Skin Ain’t Easy

Written by Naome Seifu

Skin Ain’t Easy, Sis 

Let me tell you. My skin journey has been one that I can truly say changed my life. I learned incredible new things and the value there is in investing in your skin.

Let me give you some back story: 

I moved to the DMV area in August of 2017. I moved because of a job opportunity and to start a new journey for myself – spiritually, mentally, emotionally and financially. I was ready for a new change. With all this new excitement, I didn’t think of the consequences such a big move was going to have on me. Moving to a new state meant I had to look for housing, find a roommate, move into that new space, furnish my home and start a new career. Three months into my move, my best friend got engaged.

Needless to say, I was in a high stress space because of all the change and adjustment that was happening in my own life. 

I had to travel back and forth to Atlanta, my hometown, roughly 5 times in that year – which was a whole lot for me. I had to then help my best friend plan her wedding which was 10 months later. I turned 25. I got invited to interview with my dream company – an intense and nerve-wracking process. It was a 4-month process that included 2 interviews. I got hired. My first month working my new job, my best friend got married.

Safe to say, I didn’t get much breathing room that year.

Now you’re wondering what the heck does all of this have to do with skin? It has everything to do with it. 

In the first 2 months of living in the DMV, my skin started changing. I normally only broke out when my cycle was about to begin and seldomly right after it ends. Being a hot mess that I somewhat frequently am, I would constantly touch my breakouts, which sometimes would become blemishes, but it was nothing that was ever concerning. So, you can only imagine how shocked I was when I began to see that I was breaking out in different places on my face. It started on my cheeks where I would get little bumps that you could only see if you’re very close to my face. I was uneasy but nothing alarming. Then I started breaking out on my jawline. One pimple turned into three – in the same area. Let’s not forget that I was still breaking out in the common places I would right before my cycle.

Let’s fast forward to 6 months into my move – my jawline is becoming a serious problem area. I’m breaking out and experiencing a cluster of up to 4-5 dark spots. I felt like I looked so ugly and my blemishes were noticeable. My self-confidence was slowly plummeting. At that time as well, I didn’t have good health insurance and wasn’t really aware of what exactly a dermatologist could do for me. So, I suffered through it. My skin was failing. I would vigorously research and try to find products that could save me from this. Shopping at places like Kiehls or Sephora, I’d buy expensive products and continue to try relentlessly, praying that a product would be my saving grace. I was never right. And obviously so because I’m not a doctor, duh. I probably spent over 1,000$ over a year just on skin care products. Money I didn’t have but was so desperate to use because I needed to figure out the problem.

Fast forward a year into my move, I was very self-conscious about my skin. I wouldn’t go anywhere without concealer. I mean ANYWHERE. I was so embarrassed. My boyfriend would always push me to go see a doctor, but I didn’t know I could afford it and I was so scared the doctor would tell me I’m stuck this way OR prescribe me something that my face wouldn’t react well to – desperately trying to control every inch of this indescribable experience. A month into my new job I signed up for my benefits package. I was blessed to get the opportunity to acquire such fantastic insurance, but here I go – controlling my circumstances. It took me legitimately 2 weeks to finally settle on a doctor that I knew from the beginning, she’d be it. For some reason, I was letting my fears control my decisions. Ultimately, I picked my fabulous doctor who practices in Silver Spring, MD. Her name is Dr. Eleanor Ford. When she saw me, she laughed because she could tell how nervous I was. She told me my skin on a scale from 1 to 5 was a 1 and I was like “excuse me? Just 1?” She assured me that my skin was nowhere near bad and that the dark spots I had on my lower jawline couldn’t even be considered scarring. They’re just irritated blemishes. Can you imagine my relief? I almost wanted to cry. All of this time, money, effort, anxiety and tears spent on what I perceived to be horrifying and permanent scarring – just to find out it was normal irritation.

Here is a before and after of my skin journey over the first 6 months. I took the top photos a week before I was going to see the dermatologist. 

I started my treatment with Dr. Ford November of 2018 and I’m still with her. She has truly transformed my skin. She’s taught me how to properly, key word properly, care for my skin. The simplest regime can go a long way. She prescribed to me a Retin-A micro cream that is 0.06% and hydroquinone which is a liquid acid that I apply with a q-tip.

Here’s some background on the two prescribed products I use:  
Retin-A micro cream (tretinoin gel) is a prescription medicine used on the skin (topical use only) to treat acne. When I first started using the cream, my doctor let me know that I may experience some excessive dryness and a bit of peeling. Your face is getting accustomed to the treatment. I think it took about 2-3 months for my face to not peel. I could also see my dead skin coming off
Hydroquinone is a depigmenting agent. It can lighten dark patches on the skin.

My daily cleanser, SPF moisturizer and toner is from a company called La Roche-Posay. I was introduced to this brand by an incredible storyteller named Helen who is based in Texas. I read her post on the struggle with her skin called “In My Skins.” I use these exact products and they have been so healing to my skin. These three products plus the products I was prescribed through my dermatologist have been life changing. I buy the La Roche-Posay products from Ulta and Target.

So, it’s been 6 months now and I’m beginning to fall back in love with my skin. I’m so thankful. I’ve seen more than enough to know that it is so important to invest in your skin. It’s so important.

A few things I learned from my doctor and myself during this journey:

1. Simplicity is key. She honestly just wanted me to use Cetaphil or Dove and I was like there’s no way I’m going with a basic brand to heal my skin. She signed off on me using La Rosche Posay but did say I could be using cheaper products instead.

2. Stop Googling ways to heal your acne. Go to the doctor. Period. On my first visit with my doctor, she told me to name her everything I was using. Her first question – did you get the direction in buying these products form Google? WebMd? She convicted me.

3. She told me to never put oil on my face.  Serums are good. I just haven’t found one yet. They can also be so expensive. My doctor stressed to religiously use sunscreen no matter how much melanin you have.

4. Take it easy. Stop stressing over any and everything. Workout or do yoga. Pray!

5. Water. Let’s not even pretend like we don’t all know this. Drink water.

6. Own your skin. Blemishes and all. No matter how hard it may be because always remember, someone else is going through the same battles you’re facing with skincare.

I love learning from other people and seeing what they do with their skin. Here’s one video that I absolutely love. You have to remember you should only use products that work for you. Adrienne Houghton says that she doesn’t have acne prone skin so remember to consider that before using all of her products she mentions. I just love her honesty and the way she tells her story. She keeps it real so, I would encourage you all to watch her nighttime skincare routine on Youtube.

I’m glad I learned what it means to be intentional with my skin at 25 rather than later in life. The earlier you take charge, the better. My skin is far from perfect but it’s so refreshed. It’s vibrant and feels new. My skin is still healing, and I still have blemishes that are slowing fading on my jawline, but I love who I am and what my story has become. I knew that sharing this was important. I know someone else is battling with what I battled. And I know someone can win just like I did.

Understand that skin ain’t easy, but with correct love and care – transformation discovers itself.

Skin ain’t so bad after all.

tracee ellis ross black girl magic GIF by Republic Records

Check out my 21ninety article. My hope is that this story can be a step in the right direction for women who want to get their skin back. We’re taking over!

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