When you have adult acne, it's easy to feel like you're the only one getting breakouts past the age of 18. However, anywhere between 12% and 22% of women are are ages 26 through 44 experience acne, and that number is increasing by the day (on the other hand, only around 3% of adult men experience the condition). In our new series Acne Diaries, we're asking influential women who happen to have acne about their relationship to their skin, and the products they rely on to keep it happy. Next up: wellness influencer Olivia Noceda.
For many of us, acne is something we keep secret, slathering our faces with makeup and hiding prescription ointments behind expensive products in pretty packaging. Wellness influencer Olivia Noceda does things a little differently. In between typical aspirational content—think cute workout sets, colorful smoothies, and farmers’ market flowers—are flashes of her makeup-free face and honest captions about the realities of dealing with acne.
She hasn't always been so open about it, though. Noceda's acne story is as classic as it gets: She started breaking out in middle school and struggled through high school, cycling through the usual derm-prescribed options but stopping short of Accutane because her dad was a doctor and didn't want her on such a hard-core medication. She was miserable. And as she entered college, it got worse.
“It was so difficult for me,” she tells Glamour. “This is where my body image issues started, that went hand in hand [with my skin issues]. I saw all of these girls who had grown out of ‘childhood’ hormonal acne, and I still had it. And now you're at a point where you're older, where it feels like the end of the world if you don't have a date to a party, or if you don't have a boyfriend in college.”
She notes that she felt extra insecure because she was part of a sorority and always around other women. “Being placed next to girls and feeling like their skin is your skin's competition, it was the worst thing,” she says. “I was so sad about it.”
Hoping to clear it up, Noceda went on hormonal birth control and started wearing heavy makeup for the first time. “I was like, ‘Okay, this is it.’ I have no other option,” she recalls. Save for an incident with a massive forehead pimple on the day of her senior semiformal, the birth control and her hot yoga habit started having an effect on her skin. For the first time, it was totally clear.
However, a move to Portland, Oregon, when she was 24 sent things into a tailspin. “I remember calling my parents, sobbing,” Noceda says. “It was like, when will this end? Even at this point, I knew myself well enough to know that this doesn't affect my personality or who I am. But I was in physical pain, and I didn't want to be in pain anymore. I would go out and try not to think about my acne, but then it starts to hurt, and you're thinking about it, and you feel ugly.”
She continues, “It's this vicious cycle of never being able to let go. There was one day where I had a zit on my lower lip; I remember I spent the entire day just putting my hand up to cover it…. I couldn't focus on anything else.”
In her late 20s, Nocenda’s skin cleared again when she started spironolactone, a blood pressure medication often used for hormonal acne. Again, her skin was in a good place—until last summer, when she decided to get off both the medication and birth control to regulate her hormones and moved across the country to New York City. “It was by far the hardest five months of acne I've ever experienced,” she says. “I felt like, as a 28-year-old, I don't deserve acne.” She says it got so bad that she would apologize profusely to her new (now long-term) boyfriend for always breaking out.
Now she describes her skin as “really, really clear” and hopes it stays that way (minus the scarring). She's not happy about her breakouts, but she's learning to accept them. “When it's been a long time, you get to a point where you get so worn down that you just can't care anymore,” she says. “I think part of it was coming to terms with the person I am, and knowing that I'm so much more than my skin.”
“I've come to realize that my skin does not define who I am,” she continues. “But you still feel terrible when you have acne. It doesn't matter what age you are, what mindset you're in. It still sucks. It's so important for women to know they can commiserate and say, ‘No, this fucking sucks.’”
“It's okay to say, ‘I feel like shit.’ And then sit that in that shit and recognize it,” she says. “And then say, ‘I know I feel like shit. And now I'm going to keep going with my day.’ You move on, and you learn how to stay present in your moment. That's the beauty of being alive.”
Below, Nocenda shares what's been keeping her skin in a good place and boosting her confidence.
The thing I have been loving most recently is my humidifier. I got it a few months ago. It's the Canopy humidifier, and it's so cool. I wake up every day and am like, “Oh wow, I can actually feel the moisture in my skin!” It's amazing.
$150.00, Violet Grey
I have a facialist here in New York and a facialist in California. Both of those women have saved my life. In New York I see Sofie Pavitt; she is the absolute best, and I'm so so grateful for her and everything she's done for me. She's really helped me. I've been seeing her and doing her acne program since November 2020.
In California I see Elizabeth from Honest Rituals; she is freaking incredible. She's more holistic. She does a lot of massage and will literally shape your face with her hands. She is so amazing. It's crazy how much she's helped me since I started seeing her in 2018; she changed my skin. Whenever I go back to L.A., I see her. I can't live without her.
I realized how much gut health is connected to my skin, and how seriously actually being able to wake up and take a probiotic every day has changed my life in so many ways. I noticed my skin got so much better when I started taking it. The Seed probiotic is a big one.
A good night’s sleep
Sleep is like the one thing I can't live without. I love sleep. I'm obsessed with sleep. When I'm not sleeping, my skin starts to freak out 1,000%. My skin looks so much different when I'm able to get a good sleep at night.
My red light
I just started using the best red light that I really love; it's called the LightStim. It's been such a huge contributor that actually helps with my scarring. I use it about every other night. I've been interested in trying out one of those facial masks too, but they're so expensive. But the LightStim has been helping a ton.
I always have a hard time talking about facial products, because I really don't think one size fits all. There's also so much good stuff on the market, and I'm in the midst of trying a few new things—I'm testing some prescription topicals from Hers and Apostrophe.
But one thing I always like to use is the Youth to the People Superfood Cleanser. It's very noninvasive. It's a simple, gentle cleanser that works nicely with my skin.
$36.00, Youth To The People
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty writer at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.
Originally Appeared on Glamour