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Acne’s toll on self esteem

July 24, 2018 | UCI Health
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Breanna Janssen went to the UCI Health Dermatology Center for acne scar treatment, but received much more than that.

For a long time, life wasn’t all that kind to Breanna Janssen.

Spending a great deal of her youth in foster care left her without much stability. Then a severe case of acne that began in early adolescence robbed her of her self-esteem. But Janssen has navigated her way to a fulfilling life.

Now 31, a mother and a senior at Cal State Fullerton, Janssen went to the UCI Health Dermatology Center for acne scar treatment. Recognizing the emotional pain caused by her acne, veteran dermatologist Dr. Christopher Zachary treated both body and soul.

Breanna’s story

The first signs that I had of acne were around seventh grade.

It started on my forehead, but then it spread to the rest of my face, chest and back. I was taken from my uncle when I was 13 and put in the foster care system in Riverside, where my acne remained untreated.

On a visit, one of my aunts saw how bad it was and took me to a dermatologist at Loma Linda. I was prescribed Accutane, and I was beyond thrilled to begin getting the acne under control.

Physical and emotional scars

Unfortunately, the damage was already done. It was cystic acne and had caused scarring. I can still remember bouncing from foster home to foster home and school to school and the kids taunting me. I had other foster kids tell me I was disgusting.

Once, when a cyst on my forehead broke open, one of the foster kids said, ‘Hey, your face is leaking.’ Classmates would call me pizza face to make their friends laugh. I was very depressed.

I eventually aged out of the foster care system and the scars faded ever so slowly, but I wasn’t able to shake the things people had said to me.

Healing from her past

I decided I wanted to heal from my past and contacted Dr. Christopher Zachary at UCI Health. I wanted to see how much laser treatment for my scars would cost. I wanted to stop living in the depression and do something about the scars.

From the moment I met Dr. Zachary, he was amazing. He asked me why I was there and what I was hoping to gain. I told him a little bit about my past and how I wanted to save money for laser treatment. He wasn’t going to let me leave the office without services, and he immediately put my consultation fee to use that day.

An understanding doctor

Even though he said my scars weren’t that bad, he understood how deeply rooted my problem was and that it had little to do with how my skin looked that day. He surprised me with four pro bono visits of micro-needling to promote collagen growth and dermal filler injections for the deeper-pitted scars.

From that day on, I began to feel better about myself and my appearance. Now I walk around with my head held high, knowing I am doing something to change my scars —inside and out — and that I have the best team on my side during my journey.

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