When You Date Me, You’re Dating My Acne, Too

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Everyone has insecurities, but if you have acne, these insecurities can be amplified tenfold – sometimes even preventing you from leaving the house. While special occasions of all kinds are always nerve-racking, the idea of dating with acne caused me so much fear that I avoided it entirely for decades.

For a little background, my relationship with myself has come a long way and is paramount to what I do now as a content creator. While my skin is relatively clear today, it hasn’t always been like this. For years, breakouts covered 80 to 90 percent of my face, chest, and back. I was teased at school and given cruel nicknames like pizza face and connect the dots. Especially in my teens and early 20s, I couldn’t even eat breakfast with my family without covering my face in pounds of makeup. I thought I was so ugly that I was a burden to those around me, so you can imagine the mental warfare I struggled with when it came to the idea of dating.

If I couldn’t leave the front door without makeup, how was I supposed to date? Throughout high school, I never went on a single date or to a single school dance. I even missed my own prom. It wasn’t until I embraced my role as a medical aesthetician – yes, an aesthetician with acne, who helps others with theirs – that I realized the judgment I had for myself was unfair.

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to take my biggest insecurity and turn those experiences into a YouTube channel with over two million subscribers, aiming to educate, entertain, and empower others to understand and embrace their skin. Even as someone who has learned what works for me, I still have good and bad days. This impacts the way I choose to show up, or not show up, to dates or realize my value when it comes to choosing romantic partners.

Years ago, I posted a YouTube video where I stripped all the makeup off my acne-prone skin and shared a step-by-step tutorial on how I concealed my blemishes. One of the most painful comments underneath that video read, “Imagine going to sleep with a 10 and waking up to a 2.” It implied my appearance with acne made me unworthy of love. That stuck with me for over a decade.

To this day, I can count all the people I’ve kissed on one hand. The idea of someone getting too close to my face and seeing active blemishes or my acne scars still scares me. The fear of not being loved because I don’t look good enough is paralyzing, even when deep down I know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There’s a saying that goes, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” For a period of time, I was in a relationship with someone who would actively tease me about my skin. One year, this partner gave me a birthday card that had a photo of someone popping a pimple. The inside of the card said, “I picked this one especially for you.” It was meant to be cute or funny, but I remember opening it and bursting into tears. The issues within our relationship and my partner not understanding my biggest insecurity were painful. It ultimately led me to not be able to show up authentically in my relationship, which ended not long after.

Years later, I started dating someone who had experienced acne themselves. This partner was willing to listen when I talked about my breakouts and how it impacted me. I ended up teaching this person how to use makeup to cover their own blemishes, a moment I hold dear. It was my partner actively listening to me and leaning into my insecurity that helped me realize it’s OK to discuss my skin. My acne didn’t change how my partner felt about me.

Even with this acceptance, the idea of someone seeing my scars or touching one that might pop terrified me. It prevented me from progressing further in that relationship.

Recently, I decided to challenge myself: to go on a date with no makeup, zero foundation, and my acne scars on full display. I was terrified. Would this person feel like I looked different from my photos online? Would I be able to have a friendly conversation, or would my lack of confidence get in the way?

My date and I went to an escape room, which was fun and helped keep my mind off how I looked. By the end, we grabbed food, and shockingly, even with this person staring directly at my bare skin, I didn’t fall apart.

I realized that, in a way, acne has become an inherent part of my personality.

After a good half hour of conversation, my history with cystic acne came up. I shared how the condition has always been a part of me and how I now use my role in aesthetic medicine and my YouTube channel to help others embrace their skin. Sharing with my date how my worst insecurity helps me work in a job I’m passionate about was rewarding. I realized that, in a way, acne has become an inherent part of my personality.

Acne may always be a part of me, but I’ve learned to embrace it and search for the lessons it has taught me through the ups and downs of life. While FaceTime dates and escape room potentials have fizzled out, I’ve gained deeper learnings when it comes to dating with acne. I may still be searching for love, but I’m finding myself along the way.

Cassandra Bankson is a skin-care expert, a medical aesthetician, and a content creator on YouTube.

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