The Cetaphil Commitment

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

My take on the ManRepeller Writer’s Club Challenge

The prompt: We want to hear about what you think is the most worthy/underrated/surprisingly useful commitment: the little thing you do that makes the biggest difference in your life.

[February 8, 2020]

I remember standing in the garage of my childhood home as my mother was starting the car, getting ready to bring me to the first football game of the season. I wore the best maroon and gold school spirit I had, but it wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t a white, satiny football jersey with a boy’s last name on it. Not a boyfriend, a crush, or even a completely platonic friend had considered asking me to wear their jersey before the lights went up on the first game.

A lump sat in my throat and the hot tears rolled down my swollen and greasy cheeks. I wouldn’t even come close to getting a jersey — it was the acne.

My face was a battlefield and the late August humidity was no help. Neither was the harsh chlorine waters I spent hours in every day at swim practice. The three-step process kits, the pills, the birth control. None could tame my wild face.

“Look at me,” I said to my mom. “I don’t even want to go if I look like this.”

I could see the heartbreak across her face in the driver’s seat.

“Ok. We’ll do something about it,” she vowed, “Right away on Monday, I’ll call a dermatologist.”

Accutane was the instant answer — deduced not ten minutes into my first appointment. I took pregnancy tests (and hadn’t even had my first kiss) every month, get a blood sample, took online courses to ensure I knew about side effects.

But it would all be worth it, because they told me my skin would be flawless by prom.

I’d just gotten my driver’s license, meaning I attended my monthly appointment all alone — getting two hours completely to myself on a school morning as I drove up and down I-35. Even though I was usually given a nurse-in-training that couldn’t quite get the finger prick on the first try, I came to love those appointment mornings. I found a Starbucks down the street where I’d stop in for an extra-sugary latte. I’d listen to Taylor Swift on repeat. Even now, when I hear that “Red” album, it reminds me of drives where I’d sing to boys I was too afraid to talk to in person.

Given that Accutane sheds your skin like a snake only to grow back a healthier, acne-free one, I was given strict rules on how to care for my face. Keep it simple. Use a basic Cetaphil face wash, Vaseline on your lips, thick lotion. No fancy exfoliators or glittery face masks.

And so, I stuck to it. For six months of cracked lips and irritated, flaky skin, I pushed through hoping a more beautiful version of me was on the other side.

And finally, I felt that the new sixteen year-old me had arrived. I could now walk into a room and not watch someone’s eyes dart quickly down to my cheeks. I didn’t have to keep a tissue in my pocket in case a zit started bleeding. The kids at my local YMCA job stopped asking me, “What’s all that red stuff on your face?”

I was able to focus, just a little bit more, on being me. There was still a sea of high school insecurities, but I was just a little bit more afloat.

Maybe it’s fear of changing this ever-so-simple and delicate routine, or maybe it’s averting from other pricey options, but I’ve used Cetaphil every day since that first appointment. Now that I finally have skin I can breathe easy in, I’ve made it a commitment throughout my life. I’m never the girl that falls asleep with makeup on. I wear sunscreen on my face, even if I choose to be delinquent and ignore other incredibly pale parts of my body. And I (try to) remember to give myself grace when that occasional tiny zit sprouts up. I’ve had the experience to know how much worse it could be.

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