When you have adult acne, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one getting breakouts past the age of 18. However, anywhere between 12% and 22% of women ages 26 to 44 experience acne, and that number is increasing by the day (on the other hand, only around 3% of adult men experience the condition). In our new series, Acne Diaries, we’re asking influential women who happen to have acne about their relationship to their skin, and the products they rely on to keep it happy.
From a young age, Priscilla Tsai says, acne has been a constant in her life. The founder of skin-care brand Cocokind recalls waking up early in middle school to help her older sister cover pimples on her face and back, perfecting her own makeup before heading to class, and waiting for the day when she would start getting breakouts of her own. “It was always this thing that I dreaded, but I knew it was coming for me too,” Tsai tells Glamour.
And come for her it did. Tsai struggled with cystic acne during high school, but it hit her especially hard in college and her early 20s. “It impacted so much of that time period of my life,” she says. “You know, really simple things like always looking for a high-back dress to cover up bacne, or basically avoiding daytime parties because I didn’t want my skin to be inflamed or super red very visibly.” She always tried to hide her skin and carried makeup for touch-ups at all times. “I was also this very desperate consumer, trying everything that I could under the sun, and just wasting a ton of money on the most expensive products, or the newest latest thing, not really understanding anything about it.”
Tsai cycled through prescriptions from her dermatologist, but that only seemed to exacerbate the problem. “My skin was very sensitized,” she says. “Pretty much every day it would be burning and red, and then I’d have to cover it up with makeup, and it’d be scaling by the end of the day, and the next morning, I’d do it all over again. It was a very miserable experience, both physically and emotionally. I remember feeling like I didn’t really see other people who had acne and it just felt very lonely. And I knew from my sister’s experience, it wasn’t something that was going to go away. I knew that this was very much hormonal cystic acne, and it was not your typical breakout.”
In 2014, Tsai left her job as an equity researcher at J.P. Morgan and started Cocokind, a conscious skin-care brand focused on gentle yet effective formulas at an affordable price point. Today the brand’s products—including the cult-favorite skin-care sticks and viral chlorophyll mask—are carried at Ulta, Target, and Whole Foods. “I never expected, ever, that I would start a skin care company because this was my biggest insecurity,” she says, adding that she was always self-conscious of people “evaluating” her skin.
And these fears only intensified as she grew her brand. “I was like, ‘Are people going to trust me? Are they going to believe the brand if I don’t have perfect skin?’ That wasn’t really an example that I had seen before in the industry,” she says. “I really didn’t start Cocokind confident in my skin.”
Though it didn’t happen overnight, with the passing of time and her new products, Tsai’s skin improved—but the evidence never really vanished. “I might not break out as much today, [but] you still see the scars and the texture of my skin,” she says.