Ishita Chatterjee, 30, started getting acne when she was 25, first on her cheeks and then on her forehead. She has frequent breakouts, to the point where she always has at least one. Over time, her acne and mental health became more intertwined. Although Chatterjee doesn’t pick her marks, they often leave scars. She’s also prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which occurs when inflamed skin becomes darker than the surrounding area.
Chatterjee began trying different treatments for her acne, scars, and hyperpigmentation. She’s been to dermatologists and estheticians and tried various medications and skin care products, but nothing has cleared up her acne.
Now, Chatterjee is working to rebuild her confidence based on who she is, not the shape of her acne. Here’s her story about acne and mental health.
I had fair skin as a teenager, that’s when a lot of people start getting acne. But when I turned 25, I started to break out continuously. Red spots cover the cheeks and eventually the forehead.
At first I thought acne was hormonal and would go away on its own. However, a few years later, I still have acne. Then I also developed scars, made even more noticeable by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which is more common in brown skin like me.
I decided I had to actively deal with my acne. This kicked off a long process of trying multiple treatments and lifestyle changes. I’ve tried cutting out every food you can name just in case I have a food allergy. I’ve used every skin care product and medication I’ve seen that promises to clear up my acne. Some things have helped more than others, but nothing has gotten me to a point where I could call a cure.
In addition to the frustration of working with what feels like an entire pharmacy, I have to deal with other people’s assumptions. Many people still mistakenly believe that acne is caused by eating too many greasy or sugary foods.first, drinking too much alcohol, or some other external cause that I simply avoid. I know this because they told me.
The comments I get from people about my acne usually come in two forms. The first form is that people give what they think is helpful advice, but the results are pretty heartbreaking. For example, I am a first-generation Indian immigrant, and in my experience, Indians tend to be more outspoken with their comments than Americans. Sometimes, Indians will tell me straight up that my face looks terrible, and that I should try a particular face cream or stop drinking so much alcohol.
In India, it is customary to practice Ayurvedic medicine2, which involves eating foods based on specific instructions for you based on one of three body types. People who follow this tell me my acne is caused by my diet in the US when I know it’s not. This is just how my skin looks.