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Gen Y Speaks: What dealing with my skin problems taught me

​Acne, impetigo, contact dermatitis, keloids, dermatographic urticaria… my skin issue list goes on. My complexion, on its good days, would look pristine. On its bad days, it would spiral out-of-control with inflammation, infection, dryness, pus and scarring that was painful and disfiguring.

Gen Y Speaks: What dealing with my skin problems taught me

The author suffered her worst outbreak two years ago (right photo) when she had contact dermatitis, impetigo and acne in the area around her eyes.

Acne, impetigo, contact dermatitis, keloids, dermatographic urticaria… my skin issue list goes on. 

My complexion, on its good days, would look pristine. On its bad days, it would spiral out-of-control with inflammation, infection, dryness, pus and scarring that was painful and disfiguring. 

This still happens to me from time to time.

It all started in my junior college days.  

My first bout of acne covered my face with angry pustular spots that led to lots of tears, self-inflicted scars from attempts to pick at every pimple, and staring into the mirror every other minute to check if the redness was reducing. 

At night, I did not dare to turn left and right when I slept, for fear that any pressure on my face would lead to further breakouts.  

I turned to the internet for skin product reviews and friends for support. Some of them were in the same predicament, and we encouraged each other by reminding ourselves that “everything takes time”. 

And it was quite a long time before my acne improved.  

Cleansers, ointments and creams were my everyday companions. I gradually learnt which ones to use for what conditions, in which sequence.  

I spent a lot of time ruthlessly throwing out over-the-counter facial products like heavy moisturisers and harsh facial washes that were unsuitable for my sensitive skin, and made lots of trips to my doctor to figure out how to deal with my unruly breakouts. 

I lost sleep worrying about whether my acne would ever go away, and whether or not there would be scars left on my face. 

It was agonising. Each passing day, I took photos of my skin to document its progress, and hoped to speed up the healing in any way.

I was also constantly bothering my friends to see if they could see any improvement in my skin whenever I saw them. 

In retrospect, I was probably too hurried in seemingly wanting to see results in the blink of an eye, which was simply impossible.

It was three full months of nerve-wrecking waiting before my face began to clear up, just in time for my mid-year class photo shoot. 

This is relatively long, in comparison to the one-month duration I was quoted by my skin doctor, when most people’s acne is supposed to respond to treatment.

That period was a dark and trying time that really tested my patience and perseverance, especially because it took a lot of self-motivation to continue applying various medications when they did not seem to work in the short-term. 

It also meant having the discipline of adhering to a schedule of applying the topical medications and withstanding the ordeal of the stinging sensation when the medication made contact with the skin.  

Thereafter, I had relatively good skin after junior college, having only one or two pimple eruptions on my forehead or cheeks about twice or thrice a year.

Yet, it was not until adulthood that I had my worst outbreak. 

At 26, I decided to go for Lasik eye surgery to ditch my pair of black-rimmed glasses, as my glasses were so heavy that I could feel my ears’ shapes change over time. 

Unfortunately, the post-Lasik care meant sticking eye protectors that covered my eyes during the recovery time.  

My sensitive skin reacted to the glue on these stick-on eye protectors, and soon became red and inflamed.  

What followed was a highly frightening constellation of contact dermatitis, impetigo and acne in the area around my eyes.  

“What happened to your face?” my friends would ask in horror. 

Initially, I panicked at the cobblestone texture and blistering of the skin, and the peeling redness that could be seen from a distance.  

Yet, I was much more optimistic and composed this time after reflecting on my past trials and tribulations with my skin, armed with knowledge that problems take time to solve, and there is no overnight cure.  

It took me a few visits to my doctor again before I recovered in about a month. 

Currently, my skin has mostly cleared up, but I do get one or two discrete pimples during stressful periods such as when deadlines are nearing, and when the weather gets too dry.   

Now, although I am no longer relying on antibiotic medications but using a skincare routine, I still reflect on my experience and it has taught me to look on the bright side when facing bleak situations in other aspects of my life and to give issues some time to improve.  

I now have more patience when mending a friendship on the rocks and keep an optimistic outlook about the future despite the ongoing pandemic. 

At the start of this year, I was trying to improve my yoga posture through YouTube video tutorials.

Yet, I had no immediate flair for it, finding it impossible to do even basic yoga positions such as the downward-facing dog.

Instead of throwing in the towel then, I decided to give myself some time, and perhaps try other postures that were more comfortable for me.

In a few weeks, I mastered some yoga poses such as the camel pose and side plank. 

For the downward-facing dog position, it is still work in progress as I require intense warm up before being able to get to that position, which I can hold only for a few seconds.

I hope that my experience gives hope and comfort to those struggling with any circumstance that is leading to frustration or weariness.   

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alvona Loh Zi Hui is a junior doctor who works at a public hospital in Singapore. 

Related topics

skin resilience skincare beauty

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