.  Covering my face with the stuff every night in the hope of drying out those big, swollen, painful zits fast.  Well,  I learned too late that my skin does not really agree with benzoyl peroxide.  It left me with dry, scaly skin with dark marks.

The painful thing was,  despite all my effort to clear my pimples,  I would  still  hear random people comment on how terrible my acne was.  As if, I didn't know about it.  It was hard to look at the mirror every day, trying to be brave, trying to be dismissive and nonchalant with the burrowed looks and the turning of heads away from my acne bomb of a face.  Imagine what that does to a girl who is in her late teens.  I remember one time hearing someone on the bus say  "Tignan mo yung dalaga o, buhay pa pero parang naagnas ang mukha" then laughter.    Or that time when someone in an escalator looked at me commented, "Yuck pimples!"  loud enough for other people to hear and for them to also  take a look at  my horrendous face.  People would remark," Sayang ka, maganda ka pa man din sana kaya lang bakit nagkaganyan ang mukha mo?"  I  learned to take them all quietly, gritting my tears, thinking, they're rude and harsh and insensitive, but what can I do? What they're saying was the truth.

College was somewhat depressing for me in part  because the course I was taking was incredibly hard,  but more so  because I felt like a walking monster, ugly as hell.  At an age when I should have been enjoying my youth,  I was secretly hoping for a life where I would never need to leave home and show my face to the world.  Because, here´s what I learned while I was in college,  people look at those with physical deformations, from a disability to  severe acne, with a mixture of pity and dismissal, as if  these these flaws render  us  less of  of a person. Yet even though  I had no love life to talk of in college,   I was lucky to be a part of a large group of friends who took me in,  oozing pimples and all.

After college,  I looked for a new dermatologist, and finally! The good doctor, recognizing how severe my acne was and how sensitive I was to harsh topical medications, ordered me to take  a battery of blood lab tests to check if I could take what was then a new revolutionary drug that could help me get rid of acne for good.  The drug, Roaccutane, was potent and could and cause depression, liver problems and high cholesterol so strict doctor's supervision is needed.  Taking Roaccutane for close to a year was not a walk in the park,  but I must say that it started the turnaround of my skin from severe acne to a more manageable breakout cycle.    These days, Roaccutane is a popular dermatologist prescription for those who have moderate to severe acne,  but this is still a potent drug and must be taken with strict monitoring of the dermatologist.

Roaccutane paved the way for my acne to be manageable, but by then my face have been marked by scars. After the acne treatment  came the nearly impossible task of improving the ugly pitted scars on my face.  I think I have tried it all : subcision, diamond peeling, two sessions of Fraxel, deep peelsand skin needling.  But they have not done anything  remarkable to my scars.  Up to this day I carry these pitted scars on my face,  testimony to my terrible bout with acne.

Acne is an awful disease, acne because not only does it destroy your skin  it can also leave you with psychological stigma. More so if you are left with disfiguring scars.    is neverending.  But it is a battle I have learned to live with.  There are people who at even the age of 60 would still  go and jump into the latest hyped treatment to eliminate acne scars.  A few years ago,  I decided that I do not want to go into that cycle again --- hope, dissilussionment, and sadness.  I told myself,  accept your scars, accept that you will never be that flawless beauty people would fawn over.   And so no,  I have said no to all those beauty treatments that subjects one to days and days of downtime,  no to ablative lasers that practically skins you with the slim hope that your inner skin could produce enough collagen to be more supple and to raise your pits.

Not to say that I have stopped using any beauty products,  I am like any other girl who wants a skincare regimen that can make my skin better.  But I know that these skincare regimens can only do so much.  They can make my skin a bit whiter, a bit brighter,  they can help me prevent pimples and wrinkles from appearing,  but I know that they cannot do anything for the deep scars that are already in my face.

Acne and my scarring changed my personality.  And there are still bad days when I wake up, look in the mirror,  and see nothing but these pits,  but these days are  now few and far between.  And everytime I feel this way,.  I tell myself, yes I am flawed,  but I am still beautiful and I have so much to offer to this world.  And I look at what I have accomplished despite these flaws,  and the other things that I can still do and I settle down into  the rational  realisation that,   hey,  my scars, these are my battle marks.  They show how I have conquered something limiting and how I continue to face the world bravely with hope and dreams despite being imperfect.

And that´s the biggest lesson, the biggest gift horrible acne gave me:  You don´t need to be perfect to be  loved,  to be special or to accomplish something.   Life will gives us curveballs.   My curveball in college was  my acne and scars.  And until now the scars are still with me.  My scars are both  sources of consternation  and a metaphor for how we can go on to follow our dreams if we can just take our limitations as they are.   It took years, but now, older and more mature,   I  have finally come to terms with the fact that I will always have imperfect skin.  And that in the scheme of my life,  it´s not really that big a deal and it will not limit me from becoming my best self.

                                          Acne Survivor:  This is me.  Acne scars, flaws and all.

                   My worst side:  I have particularly deep pitted scars on the left side of my face.

Scars will not kill you  but if you let  them, they may kill your spirit. So be vigilant.  Always remember, it is okay to be imperfect. 


  1. My sister's acne was quite bad as well, unlike me. She stopped using all the topical creams and her skin condition improved. She had been advised to try Roaccutan, but decided risking her liver and God knows what was not worth it.
    I think the topical creams out there are too harsh and full or harmful, drying ingredients such as alcohol and most times with them, the remedy is worse than the cure.

    People can be mean to those who are different, yes. In my case, I was tall and chubby growing up and kids my age were quite nasty to me.

    1. Acne is a BIG Problem that crosses the borders of age, gender, race and social status. Benzac AC is a topical water-based gel wiyh its active ingredient benzoyl peroxide perfect for the treatment of acne. Benzac AC aparts from its acne-treatment counterparts is that it does not contain alcohol and it is fragrance free. Read more at:

  2. Hi Marox, I appreciate your reply. Yes there will always be people who are mean to those whom they deem are too different from them, but at a certain point (perhaps due to maturity or age) we do realize that hey it´s your life and you have the sole control so just screw them naysayers and let´s do what makes us happy :)

  3. Hi there, I think your skin looks healthy and glows at the right places now! As a long time lurker of your blog, I must say that truthfully, I've never noticed your scars before! :)

  4. Hi there, Yellow Garfield! Thank you for the comment! I still have pitted scars on my cheeks and they are visible at close range but I´m okay with them now :) I do try to keep my skin in its best possible condition especially now that I am in my thirties :) Thanks for dropping by my blog. Cheers and have a good weekend!

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