Martha Rotter, a software engineer, grew up near St. Louis. She did not have skin problems in high school or college. After college, she spent six years in Seattle. Her skin got a little worse. In 2007, she moved to Dublin to work for an Irish branch of Microsoft. Six months after the move, she noticed her skin was worse than it had been in Seattle. In Seattle she would get a little acne or blemishes for a week or so and then they would go away. In Dublin, they weren't going away.
Her skin got worse. A year after moving to Dublin, it was always bad. The spots and sores were always uncomfortable — "a headache on my face," she says. They were painful to touch. At one point Martha got a massage. Forgetting her warning, the masseuse rubbed oil on Martha's face. She screamed. "One of the most painful things ever," she says.
Is my job making my skin bad? she wondered. She was working a lot, taking clients out, losing sleep. She started to go out less so that she could get more sleep. She stopped working on weekends. This didn't help.
She tried many skin creams and face washes. "Neutrogena and Clearasil make a lot of products," she says. "On a bad day I could easily drop $50 on two or three things." For several months, she spent $100/month on creams, astringents, and soaps trying to find something that worked. Nothing did.
She tried fitness. She went to the gym four or five times per week. She took yoga. Maybe this would help her relax and improve her mood, she thought. Her skin stayed bad.
In the summer of 2008, she read The Acne Prescription (2003) by Nicholas Perricone. The book says that certain foods, such as salmon, blueberries, and spinach, will make your skin better. It had many before and after pictures. "Now people would be more cynical because of his skin care line and vitamins," she says. "Back then they weren't around or I didn't know about them." Perricone's advice didn’t help.
In December 2008, she went home for Christmas. She hadn't seen her family for nine months. "They were surprised by my face," she says. They asked about it. "When a family member mentions something, that makes you realize it's obvious to everyone." She had been pretending to herself that other people didn't notice. After her family's comments, she didn't want to leave the house or have any pictures taken.