When Your 20s are Poppin’: How I dealt with getting acne as a young adult


I’m the girl all my friends hated for having “perfect skin” in high school. While everyone’s raging hormones were popping up (literally), my face remained as clear as a porcelain doll.

“You’re just blessed,” my mom would tell me. I never needed to wear concealer and never used acne medication a day in my life.  My sister was just the opposite, and I think she may have resented me a bit for it.  She had her dermatologist on speed dial and was practically a test model for every skin-clearing product out there.

Then… I turned 20. I will never forget the day I called my mom crying, confused as to why I was breaking out so badly. I thought I was “blessed with perfect skin,” MOM??  I never imagined going through an acne phase; I was under the impression I had slyly surpassed that stage of life.

I made a dermatologist appointment, prepared with all my defenses of why this didn’t make sense. I maintained a healthy diet, regularly exercised, washed my pillow cases and makeup brushes every week, had an extremely thorough face-washing night routine, drank lots of water…I did everything I was supposed to do.  So WHY was my body punishing me?

“This sometimes happens to girls in their 20s.”  I glared at the derm.  I knew it wasn’t her fault, but I wanted a more concrete answer…and someone to blame (Googling “Why I’m breaking out in my 20s” wasn’t giving me either of those things).  I felt like a lost, insecure teen entering what was supposed to be the ages of confidence.

Getting acne at such a prime age sucks for a lot of reasons. First of all, you’re constantly meeting new people.  In college, you see a new face on campus almost every day (even at a smaller school).  When you’re cursed with this new acne phase, you feel discouraged to be yourself and shy away from introducing yourself to someone new.

We also want to be lazy. College ain’t easy… late night study sessions, trying to squeeze the gym in between homework and reading assignments, and sometimes you just want to roll out of bed and go to class in your sweatpants.  But now you have to add in the extra effort to cover your face in makeup to hide your acne.

Not to mention…#PoorCollegeStudentProbs. Now you have to choose between spending your money on food, alcohol, or expensive skin-clearing products…ugh.

Oh, and acne causes stress, which causes acne, which causes more stress…THE VICIOUS CYCLE.

Although we could complain about this acne curse for hours, I have found some little tricks of what to do about it…

Talk to someone who makes you feel beautiful. Your mom, a sibling, your best friend, roommate, boyfriend, whoever. The person that tells you that you’re beautiful no matter what, they’re guaranteed to make you feel better about the whole thing.

Another thing that helps is to read up on girls just like you. We’re all in this together, ladies (and guys too!).  And if there’s one thing that makes me feel better…it’s knowing that I’m not the only one.

I also challenge you to go makeup-free for a whole week. Yikes! I know that sounds scary, but it will give your skin a breather and by the end of the week you won’t feel so insecure about stepping out in public without layers of Covergirl clogging your pores (I did this and felt so rejuvenated by the end of the week).

Lastly, look in the mirror and smile. This might sound silly, but smiling actually releases hormones that make you feel good.  Doing this every morning will give you a little boost for the day.

If you’ve fallen victim to the 20s acne phase… know you’re not alone.  And the most important thing to remember is that we have all experienced breakouts and we are all human.  A pimple on your face doesn’t change who you are, and at least I’m old enough to realize that now.

P.S., now you have an excuse to experiment with all those Pinterest remedies you’ve been curious about (silver lining, folks).

Marissa Peltz, '17

Mediocre joke-teller, friends enthusiast, Chipotle lover. Talents include: touching every dog that passes me, offering sarcastic comments in awkward situations, and using instagram filters to disguise the fact that I'm pale as a ghost.