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I've been dealing with severe acne since my school time. And believe me, when I say this, it has not been an easy ride. From school to college years to work-life, the acne has never left me.

I got my first acne when I was 11-12 years old.

My sister told me to let go of it. But after a year, the situation worsened. My face started to fill up with acne. I remember there was a morning school prayer going on in our class and this teacher was present there as well. Suddenly, she looked towards me and pointed at my face asking me why I had so many pimples on my face. Half of the class immediately turned towards me and started looking at me. I was so embarrassed at that point of time that I just closed my eyes to escape the looks. From that moment, I started taking my skin very seriously and every advice that came towards me, I would immediately go for it.

I love photography and I used to learn editing through a software. I learned about this tool which would retouch a spot. I tried using it on my face and suddenly I had a clear face in front of me. So before uploading a photo on Facebook, I'd retouch it properly to make my face look, “nice”. Retouching just one photo would take up so much time that I started wishing for a retouching tool in real life. I would usually click candid photographs of people because I felt that a person's true emotions and expressions were way more important than just the ‘perfect’ skin and I felt like portraying that to others.

Usually, I used to get acne bursts during summer and rainy seasons and the transition gap between school and college made the severity of those acne even worse. Before college started, I started going to a dermatologist who suggested I stop eating oily and non-vegetarian food because according to him, the heat in them made me have acne. I wanted my skin to heal so badly that I immediately stopped having non-vegetarian food. Even though my family nudged me to have a piece or two of meat, I never even once ate it because I wanted to be true with myself. With the doctor's medication and the no non-veg diet, my skin did clear up in a year. By this time, I was already in college. So once the acne disappeared, I stopped the medication and started having my regular diet again. But to my surprise, it appeared again. I used to introduce my new pimples only to my family members and to lighten my mood, I'd crack jokes about them as well.

By the mid of my last year in college, the acne started appearing on my neck, the shoulders and back. I was so awkward that I had stopped wearing sleeveless tops. The acne used to be a conversation starter in college. The people I knew would come up to me and randomly ask, "Why don't you do something about it? Do you have an allergy to something?" Being a teen, you start taking such comments very seriously and it hits you at a different level. At that point, I felt like I was more than just an acne-skinned girl. People shouldn't come up to me to only talk about my face.

I started focusing more on my projects, presentations and studies to make sure that people came to me to talk about random stuff or studies, and not acne. And slowly and steadily that did really happen. I was already a scholar since school times. But that scholar Rutuja somehow disappeared behind the acne-skinned Rutuja.

Soon, I started gaining confidence again and aced my last year.

I started to search for a new dermatologist again after my college years as I was simultaneously searching for a job and didn't want to interview for one with a face like that. I came across this doctor who by the end of the session asked me what I was currently doing. I told him that I had just finished college and was looking for a job. He immediately said that no one would give me a job if I looked like that. I was so infuriated by that sentence that it just affected my confidence while interviewing.

I'd get a lot of advice from strangers, too. This one time, I was traveling to work via a shared cab. The driver didn't utter a word when the rest of the passengers were there. I was the last passenger to get off and as soon as the other two passengers got off, the cab driver asked me if he could suggest something to me. I was caught off guard and told him to go ahead. He said, "Mere bhai ko bhi pehle kaafi fodi aata tha. Bahut kuch try kiya usne but jaa hi nai raha tha. Pura chehera laal hua tha. Fir usne yeh medicine try kiya and sab chala gaya. Aap chahiye toh naam likh dijiye yeh medicine ka". (Translation- My brother used to get a lot of boils on his face and his entire face would turn red. We tried a lot of things but nothing worked until finally, a medicine did. If you want, you can write down the name of the medicine too). That suggestion just pissed my mind. I told that driver to just drive the car and plugged in my earphones to avoid the situation. I felt humiliated. My confidence, my personality and my overall presence in a group started getting affected. I was always concerned about it and felt like some or the other person would definitely comment on my acne. I started losing hope and felt disgusted most of the time. I wanted to avoid going to work because I wanted to avoid random advice and annoying questions.

Gradually, I was entrusted with more work responsibilities in the coming months and my focus shifted from acne to work. I started becoming more socially active. By this time, the acne stopped appearing and all that was left were the scars. I realized that because I was focusing so much on my acne, the acne was focusing on me, too. Once I started avoiding them, they stopped appearing. I found my remedy here. And that was Ignorance. I started ignoring the acne, the unwanted advice, the weird odd looks given by strangers, the suggested medications by random people, EVERYTHING. I started to actually live life by being involved in other work. My parents would keep suggesting to me occasionally that I visit some doctor or gave tips to improve the skin, but I avoided them, too. Soon, my face started to clear up. I ignored them so much that I never really realized when it all cleared up. The last acne burst I had was 2 years back. And since then, my face has been on a clearance journey, one scar at a time. I still get occasional pimples, but they go in a few days. They don't last on my face much now that I have the magical remedy to it. IGNORANCE FROM LOG KYA KAHENGE (What will people say).

Written by- Rutuja Jayakar

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