The first thing I think when I see a picture of anyone close to my age, is something along the lines of “lucky them with their clear skin” (occasionally with more anger and resentment). I understand that these girls are more often than not wearing makeup to cover up any spots or blemishes, but this then lead me envy their talent at applying makeup. It’s a vicious circle.
Unusually, my school years were generally spot free and it wasn’t until I was around sixteen years old that my skin demon began to rear it’s pustule ridden head. I won’t pretend that my acne is anything other than mild, I’ve seen pictures of true sufferers and am thankful that it isn’t worse, but for the past six years I’ve been waging war against it with varying degrees of success. I have oily skin, and although skin’s natural oils are supposed to aid its health and quality mine just encourages those individual infections that pop up all over my face.
I also won’t pretend that I’m not still self-conscious about a flare up; I feel like there’s something so shameful about spots, even though no one’s ever commented or even stared at my dotted skin. I have to assume then that the shame just exists inside my head. Although, there is still the mistaken opinion that spotty skin equals dirty skin, that perhaps an acne sufferer wears too much makeup or doesn’t wash his/her face enough, and speaking as someone who washes her face twice a day and wears no makeup that opinion can pack its bags and move far, far away.
There are some positives about adult acne. For one, people will assume you’re much younger as acne is associated with teenagers and their mess of hormones. For another, if skin’s natural oils help to keep skin healthy and hydrated then if you have particularly oily skin you should look shiny and youthful for longer. At least, that’s my hope. I only ask for an exchange of suffering and reward; I put up with the mild acne persisting well into my twenties, and when I’m forty I’ll still look thirty. That seems like a fair exchange to me.
It’s an awkward organ, this covering we all have. Either oily or dry, it cracks, gets eczema, rashes, infections, we judge other people based on the colour of it, and sometimes it grows cancerous moles and tries to kill us. When we’re young it gets spotty, when we’re older it gets wrinkles, and no matter what type of skin you have there’s always a load of useless advice on how to deal with the unique problems it causes. I’ve pasted moisturisers, spot creams and even oils on my face, as apparently the way to treat oily skin is to put more oil on it, and am on the way to accepting that this pale, blemished covering is the skin I was given.
Ironically, this is something every human being has in common. No matter the colour, the hair it grows or its consistency, your skin is perhaps the most important obstacle in your life. It takes time to get used to it, to get comfortable inside it, and that’s an ongoing struggle for everyone. For me, I’m learning that it doesn’t represent me as badly as I think it does, and if someone can’t look past a few spots staring back at them from around my face, then they’re probably not worth knowing anyway.