HOW TO HANDLE ACNE WHILE TRAVELING
Acne Anxiety while Traveling
Anxiety: How to Handle Acne While Traveling
I have had an ongoing relationship with acne since I was thirteen years old. For over ten years I tried every product on the market that claimed to get rid of it- ProActiv, Murad, Skin ID, Clearasil, Clinique, Clean and Clear, prescription medication, etc. I had consistent, painful breakouts, mostly in my T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin). The shame and embarrassment of having acne used to completely control my life. I had intense anxiety about people seeing my face without a cover-up, which was bound to happen while traveling. Regardless, I lived in Europe for a year and traveled to some twenty countries while overcoming my acne anxiety. Here is a girl talk about what it was like for me to handle acne while traveling, and what I learned from the experience.
Taking My Acne Regimen Abroad
Perhaps equally anxiety-provoking for me was wondering how in the world I was going to take my complicated acne-regimen abroad. When I moved to Paris, France, I was 21 years old and was using ProActiv to keep my acne at bay, since that was the only product out of the dozens I tried that actually worked. If you’ve ever used ProActiv or a similar product, then you know how important it is to not skip applying the three-steps to your face, morning and night. I worried this would be too complicated to manage while traveling, but I was so attached to the product that I knew I’d have to figure it out.
I was always terrified of getting breakouts and having my acne return to how bad it was when I was not using ProActiv. So I packed all my bottles and took more than enough to last me my year in Europe, so I wouldn’t need to stress about buying it there. When I would do weekend or week trips around Europe, I poured each ProActiv step into travel-size containers, and always brought more than I needed, just in case.
The Burden of Acne Anxiety
It felt like such a burden to rely upon ProActiv to keep my skin clear, but it was better than the alternative. I let my acne control my life for years because I did not want anyone to see how gross my skin was without makeup. I wouldn’t sleep over at friends’ houses, go swimming, go on dates, or even leave my front door without caking foundation over my face first. Everyone had advice to give me on how to clear it, without realizing that their comments were hurting me. It made me want to disappear. Already having self-esteem issues due to being overweight my entire life, the acne truly annihilated any chance I had at having self-worth.
I would pray every single night to wake up with clear skin the next day. I thought my life would be perfect if only I had clear skin and a thin body. This is why, although I knew that ProActiv is toxic and only works to clear acne for a short period of time, I started using it again (I had previously used it as a teenager). Lo and behold, it worked within only a week or so, and my skin was bright and acne-free.
The gratification of seeing my skin cleared so quickly was enough for me not to worry about the long-term effects of ProActiv. Then came the anxiety that the acne would somehow come back, especially when I was traveling and it was inevitable that people would see my face without makeup. I still had small breakouts that stressed me out and made me feel terrible about myself. Looking back at photos from my year in Europe, while I was on ProActiv, my skin was beautiful! I was definitely the only one obsessing over a few pimples. But to me, the idea of the acne returning was unbearable, and those small breakouts reminded me that someday I would have to deal with getting off ProActiv.
Healing My Skin at Home
Once I returned from Europe I was a changed woman! I had self-esteem. I loved myself. My travels had inspired me to do what I had been dreading for years- to stop using toxic acne medication and to heal my skin naturally. All those ingredients that they claim get rid of acne, such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, are industrial chemicals that, simply put, should not be rubbed into your skin ever, yet alone twice a day.
I was tired of depending on ProActiv. I was annoyed by the complexity of the regimen and how high-maintenance I felt because I had to adhere to it. I immersed myself into my travels as much as I could while managing the acne care, but it still controlled my feelings and decisions while I was abroad. I wanted to heal my skin from the inside instead of just covering it up or using commercial products that claim to get rid of acne but only offer a temporary solution. So I vowed to only use natural products from that day forward.
If I can impart anything on you, it would be to consider trying natural products if you also struggle with acne. I warn, it is a long and perilous road. Natural products DO NOT heal your acne quickly. Once I stopped using ProActiv my skin broke out worse than it had in my entire life. It was very difficult for me to watch my skin get so bad. Nevertheless, I persisted, and for the next six months I tried a slew of natural products until I finally found the one that worked. And by natural products I don’t mean things like Burt’s Bees acne regimen, I mean apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, tea tree oil, jojoba oil, cinnamon, citrus, coconut oil, etc. The savior for my skin was raw honey.
Your Acne Anxiety Will Be Gone, Honey!
I know, it may seem strange to imagine washing your face every day with honey. But that’s what I do. And although my skin is not perfect- I have scarring, redness, irritation, and small breakouts- I no longer stress and suffer from anxiety over people seeing my face without makeup. The honey took about six months before I stopped continuously breaking out. The first day I stepped out of my house not wearing any foundation was to drop a letter in the mailbox. When I came back inside, I cried, because it had really been so long since I felt my skin was clear enough to not wear cover-up for even one day.
When I recently returned to Europe for a six-week trip in France and Spain, I only brought with me a few travel containers of my raw honey. No more schlepping around the three step ProActiv system or spot treatment! No more worrying that if I skipped an application of ProActiv I would wake up with horrendous pimples the next day! My skin is consistently clear now. I know it is no longer addicted to those chemicals that were keeping it clear before. I didn’t have any acne anxiety during my recent travels, not only because I don’t have chronic breakouts anymore, but because I learned to love myself enough to not care if people thought I was gross, for my skin, for my weight, for any reason.
Travel for Yourself, Love Yourself, Acne or Not
I wasn’t traveling to please all the random strangers I met, I was traveling because it is my passion. It’s for me! I wish I would have accepted that when I was living in France. That I was enough- worthy, wonderful, and awesome, even with broken-out skin. The stigma around acne is debilitating, because society tells us that acne is disgusting. It means you’re dirty. It needs to be gotten rid of ASAP. In reality, acne is normal, and not only for teenagers! More often than not it is caused by a wide variety of factors, from genetics to hormones to diet to stress. It does not make you ugly or worthless. Don’t let them make you believe that.
If you want to travel the world, but are worried or ashamed of your acne, I hope you will remember my story. If you’re happy with the products you use and want to take them with you, it’s entirely possible! If you don’t want people in hostels to see your bare face, there are ways around it. I would go to the bathroom early in the morning and late at night to apply and remove foundation, so people wouldn’t see me without it. Work on accepting who you are, though.
Everything about yourself, especially what you’ve been told is a “flaw.” Little by little you will work up to letting people see your bare face. To letting yourself love your bare face. And whether your skin clears or not, your love for yourself will not change. Just don’t let acne anxiety keep you from going on your trip! And if you are considering changing your skincare routine, I highly suggest adding raw honey- it’s a lifesaver!
Like it? Pin it!
We are a team of four feminist travelers coming together from different parts of the world to share with you what we have learned from traveling, living, loving, and exploring all over the world. Join us and tell your story about female solo travel, relationships, mental health, city guides, or whatever else comes to your mind.