Acne + The Toll It Takes on Your Self-Esteem

Acne causing low self-esteem is only beginning to be talked about.

With blogs, selfies are so commonplace, they’re practically required. So, I feel the pressure.

I have to admit, though, I’m really struggling to teach myself to take selfies and be OK with what I see.

Even though my skin is now clear, years of acne left me with years of looking in the mirror + feeling let down. Photos were something I often dodged if I could. Makeup was a mask I was afraid of taking off – even at home.

And my acne wasn’t the worst level someone could have. I had it easier than others, but was suffering in self-esteem all the same.

It’s a Mistake to Overlook the Mental Impact Acne Has on Us

Whatever level of acne feels like a struggle, is also where it can become an internal weight. Maybe because of a feeling of failure, though you’re trying so hard?

Somehow that crimped self-esteem can bleed over into your general self-confidence. If you feel you’re hiding, your body language can reflect that.

I will be the first to say, whether you are struggling with mild acne or severe acne the mental impact can be the same. Your experience is valid. And I’m sending you a hug.

Seeing It, Acknowledging It, + Pushing Past It

This blog is a big test in confidence. And a definite kick in the butt to try to face my fears and overcome them. It’s an old wall I’m building up the courage to break past. Feels a lot like ripping a bandage, letting your guard down, and being OK with imperfect results as you learn.

I hope watching me try to push through lingering acne mental scars (if we can call it that?) will let someone else feel seen.

If I look stiff in photos, I’m mentally telling myself not to run.

So here goes. Hi!

Is It Hormonal Acne or Your Toothpaste?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through & make a purchase.

All opinions are honest + my own. All products are put through a 2 week test period conducted on myself.

What if your hormonal chin acne isn't hormonal, but irritation? This cheap, quick test could help rule it out in days. Maybe even solve it. (Buh-bye!)
Photo by Alina Kovalchuk on Unsplash

At the 2 week mark of my Test-Avoid experiment, my face was basically clear of new breakouts except for a few near my mouth. Before, I would write these off as classic hormonal chin acne.

But some “hormonal acne” would appear:

  • At the center of my Cupid’s bow
  • Somewhere between lips + nose
  • Near the corner of my lips
(Can I just have a cute beauty mark instead?)

These areas, especially at the center of my Cupid’s bow, seemed a little too outside the normal hormonal acne chin zone.

I decided to take these outliers as a clue.

On a hunch, I checked my toothpaste’s ingredient list + found (*cue swears*) one of my test-avoid ingredients. A light online dig (bada bing, bada boom) unearthed articles noting toothpaste was indeed a culprit for some people.

Ran back to the store + bought the only toothpaste I could get my hands on that fit my test’s parameters:

Those stubborn pimples around the true “hormonal” chin area?  Disappeared. In days.

What I was experiencing wasn’t hormonal acne, it was just the SLS in my toothpaste.

Can I experience hormonal acne?  For sure, like any human girl.  But all the time?  Not me once I switched toothpaste.

But seriously who would think of toothpaste re: breakouts?

I just wish I had bumped into that FYI years ago. About a $5 toothpaste investment prevented at least $50 in zit targeting creams + moisturizers. Moisturizers mainly to combat the overdrying + peeling that acne products usually caused on my skin.

What’s that saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?

Sensitive Skin Starting Talk – My Acne Breakthrough

A good sensitive skin routine begins in the shower.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through & make a purchase.

All opinions are honest + my own. All products are put through a 2 week test period conducted on myself.

About 4 years ago, I had one of my worst acne breakouts. It was out of control & not letting me rein it in despite all my best efforts. Worst – it was July, the height of the summer, a time when everyone’s wearing the least amount of clothes coverage. Skin exposure is at its lowest tidal ebb. And my skin was at its worst. Yay.

Usually, summer was the one time I was a bit less pimply, and I could get a slight pressure release from my struggles. This breakout just made no sense.

Nothing was in play that “you just have to be more diligent” or “you have to take better care of yourself” could claim any ownership from what I was experiencing.

  1. I was not stressed at all – nothing stressful in my work or personal life.
  2. My sleep levels weren’t suffering. In fact, they were great!
  3. I wasn’t “eating badly”.
  4. It wasn’t even that time of the month.


Then I Thought – What If Something I’m Using Daily Is Causing This?

Photo by Phebe Tan on Unsplash

Call me ignorant, but until then, I had so many voices telling me I just wasn’t trying hard enough to prevent or control my breakouts. This was the first time I had a moment when I was absolutely sure it wasn’t something I was doing wrong.

So, half determined & half feeling I was going down a bizarre path with a dead-end, I pulled together an annoyingly wide list of ingredients. They included: a) what everyday people online believed was affecting their skin b) anything noted as known or possible acne causers according to articles out there. Call it one part acne sufferers poll, one part research.  

Taking this list, I spent almost 2 hours at my local drug store – my closest ASAP toiletries source when I was living in NYC. I was there so long they asked me 2 or 3 times if I needed help. I’m sure I looked like a weirdo kneeling on the floor in the middle of the night, squinting at a bunch of bottles while I scoured the ingredient lists of shampoos, conditioners, & body wash. But, finally, I found a few that fit.

The Test-Avoid List:

I wanted as pure an experiment as I could get for the clearest answer possible. So, this meant being strict about sticking only to these. No post-shower hair adds – even if my hair needs it.

Within 4 days, my skin calmed & almost cleared. Within a week, my skin was clear enough to go nearly make-up free. That is, from full coverage make-up to only touching-up the healing areas or post-acne dark spot zones. I kid you not.

Boom. Answers.

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

* (Paid Link)

My skin was reacting to a product.

Most importantly, I was starting to see a pattern: my skin was aligning with ingredients commonly described as “for sensitive skin”.

What I came to figure out was SLS/SLES, a foaming detergent found in most shampoos & body washes, was too much for my skin type. And silicones, frequently found in conditioners to give that lovely silky smoothness, were also too clogging for my skin. Basically, my skin was getting a 1-2 punch. 

Even after all my dermatologist appointments and 15 years of acne, I had no idea that products were my core problem. I thought I just had normal, acne-prone skin.

Jump to Part 2