Dealing with acne is never easy. From random people recommending products to you to the self-esteem dip, everyone has their story. In this article, seven Nigerian women talk about living with acne. 

Black women living with acne

Khloe, 22 

I was 14 the first time I noticed acne on my face. It was my first year in university. I didn’t think it would get worse or last long, so I didn’t pay attention to it. But it started to spread around my face and leave dark spots. I remember feeling ugly. I’ve always been an outspoken person so I cleared anyone that tried to make me feel somehow about my face but I also avoided taking up leadership positions because I didn’t want to be seen. 

I started looking up skincare solutions.  I used a couple of organic remedies that people recommended. They didn’t work. I went to a dermatologist and an aesthetician but the solutions they gave me didn’t last either. I found an esthetician based in Los Angeles in early 2020 and things changed. My skin has cleared up but the bumps still give me anxiety. I take breaks from social media when I don’t feel like my skin is glowing. I know I am a lot more assured of my beauty but it’s still a work in progress.

Aurora. 27

I first noticed acne in 2019. A lot of things were happening at the time — my ex and I had just broke up, and I had just started a poultry farm which meant I was spending a lot of time close to ammonia. The acne came slowly. I covered it with makeup. I have oily skin so I think the foundation I was using made it worse. The bumps were big and painful, and I hated my face. My mom was worried because I stopped going out. My face hurt so much that I cried. 

Eventually, I quit poultry but the acne got worse. People started talking. I cancelled a wedding that already had a date and moved in with my mother along with my one-year-old child. By 2020, when I got my own place, the acne had reduced but it was still bad. Later that year, I got a car and things became better for me. I spoke to my aunt who had some products for sale. They worked for some time but I found something better. The product I use now drys my skin perfectly. This helped the acne peel off. Although I hastened the process by using new nacet razor blades to debride my facial skin. My skin did a turnover. It’s not perfect yet but I am comfortable with where I am now. 

Zola, 20 

I hate it but I’m done thinking about it. Nigerians can be very mean — they think they’re helping by pointing out the obvious. I know I have pimples — they are on my fucking face. Some will even go on to prescribe drugs, scrubs, ointments. Awọn dermatologists. 

It is hard as fuck, and sometimes I get uncomfortable to the point I can’t look myself in the mirror. In my last relationship, my ex wouldn’t shut up about it. I started avoiding video calls and face-to-face interactions with her. 

Now, I know I have acne-prone skin so I avoid it by using scrubs and not touching my face too much. I also know that periods and stress have a hand in it too. Knowing all this makes me breathe easy and let nature take its course. 

Nwando, 23 

I figured out I had acne-prone skin four years ago. I noticed that if I changed the water I bathed with, my skin would break out. I also noticed that I had started growing hair on my legs and my chin. I visited a pharmacy and told them everything. The pharmacist told me it was a hormonal imbalance and prescribed a drug I was to take for three months. It helped but a few months after I stopped, I had a severe breakout. 

This time, I decided I wasn’t going to use anything on my skin but people kept bugging me. It got to a point that everyone that walked past me recommended something. It still happens to this day. At some point when my whole face was covered with acne and black spots people looked at me like I had a disease. It messed with my self-esteem. I did full face makeup and I didn’t know I was making it worse. 

In 2020, another pharmacist prescribed another drug. I had to take it every night with some supplements. It helped with the breakouts but when I stopped it came back. I tried all sorts of organic products on Instagram, which was terrible because they made everything worse. Later that year, I had a session with a dermatologist who recommended the drug I used to take but on a lesser dose. It helped a lot. I also learned that I was using products that were doing more harm than good. I started using sunscreen and my skin is better now. 

The internet played a huge role in regaining my confidence. I found people from all over the world that struggled with acne. I read journals that helped boost my self-esteem. I quit makeup except on important occasions. 

The only problem I have now is people still giving me random skincare advice. I get random messages with drug descriptions. Some people tag it infection of the blood. Someone recommended a blood flusher drug to me and I even felt like I had a terminal disease. How do you tell them you don’t want advice and not sound rude even when you’re calm? That’s my problem. I tried it once and the person insulted me. 

In all, it’s been a challenging but great journey. 

Tomi, 19 

I first noticed acne on my face when I was in JSS 3. It’s been eight years since then and I am still battling acne. I didn’t see it as a big deal until people started talking about it. They always want to recommend something. It got to the point I couldn’t take pictures without filters. 

I recently found skincare, and it cost a lot of money. My face would be clear today but by tomorrow, I could have a breakout. Products might work now and fail tomorrow. I am learning to live with it but I wish people would stop talking. Stop telling me what to use for God’s sake. 

Precious, 21 

I first noticed acne when I was 18 and I didn’t understand because I didn’t have any in secondary school. I thought it would go the way it came but it kept getting worse and I became insecure. I already had body issues. So I thought, “At least my face is cute” until acne came. I had so many spots it was torture.

My friends told me my acne wasn’t that bad but I hated it still. The more I wanted clear skin the worse my acne became. I tried everything I could — herbal remedies, honey and lemon mix, organic products, etc. Nothing worked. I tried a bleaching product by accident because someone said it was a spot cream. I stopped using it when I noticed that I was getting lighter. 

Right now I’m happy with my skin. I finally found products that work. stuff that worked for me. My next problem is brightening because my skin has been a bit dull lately. But I only get breakouts once in a while and it’s like 2 bumps so it’s good. Before my entire forehead would be full of acne. Ugh. Right now I just want to maintain it. Keep it hydrated and protected. My body is next since I have won the battle with my skin. 

There was a period that I stopped going out because of acne. I stopped taking pictures too. It was really terrible but we thank God.

Ifemelunma, 24

I had a clear skin until 2018 when breakouts became constant. That’s when I started being deliberate about skincare. My skin got better during the lockdown but it went from 100 to zero around August last year and since then it’s been hell.

Having acne affected my confidence. My skin got darker and it looked as if I got uglier. Using makeup every day is not my thing, but thanks to Covid, I wear a face mask all the time. Having acne also made me desperate — I wanted to try out everything. I have followed so many beauty bloggers on YouTube and Instagram. But right now, I have given up — I am sticking to a simple skincare routine and hoping the acne clears one day.

Having acne also takes a toll on your finances. The products I used aren’t cheap and I made the mistake of buying as many products as I could afford. People keep recommending aestheticians but consulting one is also not cheap. Another annoying thing about having acne is that people cannot stop talking. They are either asking what happened to your face or giving you ludicrous suggestions about what you should do. Some people suggested I wasn’t getting enough sex and that’s why I still have acne. People also heighten the insecurity by making comments about how I would look prettier if I didn’t have acne. Sometimes these comments get to me and I feel like peeling off my skin.

Acne is one of my insecurities and I am still learning how to be comfortable with my flawed skin. 

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