Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Acne and Me

I got acne when I was in middle school, and still today I have to deal with it. Gotta love genetics, huh. Ever since the first onset, my parents took me to a dermatologist to get treatments. The dermatologist wasn't the only doctor trying to help, though - every doctor I've seen since age 13 has tried to give me something for my face. I've even had psychiatrists give me prescriptions and samples of various acne creams and washes.

I also had to endure some lovely stigmas. Mean girls and friends alike have assumed I don't wash my face - because some people just have to use the right soap to avoid acne, those lucky bastards. There's also the stereotype that people with acne don't take care of themselves. Right, I only have acne because I don't try hard enough.

Personally, my desire to clear up my face has been sort of on and off. Sometimes I'll really want it gone, sometimes I won't care, and usually it's somewhere in between. When I was 18, I decided to clear up my skin once and for all, and I saw a great dermatologist who gave me some medications and told me to avoid salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide treatments. She also told me to wash and moisturize with Cetaphil, or a generic version of it. Good enough. And it worked, for a long time. My skin wasn't perfect, but it was good enough, and I could easily cover up the few pimples I did have.

Last year, things changed. My dermatologist stopped renewing my prescriptions and I was on my own. That's when I discovered the tea tree oil treatments at the Body Shop. And I never looked back. Now I prefer to deal with my acne through lifestyle habits such as keeping hats, pillowcases, towels, etc. clean, getting enough vitamin C and other nutrients, avoiding certain skincare products, and keeping my hair out of my face; as well as using skincare products with naturally therapeutic ingredients such as tea tree oil and aloe. I have essentially de-medicalized my acne treatment.

I just wish doctors and peers would understand that.

A couple months ago, I went to a doctor who, literally first question she asked was "so Allison, what are you doing about your acne?" I explained that I use tea tree oil and I prefer not to use medical treatments as I noticed her hand reaching for a prescription script. She paused, not pleased. At one point during the exam, she told me, with a good amount of force "I am your doctor, you need to trust me and do what I tell you." Well, she's not my doctor anymore.

My friends haven't been helpful either. Even the guy I was dating said I should have been more open minded, she might have given me something that would work better. And for the love of god, if I hear one more person tell me to try Proactiv I don't know what I'll do.

Doctors may be experts, peers may have my best interests at heart, and everyone has something to recommend. But only I truly know my skin and my kind of acne, and I have 8 years of experience where I know what works, what doesn't, what makes my acne worse, and what really irritates my skin. I may not be an expert either, but I know enough to make my own decisions about how to treat myself. If I want help, I'll ask for it, otherwise I really want everyone - doctors and friends - to kindly butt out.

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