By Rebecca Drew
AN INSPIRATIONAL teenager has revealed why she stopped caking her skin with foundation to embrace her painful cystic acne and show that beauty comes from within, after the medication she was prescribed left her with severe low vision and just one day away from going completely blind.
Student Emma O’Mahoney (19) from Bloomington, Indiana, USA, had her first breakout when she was 12-years-old and, feeling self-conscious, began layering on foundation to hide her skin from her secret crush and peers who would make fun of her. Surrounded by negative representations of acne and under pressure, Emma researched natural home remedies for clear skin online and even tried taping raw garlic to her spots in a desperate quest to get rid of her blemishes.
When she was 17, Emma was on three different medications for her acne. One of these, Doxycycline, is thought to have caused her to lose a proportion of her eyesight, leaving her being unable to drive, read normal size text or walk outside at night without a cane. She lacks almost all peripheral vision and can’t see anything out of the lower half of her right eye and describes everything as ‘constantly moving and blurry’. But despite all of this Emma remained calm, and is now sharing her journey on Instagram after ditching foundation and pills in favour of homeopathic treatments.
“My first “pimple” happened in fifth grade. It was awful. My friend announced it to the entire class. So when I started to have real acne, my self-esteem tanked and I was willing to do anything to get rid of it. I would spend hours researching natural remedies,” said Emma.
“One time I read that raw garlic can help get rid of breakouts if you rub it on the affected areas. So I thought, ‘Hey! If rubbing it is good, taping it on must be better!’
“The garlic literally burned my skin so I was left with a blister on top of one of my already painful cystic spots. Most people were kind about my acne, but it was definitely something people used to hurt me.
“Originally, I decided to share my story simply because I wanted to fake some self-confidence. I hated my skin so much that it started resulting in me hating myself.
“I was working with a lot of young children at the time and my acne was always a topic of discussion, simply because young kids have no way of knowing how sensitive the subject of acne can be. Kids would ask me if it was contagious, tell me to try Proactiv like their older siblings, and some would say pretty horrible things because they thought it was funny.
“I began to realise that most of these kids’ only exposures to acne were negative – acne cream commercials and their older siblings looking in the mirror, seeing a pimple and calling themselves disgusting for having said pimple.
“I wanted to start to change the narrative that tells people you’re automatically ugly if you have acne. So it was pretty selfish actually. I just want to live in a world where I’m not considered ugly simply because of red dots that cover my face.
“Soon though, I just stopped caring what others thought about my skin and started putting my efforts towards trying to help others be confident no matter what their skin or any other part of them looks like.
“So, I was on about three different medications for my acne at the time I lost my eyesight. The one believed to have caused this was doxycycline. It created Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, a build-up of spinal fluid in the brain. When I was finally diagnosed in the ER, the doctors said I was a day away from being completely blind.
“I was honestly pretty chill when this happened, I had a, shall we say, *bleep* it attitude. What was done was done. Family and friends were so angry that this happened to me and sometimes I get frustrated because my eyes prevent me from doing normal tasks.
“I can’t read normal text, drive, walk anywhere in the night without a cane and that’s all because of a medication I used to make me ‘pretty’.
“When it comes to how this has changed my perspective on acne, it didn’t do anything right away. I was in the hospital on heavy medication, spinal taps every day, scheduled for surgery and the only thing I was really freaking out about was my skin.
“I had had clear skin for the first time in 5 years and I didn’t want to go back. To be honest, I was in some ways more angry about my acne returning than I was about losing my vision. All I could think was, ‘Great! Not only am I blind, but I have to deal with acne again’.
“This anger towards my acne kept up until I started posting about it and accepting my skin for what it was.”
After struggling with acne for seven years, Emma has tried cutting out high sugar foods and dairy without having any positive impact on her skin but says ditching foundation has drastically improved her skin.
She recalled the first time she posted about her acne on Instagram and her journey to self-acceptance.
“Even after I made the first post about my acne, I still wouldn’t leave the house without full coverage foundation and I would often edit acne out of photos,” she said.
“I started to get tired of constantly obsessing over the foundation, spending my savings on concealer, and not being able to hug people without worrying my makeup would be smudged.
“My friend Joey has acne similar to mine, so he could relate to my insecurities. We started talking about our acne together, laughing at our treatment fails, Snapchatting pictures of our breakouts. Soon, my acne started to feel like it wasn’t such a big deal.
“My boyfriend also played a part, frequently reassuring me that my speckled complexion made no impact on his feelings for me.
“I began to realise that the people who mattered in my life wouldn’t judge me on my skin and that those who would are waste of my time.
“I was really lucky to have loved ones to boost my confidence. Lots of people don’t have that, so I like that Instagram has given me a platform to support others the way I had people supporting me.
“Acne sucks, but it’s normal and not worth your self-confidence. Life is short and fragile, do you really want to spend it obsessing over your skin?
“It’s a cliché, but beauty really does come from within. Acne doesn’t make you ugly, it makes you human.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/emmamyhoney