First dates. Getting to know him. Spontaneous plans. Late night chats. Goodnight texts. Butterflies. Omg-It’s-Only-Been-A-Minute-But-I-Miss-Him. Did he actually just ask me to be his girlfriend? Omg. I’ve found my person.
But wait. What about my skin? He hasn’t seen my skin. What will he think if he sees me without makeup? Am I catfishing him? I’ll have to take my make-up off at some point. But he might think I’m disgusting. My skin might ruin everything. I’m terrified of showing him my acne. What if he doesn’t want to see me anymore?
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you can relate to the stream of thought above. Dating with acne, or starting a new relationship when you have acne, can be hard.
On one hand, you’re head over heels for someone and nothing — literally nothing — could be better than this feeling. But on the other, you’re constantly hyper-aware of your skin and terrified of any situation that could lead to them seeing your bare face.
I’ve been there, and it’s tough — but I’ve got lots of tales, tips and advice to share with you. Here’s my experience of having acne whilst dating or in a new relationship:
My experience of dating with acne
I’d describe myself as a relationship gal. I’ve literally barely been single since the age of 16. It’s just how I am — but thanks to my skin, it hasn’t always been the easiest ride.
I’ve had three serious (as in, long-term) relationships. But guess what? Only one of those guys — my now boyfriend — ever saw me without makeup. Considering I was with one of the other guys for around three years, spent the majority of my free time with him and also went on several holidays with him, this is kinda crazy. I’m not quite sure how I even managed it.
My skin was awful during that time. I remember feeling insanely insecure about how I looked. I’d sleep in my makeup and run off to another room to reapply it after I showered in the morning so that he never had to bear witness to my acne. I actually had my routine down to an art.
And there’s no doubt that it had a huge effect on the relationship. I genuinely believe that I wasn’t good enough. I was constantly insecure and overly paranoid about my looks. I think that most young girls go through a phase like this, but my skin seriously amplified my worries.
Weirdly, we didn’t ever really speak about it. Maybe he genuinely didn’t notice that I constantly had makeup on, or perhaps he just didn’t know how to bring it up. Either way, it wasn’t his fault. Even though we didn’t work out in the end, he was a really good guy (god forbid he ever reads this) — and I know he would have been supportive if I’d have opened up. The issue was in my head and my head only. I’d convinced myself that my skin was the be-all-and-end-all and that no one could possibly love me if they saw my spots. I know that’s complete crap now — but I didn’t realise at the time.
Acne in a relationship: How I overcame my no-makeup fears
When I first started dating my boyfriend Jack, I wouldn’t even let him see me without makeup, which seems insane to me now. I carried on with the take-makeup-off-and-instantly-reapply-concealer routine for a good few months, but it all changed when we went travelling to India together.
In the run-up to the trip, I was really worried. How would I hide my acne whilst spending nights on sleeper trains (one of which, was 48 hours long), sleeping in hostels and living out of a backpack for a month? The thing is, I was getting sick and tired of hiding my real skin. I decided, by myself, that I’d wear minimal makeup and would remove it entirely every night. And I just did it.
Guess what? I don’t think Jack even noticed. Okay, my skin wasn’t exactly at its worst at that point, but it was still a huge deal to me. It clearly wasn’t for him though. It was like nothing had even changed. I think I’d convinced myself that guys would only love me with makeup, but it was a total myth. It’s funny how your mind can trick you into these things.
If my skin had been worse at that point, maybe he’d have noticed a little more — but in all honesty, I don’t think it would have changed his perception of me at all. The truth is, if a guy likes you enough to commit to you (and in my case, spend their savings on a trip to India with you) they’re probably sticking around for far more than your looks.
Anyway, fast forward through our relationship and he’s seen my skin through all its ups and downs. He literally doesn’t care, other than in a supportive way, of course. When my skin was bad, he’d talk to me about it and ask me how I felt, and when I was taking spironolactone and accutane, he’d ask me if there was anything he could do to help. He encouraged me to go out without makeup on, told me I was beautiful regardless and just generally accepted me exactly the way I was.
If you’ve had bad experiences with dating and acne so far, there are so many good guys and girls out there, who will accept you whether you have acne or not. I promise.
Dating with acne: My tips + advice
Now that you’ve heard my story, I want to give you something to take away and think about for yourself. If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re feeling insecure about your skin, have avoided dating because of acne or are scared to show your partner your skin without makeup on. With that said, here’s what I’d recommend you do, in order to tackle these problems:
First, realise your worth
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again. If you don’t love yourself, how can you expect someone else to love you? You are your first love. Your first priority. Your own number 1. You’re really damn important, worthy and amazing — breakouts or not. And the first step to getting rid of your dating with acne fears is realising and remembering that.
Here’s the thing. I believe that the fear of taking your makeup off in front of a partner doesn’t actually come directly from your acne or the condition of your skin, but rather, a lack of self-esteem and your inner critic. I’m not saying these things are easy to turn around. I know that acne can impact mental health. But there’s no better time than today to start working on silencing that negative voice inside your head and realising your worth.
Your value as a person doesn’t depend on how clear your skin is, what clothes size you are or how many spots you have. These things don’t define us. Your outer appearance says nothing — and I mean zilch — about your character. Think about it all the amazing things about you. What have you achieved in your life, big or small? How have you positively impacted the world or other people? What are you good at? What do people say about your personality, your work or the way you make them feel? Do you make make people smile and laugh? I can guarantee there are tons of positive things about you if you really think about it.
You need to respect yourself for who you really are — a unique individual with endless qualities, talents and quirks. Our outer appearance will always change, but what’s found within us never will. So, from today, try your hardest to stop basing your worth on your superficial exterior, and rather, on your character.
Next, take off the damn make-up
Sometimes, you just have to force yourself off your comfort zone in order to grow as a person — and this is one of those situations. No, I’m not saying you should whack out a pack of face wipes on a first date. But if you’ve been seeing a guy or a girl for some time and see a future with them, just take off the damn make-up when the natural opportunity arises.
If you’re really fighting the nerves, you could always have a heart to heart with them first. Tell them that you’re struggling with acne and are scared of taking your makeup off in front of them. People are often way more understanding than you think, and it might make the whole process a lot easier for you. In fact, I bet that most people would give you a hug and tell you you’re being super silly. It’s not that they’re not respecting your feelings (because they are totally valid), but more because it simply isn’t a big deal for them.
It might feel uncomfortable and awkward to you at first, but it can only go one of two ways. 1: They see your acne and don’t care, because they’ve fallen for you as a person and still think you’re beautiful. 2: They’re super shallow, vain and superficial and make an inappropriate comment or don’t want to see you anymore.
Before that scares you, I promise the first situation is far more likely. But even if you were to get a bad response from someone, think of this way — would you have really wanted to date them anyway? You deserve someone who loves you for far more than what your skin looks like. And the types of people who judge people for a skin condition are not the kind of people you need or want in your life.
I can say from experience that once you’ve done this once, it’s not scary anymore. It’s such a freeing feeling to be able to take off your makeup in front of someone you like, or love, and feel totally comfortable around them. And this way, you know you’re with someone who will accept you no matter what, and who genuinely cares for you and respects you as a person.
Plus, try to remember that no one has perfect skin. The flawless selfies you see on Instagram are not real life and the models you see in magazines are often Photoshopped. Blemishes, spots and imperfections are totally normal — and any mature, self-respecting adult knows this and knows that they have no business judging you for yours.
So, just take the damn makeup off in front of your date. I’ve got a solid bet on the fact that they won’t even care (or notice)… and if they do? Well, that brings us onto my last point.
Lastly, tell ‘em where to go
Listen to me. If you take your makeup off in front of a love interest (or anyone, for that matter) and they make you feel small, say something nasty or just generally act like a horrible and judgemental person, there’s only one thing you need to do: get them out of your life, pronto.
While this scenario is entirely unlikely, there are some bad people out there. But you deserve a relationship filled with love and respect — and you definitely shouldn’t waste your time on someone who judges you for a skin condition that is out of your control. If they see your skin as a roadblock to a relationship or make fun of you for your acne, say a polite (ha, well…) goodbye. I promise there are plenty of lovely people who will love and support you exactly the way you are.
Dating when you have acne: It’s tough, but you’ve got this
Having skin problems and low self-esteem whilst dating, or having acne in a new relationship, can be daunting. But you shouldn’t have to cover yourself in makeup to feel accepted in front of anyone, let alone someone you’re interested in romantically. Try to remember that you’re valuable with or without acne and that you deserve a relationship with a genuine, kind and non-judgemental person who will love you no matter what state your skin is in.
I’ve found someone who’s accepted me when my skin was covered in 20 cysts, when I’d managed to get rid of my acne, and everything in between. And there’s someone like that out there for you too! If you’re scared of showing them your real skin, tell them how you feel, take a deep breath and take off the damn makeup. It might just be the moment you realise that you’ve found the one!