Your Pimples are Cute

Acne. Pimples. Spots. Zits. Whatever you like to call them, we all know them as the nasty little red things that show up onto your face and only disappear under layers of makeup. The world seems to be obsessed with them; I see ads asking me to buy five hundred different acid washes and facial brushes. I see my friends frown at the small zits they get on their skin. I see the redness all over my face when I look into the mirror every night.

I’m quite familiar with pimples, even more than most people. I am the proud owner of  many acne scars which grace my cheeks and forehead. I’ve had several different stages of acne throughout my life on different parts of my face, ranging from acne so cystic it hurt to touch, to just plain old scarring. Over the years, it feels like I’ve tried so many different skincare products and routines that they haunt me at night. From dermatologist recommended topical creams and medications to trying the whole natural Lush Cosmetics schtick, I’ve seen it all. Yet, I still sit here writing to you with pimples on my chin, unable to find something to tame my skin for good.

My acne was a really big contributor to my insecurities when I was growing up and, to be honest, it still can be. I’ve spent a lot of my time looking around at my clear-skinned friends and wondering what it must feel like to go outside without worrying about how red your face will look. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what skincare products they must use or what weird, homemade remedies allow their complexions to glow. Year after year, I’ve been desperately searching for the secret remedy that will clear up my skin overnight and leave my face smooth and beautiful.

The truth is that it doesn’t exist. Everyone’s skin is so radically different from the next that no one product is the end-all be-all, and honestly, a lot of the time acne isn’t something people can control. Some people just happen to luck out with good genes and clear skin, and others not so much. Other environmental factors can contribute to skin conditions too, like birth control, allergies, or illness.

Maybe there is a skincare routine out there for everyone, a perfect potion of products and medications that together can clear up skin, but skin care is expensive. Not everybody has access to dermatologists or highly-rated products. Sometimes all we have is the CVS Pharmacy down the street and the coupons your mom gave you for moisturizer.

The culture we live in pushes a strict ideal appearance onto us, so much so that it can feel suffocating if you don’t look exactly like the thin, European standard of beauty. Realistically, bodies are not made to look a certain way. There is not one ideal type of look that we are all supposed to be able to achieve. Everybody gets a pimple or two once in a while. We need to keep reminding ourselves that, no matter how small or unglamorous a part of us may seem, it doesn’t take beauty away from us.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years reminding myself that I am not my acne when I should have been reminding myself instead that I am not just my acne. For a long time, the goal in my head was to have a face so blemish-free that I wouldn’t have to put on foundation before I went out. My makeup routine would be cut in half and I could spend time on details like my eyeliner or concocting wild eyeshadow looks while still looking glowy and effortless.

The other day, I accidentally put on a red-tinted lip balm on that matched perfectly with my acne. I caught my reflection in the mirror and thought it was cute in a way I knew nobody else would really understand. It made my face feel put together and in that moment, it felt like the most important thing in the world that I thought I was beautiful.

I won’t lie to you; I do still want to have clear skin or at least something close to it. But these days I’m finding that I go out bare-faced more and more, and that I care less and less about what people think when they look at me. If someone thinks my acne is gross, then that’s their problem. We’ve all had a pimple or two in our life, and if someone can’t sympathize with me over something I can’t control, then I have no time for them. I do have time for myself, though, and I do have time to continue learning how to love myself for all the unconventional, weird ways my body expresses itself.

Illustration by: Nicole Bae

Teal Hall