Parallel Stories: Growing Up with Acne

Parallel Stories: Growing Up with Acne

by Natalise Kalea Robinson

Middle school can be categorized as a scary, bizarre and confusing time for everyone. For me, it meant watching my face change into someone else’s face that I could no longer recognize. By the age of fourteen, I was struggling with bouts of hormonal acne, blackheads, and papules on my forehead that were painful to the touch. Not only did it rock my confidence as a young adolescent who was going through puberty, but it changed me into a girl who was afraid to speak up because I was embarrassed of my face.

I decided to talk to my primary doctor to see if there was anything she could do to help me rid my face of the red dots that mysteriously appeared and seemed to affect every aspect of my life. She referred me to a dermatologist who then prescribed me Aczone 5% topical gel, Adapalene 0.1% topical gel, and an oral isotretinoin. I was so excited that maybe I’d feel comfortable and confident in my skin again. I used the topical gels every morning and night, without missing a single day in hopes that my acne would rid itself from my face and never come back. I took the pill I was prescribed religiously, bringing it to every sleepover and every birthday party to make sure I stayed on track. 

I remember the Aczone having a minimal adjusting period. This was perfect for me at the time as I was close to starting high school, and I remember having deep concerns about the state of my skin before entering a whole different world. The two gels did wonders for my face, improving texture and reducing inflammation that I had been experiencing since the beginning of puberty. My side effects were minimal, but definitely existent. I remember it affecting my menstrual cycle, as the isotretinoin was altering my hormone levels. It made my period irregular, and changed my flow pattern. I also recall having dry skin in the areas that I applied the gel to. While the dryness wasn’t ideal, I was grateful that my skin was finally starting to even out. 

For two years, I stayed on these medications. When I was about sixteen years old, I decided to go on the birth control pill. My doctor had recommended that I stop taking the isotretinoin pill before starting on birth control as an attempt to try and regulate my hormone levels. She also informed me that the birth control pill helps with breakouts as well, so I was basically getting a 2-for-1 deal. About six months after I started on the pill, I stopped using the topical gels as well. Being able to pare down on the medications was a relief. It was important to me to try and wean off of the chemicals that I had been applying twice a day for the past two years. It had been a long journey. In the end I was, and am, so grateful for having access to great doctors, to have taken the clinical steps, and to become comfortable and confident in my skin again. 

Looking back on those dreadful days, I am so glad I took control into my own hands and reached out for help. I learned at a critical stage in my life what it meant to be disciplined in my own routine, to be confident in my looks as well as my voice (regardless of what I was experiencing), and the importance of taking the time to discover the appropriate treatment. 

Today, I still have a disciplined skincare routine that I maintain on a daily basis. In the morning, this includes a soft cleanser, vitamin C serum, a niacinamide moisturizer, and SPF. At night, I use the same cleanser, finished with an intense peptide moisturizer to lock in hydration overnight. 

That being said, I am really eager to get my Parallel Health swab kit so I can learn about my specific skin microbiome. Taking care of your skin is a lifelong project, and I want to do what is best for my skin, especially as I get into my 20s and 30s. I still get the occasional red bump on my face, and it would be really nice to be able to use a personalized product that’s effective, but also sustainable, organic, and natural.  Once I get my swab results, I look forward to getting my personalized Parallel serum sent to me, and add that to my daily routine. What’s exciting is that I can continue to test twice a year to make sure that my skin microbiome is healthy as I go through life’s changes. While I appreciate my journey, my hope is that others who experience the same issues that I had can seek more targeted solutions with quicker results and not have to go through the ups and downs of long-term acne.

If you’re interested in  learning more about Parallel’s skin microbiome test and personalized skincare, go to or if you have questions for me, please reach out:


About Me

Hi! I’m Zara and I’m a fourth year student at San Diego State University. This summer, I’m interning at Parallel and enjoying learning about the science behind skincare! I love going on walks in my neighborhood, finding a good book, and watching old movie classics. Currently, I am reading “When the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. One day I hope to start a book club of my own!

About Parallel

A parallel world lives amongst us: the microbial world. This world impacts not only our lifespan, but also our healthspan.

Our mission is to empower people with real science to make meaningful skincare decisions to improve their healthspan, mental well-being, and self-confidence.

Parallel is a next-generation skin health company providing effective, personalized skincare and testing, powered by genomics, skin microbiome science, and machine learning.

Related Articles

Get Started

Discover your skin microbiome, then receive a monthly supply of your Custom Active Phage Serum. Includes free testing every 6 months + 1:1 clinical guidance..
Discover your skin microbiome in a problem area on your body and learn how to improve balance.
Discover your odor microbiome and learn what makes up your unique scent.