Before I hit 23, my definition of “acne” was the small bumps that appeared on my face every now and then, and cleared up fairly quickly.

Granted, it’s not the actual definition of acne, but I have a flair for the dramatic. So when the bumps no longer came and went—they overstayed their welcome and left scars and discoloration with each “larger” acne—you can imagine my dismay.

Over time, I found them increasingly difficult to get rid of. I was very close to seeking a dermatologist for my acne problems, but along the way, I realised I might have been using the wrong products—I switched up my skincare regime to include products that are formulated for acne-prone skin and noticed a difference.

But ever so often, I still got breakouts and the frequency continued to increase with each passing day. It was only then that I accepted that I now have adult acne.

How I dealt with adult acne

When I first started accepting the fact that my bumps were not clearing up as fast as they used to, I turned to concealer to mask my acne. One of the reasons I concealed my spots was because I wanted my blush to look more uniform.

However, no matter how much I try to conceal them, whichever side that had more pimples ended up looking “redder”. Maybe my makeup skills were bad, or maybe my concealer wasn’t great for spot correction. Regardless, I decided to leave the spots alone and rock them like they are red-coloured freckles. Then, I realised when all of my makeup is done and dusted, even I don’t notice the acne much, let alone other people.

adult acne real story

That episode made me remember the promise I made to myself four years ago when I first started putting on makeup. I told myself to only wear it because I liked it, not because I needed to hide something. 

I intend to use that mentality when it comes to embracing my acne in 2020. If I put on full-coverage foundation, it’s because I am sure that putting it on will make me more energetic for the activity that I am dolling myself up for, and not because I want to hide my acne from others.

Embracing skin positivity

But admittedly, I’ve only lived with acne for the past year, so the 24-year-old me is too old to care about what people think about me about any matter.

Moreover, having survived bullying in my growing up years, I’ve developed a clear mind and a thick skin. I think if I grew up with Instagram and had to face picture-perfect influencers with their perfect skin on a daily basis, my confidence probably wouldn’t survive such constant attack and I would have been desperate to fix my skin.

But that’s not to say that I don’t Facetune my images on Instagram. My thought process when I’m Facetuning my face is that I want to see how I can look if I have money to get regular fillers and a life without my hereditary dark eye circles.


I like seeing myself like that, because I feel like however my face is, it can also look very different. This makes me feel like the world is very endless in possibilities—that’s the art person in me speaking—but I also know not everybody sees it that way. I see the lie I am putting up on my socials and understand the implication I contribute to the unhealthy beauty narrative. So while I don’t really change my appearance that heavily, I do want to stop this habit of self-critique (as I do find that I spend way too long on photo-furnishing apps) and be more honest in my Instagram feed in time to come.

This is part of the “skin positivity” movement that I’ve embraced. I know how difficult it was growing up with stick-thin actresses on every magazine cover. With Instagram, I cannot imagine how teenagers are viewing false perfection on the regular and expected to embrace their flaws fully. It contributes to a society obsessed with physical appearance and that’s both temporary and utter bullsh*t.

What “clear skin” means to me now

This is why I unfollowed people who are “conventionally beautiful”. I started following celebs and beauty influencers who are not afraid to embrace their problematic skin, and they gave me a new view of how I view my skin.

My definition of “clear skin” has evolved as my acne issues morphed. Previously, when I was younger, clear skin meant perfect skin with zero pores, which I did not consider mine to be as I had rather large pores around my nose and dark eye circles.

Then when I was between 18 and 22, I saw “clear skin” as one without any bumpsand I probably would have continued to have that mindset if it weren’t for the persistent acne that refused to leave for the past year.

Now, I would wish that my skin would be free of discoloration and scarring, but I also learned that it’s not a realistic goal for anyone that isn’t a Hollywood star. I guess I need to get used to the fact that my skin condition is ever-changing.

Text: Alicia Chong