By Jennifer Daly
When I was in my teens, I was paranoid about ‘teenage acne.’ I didn’t have acne at the time, but those words haunted me. Why is it always the same, flawless skinned, aptly tan, cute button nosed girl who applies a “magic” product to her skin, smiles into the mirror (camera lens) and voila! Perfect skin in moments? Uhm, you could have fooled me, because that’s not remotely my experience. They are red, sore and, excuse me if I’m overdramatizing this, but they ruin my confidence.
I am an adult acne sufferer and my self-confidence hit rock bottom as my acne problems soared. I had great skin as a child and teenager, even though I was athletic and spent most afternoons with sweat on my face. I would seldom have a break out, and it was never anything bad. When my 21st birthday arrived, I thought to myself, ‘Wow! I will be one of those lucky few people who never experienced acne!’ And just like that, the acne gods overheard and poof! For nine long months after that, I had acne. It was mostly on my cheekbones, but there were always some patches on my chin and forehead too. And, as fickle a problem as it may seem to some, it was depressing, quite frankly.
And so my strict makeup regime began. Every morning, without fail, I would wash my face (barely able to look at myself in the mirror), moisturize and apply layers of makeup. Primer, concealer, foundation, powder, bronzer, more concealer, more powder. There never seemed to be enough to conceal the unhappiness I was feeling on the inside, knowing the sight that lay under all that war paint.
Don’t get me wrong, I love makeup. I love how it can look and how great it can make me feel. But when you feel like you can’t walk outside your front door to get a coffee or bring your dog for a walk without applying your makeup first, it’s awful – not even to mention, time-consuming and expensive.
Even worse, the more I applied, the worse the acne got, and the more makeup I put on. It was a vicious cycle. My skin was begging me to let it breathe, but I was too ashamed of it. By the age of 21, most of my friends had done their time in the acne prison and were free. I had just been sentenced.
After trying almost everything I could think of, I went to a dermatologist and (after a battle with dryness from the medication) rid myself of acne. The makeup addiction, however, did not go away.
My confidence in my skin was still so low that if my skin didn’t resemble Brooklyn Decker’s without makeup, I felt that I should keep piling on the foundation. And then I encountered The Beauty Bean and Alexis Wolfer. It was through the amazing message that this website puts out that caused me to follow Alexis on Twitter and ask her advice on various topics. It was also how I came across the “Makeup Free Mondays” campaign. I thought; just try it for one day. So I got up 15 minutes later one Monday, and only put on moisturizer and lip balm. As I was driving to work I felt sick. I was so worried about what people would think of my skin. My skin, that had relatively little damage following the acne and was a healthy 22 year old’s skin, so not exactly wrinkly (yet!).
On that day, this was a conversation I had with the kid in my class, who, no matter what, told the truth.
Kid: Teacher, you look different today.
Me: I do? Well, I’m not wearing any make up today.
Kid: Ooohhh. That’s why. (Turns to walk away) Teacher? Your clothes were pretty yesterday but your face looks pretty today.
No staff member looked at me differently. No parent gave me a second glance. It was me all along. It was my self-doubt that led me to worry unnecessarily. So I gave myself a goal. 28 days makeup free. I did get my eyelashes tinted, but in terms of my skin, nothing but moisturizer and SPF touched my face for 28 days. And I saw a change in my skin, and myself. It was no longer a pale, off-gray color, but now, had a nice beige look. I had subtle pink cheeks. I looked fresh and energized. During that time, I worked out more, as I love the glow one’s skin gets following a good workout. I ate better, so my face would not breakout with any “I ate a hamburger and fries” zits. And my confidence soared. I accepted my skin and, subsequently, my body as what I am supposed to have. I realized how lucky I am to have all my senses and limbs, with all my organs working as they should.
To people who never had adult or teenage acne, this may sound like a fickle problem. But to me, acne broke my spirit, in a way, and I lost all confidence in my appearance. My skin does not and never will look like Brooklyn Decker’s skin looks without makeup, but after 28 Makeup free days, I would be comfortable and happy to stand beside her, sans foundation, and get my photo taken. This, from where I began, is unbelievable to me.
Jennifer Daly is a 23-year-old Irish school teacher living in Philly. She wrote to The Beauty Bean saying, “I wrote a lot during my 28 days without makeup but I wrote out a separate piece for you/your website. I would like to thank you for opening my eyes to the beauty of being natural and, above all, being oneself and proud of that. This experience and the trip I have taken, from adult acne, to makeup dependency, to my now makeup free Monday-Thursdays has been heavily influenced and encouraged by you and your website. So thank you, for all you do. What you do, through your website, blogs and Twitter account, changes people. It allows people the freedom to be themselves, look at themselves in a non-judgmental light and be comfortable in themselves. For that and all the exciting things I know you will continue to present to us in the future, thank you.” Jen: all of us here at The Beauty Bean thank you for your courage in sharing this!