I'm in my late 20s, and I've had acne since I was a pre-teen. I also have a lot of blackheads. Over the years, I've tried all kinds of cleansers, toners, moisturisers, exfoliants, spot creams and home remedies, but have been unable to prevent it.
I got frustrated a month ago when I had a massive breakout one morning, just hours before some friends were due to come over. After sitting through an embarrassing afternoon tea and reluctantly posing for photos that all too clearly showed my acne, I decided to do some real research and start some proper treatment. This is the first time I've been able to do this in years. I have an immune illness, and the last few years I've been too sick to treat my acne (or even to shower regulary). Finally this year my health has improved and I've been well enough to cleanse my face every day again.
Funnily enough, when I was really sick my appearance came to mean more to me than it ever had before, and I became discouraged with all the evidence of my illness on my face and body. I got overly-focused on tiny details. Now, learning to manage my acne successfully feels like a chance to have control over something. I don't have a lot of control over the course of my illness, but if I can manage my acne it will give me a sense that change is possible.
I've tested out a few treatments so far (more on that later), but I'm coming to realise the biggest challenge is not treating the acne, but dealing with the emotional and mental pain it creates. All of my suffering comes not from the acne itself (which generally doesn't hurt), but from thoughts and feelings I have about the acne. The frustration, anxiety, self-loathing, worry, obsession, embarrassment and shame inflict much greater scars than acne itself does.
Fortunately, while coping with my illness I've learned many Buddhist contemplative practices. (I'm not actually a Buddhist, but damn they have some great tools for dealing with life). Reading over the forums the last month, and considering my own reactions as I embarked on treatment, I realised that they could really come in handy in dealing with my acne.
So basically, I'm hoping that my regimen will be holistic - cleansing and treating my face, and caring for my troubled mind.