What not to say to someone with cystic acne.

Posting my two month check in yesterday was liberating! I know my skin is nowhere near perfect, but I’m so astounded of the progress it has made due to my dietary changes. Food really does heal. I can’t wait to get my health coaching certification and help others come to this realization…but that’s a story for another day.

I still have a long way to go to heal my face completely. I don’t want to speak for every cystic acne sufferer, but after I booked my appointment with the Functional Medicine Center and started speaking openly about my skin (instead of pretending it wasn’t bothering me 100% of the time), I started noticing the comments from my friends, acquaintances, and everyone else I interact with on a regular basis. Five comments in particular really stand out, so I’ve compiled a lovely list of “What not to say to someone with cystic acne”…

“Oh, you’re a teacher? I thought you were a student!”

  • Okay, this one might just apply to a small section of cystic acne sufferers, but it really drives me nuts. Let’s check this situation really quick. I’m wearing professional attire. I’m lecturing on Chemistry. I’m talking about “my students.” I am bossing around a gaggle of teenagers. I am talking to you about why your student needs to select my school upon eighth grade graduation. I know my face leads you to believe that I’m 16, but I’m not. I promise. Oh, and now you’re going on and on about how you thought I was a student. And telling your whole family that you can’t believe I’m a teacher! Ask me how old I am. Do it. I know I have the face of a teenager. Thanks for reminding me.

“Let me buy you some soap.”

  • The scene: Post-thanksgiving dinner with my boyfriend’s whole family. Did not yet receive a call from the Functional Medicine Center, so I have no idea when I will be able to start the process. My boyfriend’s well-intentioned grandmother calls me over, and in front of the whole family, announces that she is going to buy me some new soap to try on my face. It took every ounce of my strength to not start bawling my eyes out. I sat down, fought back the tears in my eyes, and tried to continue with the evening while feeling as bad as I possibly could about myself. I promise, I’ve tried all the soaps. They’re not working. I know my face looks hideous. I’m trying to fix it.

“I’m sure they can just airbrush it out.”

  • My cousin wanted to get professional photos done for my Grandmother for Christmas. It was a last-minute idea, and she asked for my opinion. My response: “I think I’d rather wait until after I get my skin under control with the Functional Medicine Center, my appointment is next month. What about for her birthday?” When she argued back that they could just “airbrush it out,” it made me feel awful. Awful because I was struggling so badly with my self-confidence, and yet I was presented with the option to just pretend it didn’t exist. I didn’t want to give my Grandmother my fake photo. I can’t just pretend that my cystic acne doesn’t exist (I tried, for many months). It’s not her fault that she didn’t know how those words would impact me, but it still stung. Merry Christmas. Let the countdown to the Functional Medicine Center appointment begin.

“Don’t you think it’s just genetic?”

  • So, I’m certainly not a doctor. Further, it seems like actual doctors are really divided on this topic. However, I think the fact that I once had (mostly) clear skin and that my face didn’t explode until I was 25 years old actually matters. Not to mention, both of my parents have clear skin, as does the rest of my family. Even so,  I am on a very strict diet and have not had sugar/coffee/alcohol/any vice at all in a lot of days. So, really, that’s what you want to say? Instead, maybe support my interest in taking my health into my own hands. Just saying.

“I think you’re beautiful anyway.”

  • I’m a bit divided on this one. I know that the people that tried to make me feel better by saying “I think you’re beautiful anyway” really had my best interest in mind. Here’s why it hurts. To me, it feels like: “In spite of your hideous face, you’re still a nice person, and I know you probably think you’re hideous, but it will be okay.”  I can’t imagine what a tricky place my friends/family/colleagues are in when I mention my process with the Functional Medicine Center, and they’re responding as best they can. Unfortunately, it still hurts. Maybe that’s more my problem and lack of confidence in my appearance, but I’d rather they compliment the steps I’m taking to help my body heal, than tell me that I look okay despite my obvious cystic acne.

This post probably comes off as a rant, but I wanted to throw it out there. Words really do matter. My skin is still a work in progress, but I think it is making improvements every day. This whole process has helped me learn to support the intentions of my friends/family/coworkers in positive ways and to think through the impact of my words.

9 thoughts on “What not to say to someone with cystic acne.

    • Oh man – I didn’t even know that existed! I was planning on getting my certification through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (I’ve been thinking about it for over a year), but now I’ll definitely look into functionalmedicinecoaching.org! Have you completed the program?


      • I haven’t but am strongly considering starting in their July program. Do your homework on the IIN. I’ve heard some mixed reviews. But I suppose you’ll have that with anything… So you want to be a nutrition counselor (like Bridget) or a health coach (like Anna)? The one I want to do would be like Anna.


      • I’ve seen the mixed reviews online but I haven’t heard them in person. Do you know anyone who completed the IIN program and was dissatisfied? I definitely am more interested in the nutrition portion of our journey, but I know the IIN program won’t afford me with the same education as Brigid. I don’t really want to go back to traditional school though…so I’m conflicted! And it’s all so expensive!


      • No, I don’t know anyone personally who has gone through it so trust your gut. If it feels right to you, then do it! Especially if it’s the nutrition component you are after. It will be a certification and certainly valuable training. The health coach program is also $$$$. Yikes. Decisions, decisions.


  1. Well, I’m interested in these certifications so thanks for introducing me to that. You know, people say the darndest things, that’s for sure. You have to be confident, that’s all. Hey, last night we sat out with neighbors having a good time in our neighborhood and at the end of the evening one lady came and gave me a hug and said, “I had a great time tonight, I just love all my neighbors ~ Even you, Candice.” AWKWARD moment. LOL! People have to get to know me I guess and that’s my personality she’s talking about!

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