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 ages 26 to 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 farmer’s 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. I was so sad about it.”
In hopes 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 semi-formal, the birth control her hot yoga habit started working. For the first time, her skin was totally clear.
However, a move to Portland 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.