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.
Mabel + Meg Lumilixir Serum, £29
La Roche Posay Effaclar Mat, £16
The Body Shop Instaglow CC Cream in Peachy Glow, £15