There are good things and bad things about growing up without acne. The major positive is that...you don't have to deal with acne. The negative that sticks out in my mind is that you have no earthly idea what to do with yourself when the errant pimple comes your way. “Don't pick at your skin,” means absolutely nothing when you have nothing to pick at; so the minute a little whitehead appears on your chin, all bets are off. For me, it was always a hands-on affair.
What I really dreaded was blackheads. I may not have had to combat ruthless cystic pimples throughout adolescence, but I was acutely aware that blackheads could happen to anyone. Science hasn't deduced yet at what age your pores become giant blackholes that eat everything up with abandon. But it's a fact of life. I noticed little black spots flecking the nose of just about everyone I met, whether they were plagued with acne or not. Unfortunately, there's no comfort in knowing everyone's got dirt in their pores when you do, too. It's all just kind of gross.
A common thread of discussion—especially among the #ITGTopShelfies I edit—is that people are often introduced to their own facedirt by their mothers hovering over them, squeezing their pores. My brother and I both fell victim to my mother's rather ruthless annihilation of our zits (in her defense, she is really good at it—dermatology is probably her missed calling), until she bought us our own blackhead removal tools. And all of a sudden, I was in control of my own facedirt destiny.
If you're in the dark on the wonders of a blackhead tool, I caution you from googling. Some people really love watching YouTube videos of others scooting sebum out of their noses with the little metal loop; I am not one of those people. Doing it on myself is enough. Most of the time, I use it on a targeted clogged pore—one that's in a hard to reach area or at a funny angle (noses are weird, guys). My roommate purchased one when a blackhead on her ear was driving her mad. The technique is simple: Find a blackhead you want to extinguish from existence. Place either one of the Tweezerman No-Slip Skin Care Tool's loops around it. Press down. In most cases, whatever's in there will pop right out, no muss, no fuss.
I'm sure there are many people who would argue that using force to get anything out of your skin is detrimental in the long run, and I hear them. These days, when I'm too lazy to rake the loops over my nose, I'll slather on some Darphin Overnight Refining Lotion, which is the only topical solution that's ever worked against the intractable blackheads that call my nose home. Give it two days of continual use and all of a sudden, you've restored your nose's youthful vigor.
Photographed by Tom Newton.