Up until last year, my skin was pretty normal. Then, seemingly overnight, I developed hormonal cystic acne all over my face. It was devastating and almost killed my confidence, but its effect on my relationship was the worst.
I was pretty depressed and angry because I was so ashamed. I felt so angry at the world that my skin would just erupt like this. I generally eat well, I exercise and I drink tons of water. Plus, I’m well out of my teenage years. Why the hell then would my skin turn on me like this? It was a question I asked myself daily as I worked to find a new routine to hopefully clear my face up. Unfortunately, my poor boyfriend felt the brunt of these moods. I was snappy and short with him because I was so miserable and I couldn’t stop myself.
I was worried he’d think I was ugly and break up with me. My acne struggles persisted for months and the entire time, I was legitimately afraid my boyfriend would leave me because it looked so bad. I felt that since it was such a noticeable difference to me, it had to be the same for him. I was scared that he’d wake up one day and realize I didn’t look like the woman he fell in love with and that’d be the end of us.
I hated taking off my makeup. My makeup became crucial for my self-esteem when my skin was at its worst. It got to the point where I started leaving my makeup on until right before bed because I didn’t want my BF to see my bare skin. When I applied my makeup for the day, I’d actually feel relieved because I felt like my skin finally looked how I wanted it to look. Wiping that off at night, especially when my boyfriend slept over my place, made me feel so insecure and so ugly. Sometimes I’d even cry when the red, cystic bumps revealed themselves on my cheeks. I just wanted to feel beautiful again.
We only went out at night. I hated natural light because it uncovered all my acne. In fact, I felt like it drew attention to it and illuminated it! You could see the spots I covered with makeup and my skin problems were revealed. Because of this, we did a lot more things during the evening and the night time than ever before. Instead of Sunday brunch outside at our favorite cafe for a weekend date, I preferred dinner at a dimly lit restaurant or even better a movie just so my skin wasn’t on full display.
I couldn’t look him in the eye. I noticed that when we interacted with each other, I’d do my best not to look at him directly in the eye. I just didn’t want to give him a full frontal view of my face. I felt like every time he was looking at me, he was also looking at my acne and it made me feel so vulnerable. It was really sad. Sometimes I could tell it would bother him because he’d try to hold my gaze when I started to look away.
I didn’t want to get too close. Along the same lines, I started keeping physical space between us. He’d pull me in for a hug or a kiss and I’d pull away. He’d go to touch my face and I would literally duck. Looking back, it probably gave him the wrong signals about my intentions, but how do you explain to your partner that you feel ugly because acne has taken over your face and you’re embarrassed? It’s just really hard.
I compared myself to other women a lot. When your skin is under attack, you spend so much time looking in the mirror hating yourself that you end up comparing your face to other people’s. That happened to me a lot. My boyfriend rolled with it, but I’m pretty sure he found it all extremely annoying. I mean, what was he going to do, agree with me when I mentioned that another woman had such better skin than I did?
When I finally got my skin under control, the shame of it all melted away. After a few months of dealing with this, my skin finally improved. I cut out certain foods like dairy, started taking a probiotic, and I started a daily skin routine that seemed to cure my acne woes. As my skin started to improve and heal, so did my mood. That helped my relationship rebound as well since I started feeling more like myself again. I could look at him in the eye and let him see me without makeup without cringing and it felt amazing.
He loved me through it all and I feel so grateful. I feel especially lucky to have a boyfriend who loved me through a period when it was tough for me to love myself. He didn’t stop trying to kiss and touch me even though I pushed him away. He didn’t stop calling me beautiful even though bulging cystic acne on my cheeks made me feel like an ogre. Whether he noticed my acne or not, he didn’t change how he treated me even when it was clear that I was going through something. He stuck by me and waited for this period of time to pass, knowing that what I needed was his unwavering support. Recently, he told me that he noticed that my skin had been glowing lately and it made me beam with joy.
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