Participating in No Make-Up Week has gotten me to thinking about my relationship with make-up. Great, right? That’s the point of the entire exercise.
Full disclosure? If No Make-Up Week had of taken place as little as three months ago, I wouldn’t have participated. I’ve mentioned on the blog that I take Accutane for adult onset acne. I like to wear eye make-up, I’m addicted to bronzer, and from time to time, I wear lipstick. However I used to have an unhealthy reliance on my cover-up. I used to wield my cover-up coated brush with the exact precision of a surgeon wielding a scalpel. I was incredibly embarrassed and ashamed of my skin.
Foundation, cover-up and powder. Without all three, I wouldn’t leave the house. I clung to this ideal of perfect skin, felt that I was somehow lacking because I suffered from acne. And it wasn’t just on my face. I also suffered from significant acne on my back, and moderate acne on my ass. I wouldn’t wear anything backless I was so upset about how it looked. I hated wearing a bathing suit or bikini because I knew that people could see the acne on my back. I wouldn’t let my face get wet if I went swimming to prevent anyone from seeing my acne. If I was swimming laps, I would rush from the pool to the locker room, head down, hoping against hope that no one could see it, imagining the life guards being disgusted that someone with my skin was in a public pool. I used to wear make-up to the gym. I wore make-up to surgery. I would wear make-up when I would go for a run. I dreaded the end of a hot yoga class because I knew that my make-up would have melted off my face by the end of class. I would reapply cover-up before falling asleep with a lover, and would burrow under the blankets when we would wake up, refusing to let them see my face until I had the chance to run to the washroom and reapply yet again. I even wore make-up when I had mono and should have been too sick to care how I looked because I could hardly stand.
I tried everything I could to make it go away, until finally my dermatologist suggested Accutane . It was a total success for over a year, and I felt phenomenal. I don’t know if I can really put into words how fantastic it felt, not needing to cover anything up. I’d wake up in the morning, and I would be able to run out for coffee without needing to worry about checking to ensure that every spot, every blemish was covered. It felt like freedom.
When my acne came back, all of my embarrassment, all of my shame came back thousand fold. As though I had personally done something wrong to cause the universe to repay me by giving me back the one thing that I hated about myself more than anything else in the world. I would poke, prod and pick at every zit before bed, and developed some kind of nervous tick where I would scratch at bumps in my sleep so I would wake up to scabs on my back, my chin, my cheeks.
My dermatologist and I don’t know why the first treatment didn’t work. It doesn’t always stick the first time. I’m lucky that I can even take a second treatment, as some people can’t take the drug at all.
Hopefully, the second time is the charm, and it will stick. Right now, I’m half-way through the treatment, and I am so grateful for my clear skin I can’t even put it into words. It feels like freedom again. Three months ago, I wouldn’t have felt like I had a choice to participate in No Make-Up Week. I would have felt as though this were a challenge only for the fortunate with perfect skin.
I still feel really uncomfortable talking about the acne I used to have. I think about it and I get a sick feeling in my stomach. I find it especially interesting when I see people who have acne as adults who don’t care or bother to cover it up. I feel proud of them for not caring about how their skin looks. Showing their blemishes, their imperfection to the world for all to see is something I don’t think I ever would have been able to do. The most interesting thing about it is that I don’t think I ever looked as bad as I thought I looked. Or maybe I did. I went back and tried to find a picture of myself with acne, but I either completely covered my pimples with make-up or I would fix the blemishes in iPhoto after importing them to my computer.
And even though my skin is currently as close to perfect as my skin will ever be, I know that I’m not over it yet. I view my acne now as a betrayal of my body. Sometimes I feel so stupid for feeling that way. After all, acne is fairly benign. It isn’t as though I have cancer, or developed some fatal illness, some disease that takes away my quality of life. And yet, I can’t let it go.
Admitting it might be the first step in healing, though.