The story of my face is my health origin story.
When I was 14, I saw my first dermatologist. She told me what I eat didn't affect my skin, then gave me a prescription for a topical ointment, astringent and put me on an antibiotic.
Looking back, my skin was actually pretty OK. Before the dermatologist, I'd never had cystic acne, only an occasional breakout. I don't remember why I "needed" to see her, but I took her word as gospel and began the regimen. Over the next few years, she never took me off antibiotics, just changed the type I was on.
Fast forward five years and I'm 19, about to head off to the Netherlands for my sophomore year of college. Not only could I drink beer legally (and eat all the bread and cheese I wanted), but I also couldn't get my prescription filled legally over there.
So for the first time in five years, I didn't have daily antibiotics in my system. And I was gorging on a smorgasbord of gluten and dairy. And my face went nuts.
Cystic acne sprung up and wouldn't go away. Not only was it physically painful, I was emotionally struggling too. I remember going to bed every night and hoping that when I woke up, my acne would be gone and that it was all a nightmare.
When I got back from the Netherlands, I was happy to be in a land of healthcare once more, a place I could get the "necessary" drugs for my face. That year, I went on Accutane. My face immediately became dry and peeled. I was on two forms of birth control because Accutane can cause serious birth defects. I had to get my blood drawn every month to make sure my liver was OK.
Pretty serious stuff, but I didn't care — I just wanted my skin to behave again.
I had a few "good" years before everything came roaring back with a vengeance. It crushed me.
I remember declining an invitation to go camping with friends because you can't apply a full face of makeup in the woods and I couldn't not wear makeup in public. I remember someone shouting "NOXZEMA!" to me on the street. I remember the stranger who tapped me on a public bus to ask if I'd ever tried Proactive.
I shelled out money I didn't have for facials where I'd cry as I was being poked and prodded. I listened to facialist tell me how brave I was to go outside everyday with skin like mine. And then one day, a new esthetician said, "Annette,have you ever considered you might have an allergy?"