Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States. Although it can strike at any age, it is most common in teenagers and young adults. I treated many patients with acne while working in family practice as a physician’s assistant. When I moved into aesthetics, treatment switched to more acne-scarred patients. Unfortunately, nothing could prepare me for being a mother to a teenage daughter with acne. I’d like to share a little about my own, personal experience with my daughter and how the world of aesthetics has dramatically affected her life (and mine).
When I was looking through the lens of a medical professional, acne was just a common skin disease. I used my scientific acne protocol to effectively diagnose, treat, and try to manage each one of my patients. I thought I did a great job listening, customizing a thorough treatment plan in the 10-15-minute appointment time, and checking their progress every few months.
It was not until I became a mother of a daughter with severe teenage acne, did my perspective change. I felt so guilty for not seeing just how emotionally challenging this was for both my patients and their parents. Why had I been so clinical? Watching my little girl struggle with self-esteem and confidence because she was unhappy with the way she looked was devastating. I’m not sure I had ever truly realized just how important one’s self-concept is to their overall well-being.
Her father and I watched as our confident little spitfire slowly but surely began to withdraw from social interactions with friends. We began to notice that—despite our constant reassurance that she was still the bubbly, witty, hilariously funny girl that everyone enjoys being around—she was losing her confidence day by day. My heart broke for her. I was determined not to JUST improve my daughter’s acne, but to see her transform into the determined, strong young woman that we had raised her to be and help other parents do the same for their teens.
I felt so prepared with the knowledge I had gained from being a physician assistant, as well as different options from being in the field of aesthetics. I spent countless hours researching other possible solutions from facials and chemical peels to lasers and diet. I tried everything I could to help her improve her acne. What did I discover? Well, that acne is frustrating, difficult and recurring! Some days, weeks, and even months were good. Happiness was in reach! Then another bad breakout and we had to start the cycle all over again. It was an emotional roller coaster for the entire family.
After two years, and countless treatment options, we chose to put her on Accutane, a strong prescription medication with frightening side effects. I felt like a failure, honestly. Her acne was severe and if she did not start Accutane she risked more scarring that could affect her as an adult. Eventually, I realized that I was far from a failure. Everything we did initially prevented her from severe scarring. I had the opportunity to learn so much while playing both medical provider and mother! This knowledge has now benefited so many other teenagers and I hope many more.
Not all patients will have to go on Accutane. Having a consistent relationship with a skincare specialist is so important. It requires a routine skincare regime specifically designed for the patient. It will not be easy, believe me. Nothing is overnight and no ONE treatment plan will work for every patient. However, with caring guidance and treatment from a trusted professional, one who truly understands the medical and emotional needs of the patient, this problem can be managed.
The happy ending to our story is that after three difficult years, I have a beautiful young lady who has found her confidence again. She is about to embark on her senior year of high school and the spirit that exudes from her makes me more proud than any work I have ever or could ever do at the office. This is another example of how my most important work is not just to improve the outside appearance of my patients, but rather, to improve the heart and soul within. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but how we view ourselves certainly matters—it matters to me!