Fractured Facade

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Teens & Self Esteem

A couple of months ago I noticed my 17 year old son was becoming moody. I know all teenagers go through an angst period but this was unlike him. He'd always been an easy-going, never depressed, kind of kid. Respect was always shown to me so when he became snippy, over nothings, I knew something was wrong.

Naturally questions begin..."Is there a problem at school?" "Are you doing drugs?" "Did you have a problem with somebody?" "Is there something you want to tell me?" "Are you fighting with your friends?" "Is it a girl?" The answers follow..."No, no, no, no, no!" His grades are still up. I don't smell smoke on him. I checked the Jeep, nothing wrong in there. I asked his sister who didn't know anything either.

Never one to the be the life of the party to begin with I felt as if he was "hiding out" even more so than usual. It took a couple of weeks of hounding him before it dawned on me what the problem was...acne. During one breakfast he mentioned that he was out of some over the counter treatments he had been using. I told him I would pick some more up and he said it didn't really matter as it didn't work anyway. The way he said it flicked the switch on my brain so I asked, "Do you want to go to a dermatologist?" "Uh, yeah." Ohmigod, that was it. That was his problem. I'd asked him probably a dozen times over the last two years if he wanted to go to the doctor and he always said no so for him to agree so quickly must mean his condition was a lot worse than I thought.

I knew he was having bad breakouts on his face, but after a while I just didn't see them because I would look past them. I bought every type of treatment that I thought could help him. He never really complained. I suffered from cystic acne during my teenage and beyond years and it was the worst experience of my life. I didn't want my son to go through what I went through. I practically ran to the phone to make an appointment. Dermatology appointments are hard to come by and we were actually lucky we only had to wait three weeks.

I went with him to see the dermatologist, Dr, Gross. Yes, that's really his name. The doctor looked at his face and then had him take his shirt off. I haven't seen my son bare-chested in years. He doesn't go to the beach, and was always very modest. What I saw blew me away. He had horrible acne across his chest and back to the point of scarring. The doctor looked at me and said he couldn't believe he'd never been treated before. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I had no idea his condition was so bad. I wanted to crawl under the table. I stuttered that I didn't know and the doctor just shot me a look of disgust.

I immediately tried to recoup and asked if he was going to put him on Accutane. I was one of the first people to go on Accutane after having spent years undergoing Draconian "cures" such as having my face swabbed with dry ice a couple of times a week, having cortisone needles injected directly throughout my face into cysts and even having some scapeled out. This was during the 70's and early 80's and when Accutane arrived on the scene none of my regular doctors would prescribe it so I searched until I found one. There were many potential horrible side effects but I felt it was worth it. It was. It worked. If I had gone on that earlier I guarantee you I would have become a different person than the one I am now. In fact I've been on it twice. The second time was after I had kids, and Dr. Gross prescribed it.

Luckily doctors don't use leeches anymore so my son's options were better than mine were. His doctor didn't want him to jump right on Accutane and suggested a different treatment first, heavy antibiotics and a new topical ointment called Epiduo. I sighed thinking that was just a waste of time...put the kid on Accutane and be done with it. Since Gross is the best dermatologist I've found, he cured my daughter's psoriasis and cut out that trilobite from my chest, we followed his advice. He also gave us a coupon for the Epiduo. With the coupon it costs $20.00, without it $189.00!

Twice a day I have to remind my son to take his pill. For the first couple of weeks he bitched that the medicine wasn't working, but he religiously put it on, ruining many a shirt. We had a two month follow up last week. I can't believe the improvement. His skin is so much clearer. He can pull a razor under his neck without chancing bleeding to death. Even his chest has cleared dramatically. But best of all he's walking with a bounce in his step. He's taken to wearing button down shirts. He's smiling more and going out. Who knows maybe he'll even take that step and ask a girl for a date. All I know is that I'm so happy he's happy and back to himself. Never underestimate the power of acne to kill a teen's self esteem. Thank God he never turned to drugs and turned to me instead. It's amazing what a little self-confidence can do. Now son, how about getting a part-time job?


  1. I too struggled with acne as a teenager, so I can defintitely relate to this post. In fact in drudged up a lot of painful memories. I'm glad your son is improving.

  2. Anything you put on your face can cause acne, so it's important to look at the ingredients in ALL the products you use on your face, body and hair.

    Research is showing a buildup of chemicals on the skin can cause acne, dryness (which leads to prematurely aging skin and makes acne worse) and skin cancer. Skin with rosacea can is even more sensitive to these toxins.

    With so many manufacturers using chemicals in their products, almost any product - cleansers, moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, hair gels, sunscreens, etc. - can be causing breakouts on your face and body, or drying out your skin.

    The ones advertised to clear acne can contain the most chemicals. Here's a page that shows what's in a Clearasil product and what those ingredients can do to skin !

    To find chemical-free products, read labels and research ingredients - or start with certified organic products which don't contain harmful chemicals.


  3. Bless his heart! I'm so glad you got to the bottom of it. It's difficult enough being 17 without having to worry about stuff like that.