How to feel confident in your skin

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Do you feel comfortable in your skin?

For a really long time, I didn’t. More specifically, the skin on my face.

When I first read this article on The Pool about living with acne it made me feel quite emotional.

And (to my surprise), so did seeing Kendall Jenner looking amazing that time she had a bit of acne on the red carpet.

The relationship you have with your own face is a complex one. In many ways, more complex than the one you have with your body. Your face is synonymous with who you are, because that’s how people determine it’s really you. Only your closest companions recognise you for your distinguished sense of style or your shapely bum. The rest of the world goes by your eyes, nose, ears, mouth, hair and skin.

So, on days where your face feels particularly imperfect, it really comes as no surprise that we harbour those feelings on the inside, too.

Acne has been depicted an ‘ugly’, ‘dirty’, ‘unhealthy’, ‘geeky’, ‘teenage’ misfortune, historically, since forever. And so, thanks to the nature of our society, sufferers risk associating those traits with who they are.  Which, of course, is categorically untrue.

BUT. The world is changing. Namely, the beauty industry. And ‘real beauty’ has become a primary focus. With the anti-airbrush movement, more and more brands are depicting the reality of acne and imperfections in a kind, helpful, empowering way. That tutorial from Fenty was a great start. Yes, she’s still covering it up, but she’s confident, she has real acne, and she’s helping to empower others.

Brands are working harder than ever to show real women. Missguided pretty much nailed it with their Keep Being You and Make Your Mark campaigns. It’s the unapologetic attitude and sheer confidence that make them so empowering.

I genuinely think that if such positive representations of ‘skin’ had been around when I was a teenager, I would have felt very different about myself. More than that, I would feel very different about myself today. Not because I still have acne, but because the relationship I have with my skin was irreparably damaged from a young age. I assimilated beauty with perfect skin, and rarely felt beautiful because of it.

I was 13 when my skin started to change. Teenagers change enough at that age without the added onslaught of painful red spots all over your forehead and a never-ending layer of grease. I started covering my skin with thick foundation and layers of pressed power from then on. I wore make-up to school every single day. Not because I hated my face. I always liked my face. But because I was desperate to gain control of my unruly, painful skin.

This is kind of gross but I’ll tell it anyway. I remember hanging out in Mcdonalds with a group of boys two years above (I know, I’m even cooler than you thought). I went to the toilets, looked in the mirror, and to my horror, a painful, under-the-skin spot, had broken though my chin with a pronounced bubble of yellow pus. Yum. I squeezed it, and it bled. It bled and bled and bled. I must have stayed in the toilets for about 20 minutes, waiting for it to stop. Eventually feigning illness as I quickly ran past the boys and darted home in despair.

I literally LOL thinking about that sort of thing now, but, without the right guidance (and sense of humour) being a teenager with problem skin is just not all that fun. Fortunately, my mum introduced me to tea tree oil and a gentle cleansing routine before taking me to the doctors.

Acne sufferers will know, you’re often met with a feeling of having no control of your destiny. Who knows what the next day of pimples will bring. And for about 10 years, I woke up to a new spot, pretty much every bloody morning.

Not only are there psychological associations around the ‘ugliness’ of acne, there’s also a significant physical aspect. Pain, blood, pus, bruising, headaches, the works. The combination of the two can honestly feel totally debilitating. No wonder lots of acne sufferers cancel plans or call in sick to work on particularly bad days.

I feel so unbelievably grateful that now, aged 29, my spots are few and far between. My skin is still sensitive and quite oily, but rarely red or painful. I grew out of it, and I’m one of the lucky ones.

But I still have a precarious relationship with my skin. It’s hard to shift after years of inspecting my pores with a magnifying mirror each morning. I still have to remind myself that I don’t have to opt for the high-coverage products I reach for out of habit. Foundation is still my comfort blanket, but I’ve learned to live without it, too.

And the viral campaigns that Missguided have been owning this year, which celebrate even more than just imperfect skin, make me happy. Happy for the teenage me that needed to see them. And for the teenagers that will grow up with a different, well-rounded understanding of what real skin and real beauty looks like, as more and more brands begin to evolve.

I wrote this post because actually, right now, my skin is the best it’s been in ages, and I can’t help but notice how different I feel, which is sort of sad. I’m still learning to keep hold of that ‘I love how I look’ feeling, no matter what my skin is doing.

I’m slightly tanned (which helps) but I haven’t worn foundation this month. Just a little CC Cream and powder.

And on that note, here are the products I’m loving right now – recommended for sensitive, oily skin.

 

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Mabel + Meg Lumilixir Serum, £29

 

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La Roche Posay Effaclar Mat, £16

 

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The Body Shop Instaglow CC Cream in Peachy Glow, £15

 

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Estee Lauder Double Wear Powder Make-Up, £35

 

 

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Lesson 20: feeling comfortable in your own skin

Like Her Type - Corin Jackson

Flawless skin fascinates me. Perhaps this is because I’ve worn foundation since I was 13, or perhaps I’ve read too many magazines. Either way, a perfect complexion is something I will probably never have. And I’m ok with that, most of the time.

Anyone who has ever suffered with acne, scarring, eczema, psoriasis, warts, thread veins, poor circulation, dry skin or any other unwanted skin complaint will understand the psychological implications that inevitably come with them. It’s one thing feeling completely dependent on makeup to feel like you, but it’s something entirely different feeling like you have no control over your own body. You feel at war with yourself. You’ve tried every medicated cream, cleanser and herbal remedy on the market and still the soreness, redness and itching prevails. Problem skin is expensive and time consuming if nothing else. You feel as if on the surface, your body isn’t performing the way it’s supposed to. You feel disconnected from yourself, like there’s something wrong with you that you don’t understand, or that you’re being punished for something you didn’t do. It’s a frustrating battle, but, reassuringly, one that many people can relate to. According to the British Skin Foundation, acne affects 80% of women in the UK before the age of 21.

I think a lot of my insecurities are linked to having acne as a teenager. Your teenage years are awkward enough without having relentless outbreaks of painful spots all over your face. I don’t think anyone can fully appreciate how it feels unless they’ve experienced it firsthand. Imagine you’re 15 and planning a party, you’ve spent all your money on a new outfit, the boy you like is going to be there, you wake up with a load of spots in the middle of your face and all your confidence and excitement goes completely out of the window. I assumed I’d outgrow my breakouts eventually, and I did to some extent, but there rarely goes a day where I’m 100% spot-free, particularly if I’m stressed. On top of this, I have terrible circulation (a running joke with my friends), so my skin tone has a mind of its own, too. I think as you get older, you learn to laugh at yourself a lot more. Thank god. Taking your appearance seriously all the time is exhausting.

The reason I’m writing about this is because having problem skin can feel alienating, embarrassing and a bit hopeless. In reality, of course, it’s completely normal. The lucky few with flawless complexions are the anomalies. And besides, how lucky am I that the rest of my body is perfectly healthy? Far too often, we become so preoccupied with the things that are obviously ‘wrong’ that we take all the good things for granted. I might have been applying multiple products to my face every morning for as long as I remember, but if that’s one of my major complaints in life then I should probably keep quiet. I know it’s long, I know it’s uncomfortable and I know it seems endless, but it could be so much worse. If you feel hard-done by, or like you don’t want to leave the house, read about the struggles of people who physically can’t leave the house. Focus your energy on the fact that some people are allergic to sunlight, and then force yourself to go about your day the way they wish they could.

It’s not easy to cast your insecurities to one side, so here are a few little tips from one acne sufferer to another:

  1. Always remind yourself that people don’t fixate on your flaws the way you do. Your skin often feels worse than it looks
  1. Confidence, kindness and a beautiful smile stand out far more than a couple of spots
  1. Very few people get as close to your skin as you do in the mirror
  1. Even Kate Moss gets spots
  1. You could have allergies or a hormonal imbalance, so seek advice from a doctor and dermatologist
  1. Reducing the amount of sugar and alcohol you consume can make a big difference
  1. Estee Lauder Double Wear Foundation and Mineral Rich Loose Powder changed my life – but refrain from applying layers and layers of the stuff
  1. Always moisturise your skin, even if it’s oily – depriving your skin of oil will only encourage it to produce more oil
  1. Smashbox Photo Finish Primer actually works
  1. Be kind to your body – that healthy glow often only comes from inside

Perhaps the biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone feeling uncomfortable in their own skin is to remember this: our personal interpretation of perfection is only desirable because we are programmed to want what we can’t have. The sooner we learn to appreciate what we do have, the happier we’ll feel.