For many, middle school is a period categorized as “hellish” and unfortunately unforgettable, and quite honestly, it was the same for me. I was already experiencing a lot of inner and outer turmoil at the time, but my self-confidence, which was already near nonexistent, was shot six feet under as I began to develop acne when I was about thirteen years old.

It was during a rather stressful time in my life due to many factors, and the added insecurities from bad acne resulted in a further declination of my mental state. I was desperate not to let it fester and worsen so I researched some options.

With the help of my parents and my pediatrician, I was able to get some over-the-counter topical creams that worked in many cases to get rid of acne, including Benzoyl Peroxide and various retinoids. These products irritated my skin, giving me harsh rashes and red inflammation, so I tried to be more frugal with them.

They yielded some success, and I had patches of clear skin, but heavily upset skin in others. I learned that I have combination skin — both dry and oily skin in different places. What helped one area was detrimental to the other. My skin fluctuated between peeling from being too dry and being full of cystic acne on top of bumps across my forehead and temples. I knew I shouldn’t base my self-worth on my appearance, but I felt unclean and assumed that all the people who looked at me thought the same.

I began wearing makeup daily, which clogged my pores and prolonged the healing process for my skin, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. The common fast cures for acne — such as toothpaste, tea tree oil, citric acids, and crushed aspirin — made everything so much worse for so much longer, and my makeup couldn’t cover everything.

Exfoliating was excruciating because my skin’s sensitivity was severe enough that even different lotions and moisturizers stung badly when I applied them. I started eating less dairy and meat, using both store-bought and homemade face masks, and exercising more often. I added Clindamycin to my regimen, which didn’t seem to change much either, but I stayed with that routine, hoping that long term use would be fruitful.

In my junior and senior years of high school, I started hormone therapy to try to regulate my vacillating hormone levels. This method caused me a lot of pain and made my skin flare up. My skin wasn’t the mess it was back in my underclassmen years, but it was nowhere near where I wanted it to be before leaving for college, so after trying it out for a few months, I decided I needed a better and more permanent solution.

After a lot more fruitless searching, I finally found SkinHappyMD and met with Dr. Julie Kenner. She is the best mix of friendly and professional, set on finding the exact treatments each patient needs. As soon as I walked in the door, she already had ideas on how to help me and explained step by step everything that I didn’t understand.

Her products are made to relax the skin instead of further agitate it. The topical medicines were designed to help prevention rather than urge the skin into action. Many inflamed marks were given time and means to relax, so finally, my healing process began.

Within weeks of using my new regimen, my skin took on a healthy glow. Acne and blackheads were unearthed, and my sensitive skin wasn’t irritated much at all! The difference in the products was striking because it was the first time I could use completely new products without my skin angrily protesting.

My redness decreased significantly, leaving me my cheeks rosier than red. I still have a way to go for me to feel comfortable in my own skin, but the path there (and my skin) are clearer than ever before. It’s an ongoing project that I hope will continue to improve with Dr. Kenner’s continued customized help!