End the acne animosity

I’ve grown up watching anti-acne ads on TV, but I’ve deciding to stop letting that keep me from treating my skin with kindness.


by Julia Kerrigan, Opinion Editor

A scan of my bright pink and orange tiled bathroom will reveal an abundance of evidence of my seemingly all important struggle with my acne. Sitting dismally in a basket on the sink you will find Benzoyl Peroxide face wash to dry out my face, prescription Clindamycin to treat infection, a variety of toners that have all failed and a few exfoliants that irritate my face to no end. It feels impossible to not have all these products when mainstream media throws them in my face with expectations for glowing, dewy and above-all-else clear skin.

There have been a few times I looked myself dead in the eye in the middle of a way too complex face routine and asked myself why I even cared so much. They’re just red splotches? But each time, I went back to applying whatever new product I was trying out that time around. That is until the other day when an ad on TV made me stop in my tracks on my way through the living room.

“Acne is ugly,” said the enthused narrator as a young girl stared at her face in anguish, pointing at all the inflamed spots. Alarms started blaring in my head. My eyes widened. I feel this way about my skin because the brands selling me the products I desperately buy have shown me girls agonizing over their acne, hiding their faces and rubbing in products with questionable chemicals. I hate my skin because I have been taught to hate my skin.

As I worked through this epiphany of epic proportions, the girl in the ad splashed water onto her face with reckless abandon and smiled into the mirror at her dewy skin. The ad went on to preach about the confidence clear skin provides, and detailed the two simple payments of $19.99.

If you grew up watching any TV aimed at preteens, you definitely saw an ad like that every commercial break. Every configuration follows the same basic formula, which is “acne=sadness, no acne=happiness and our product=no acne. Transitive property says our product=happiness, so go ahead and stuff our pockets, you insecure and fragile teenager.” The idea that acne should be avoided at all costs is what has made this market worth 4.9 billion dollars, according to Statista.

I’m over it.

I’m not going to act like having clear skin wouldn’t change the way I think about myself, or like I’m going to ditch all of my efforts to keep my skin as clear as possible. I still scroll through those threads on Twitter that throw out different products (even though it’s always witch hazel and aloe, come on people, show me something new), and I’m still going to apply all my weird oils and masks and aim to drink more water.

But, I’ve decided I’m worth more than whatever has popped up onto my face, and my face is worth more than constantly drowning it in products that will probably make my skin turn green in a decade or two. I can try to clear up my face, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to feel good about it in the moment.

If working toward clear skin makes you truly happy, then go for it. If the constant battle against cystic and hormonal acne is tiring you out and taking a break from the creams, toners and exfoliants is what will better you, then by all means, join me in caring just a little less about what skin product companies have to say and caring more about what I feel is best for my skin.