More than skin deep.
They say your hair is your crown and glory this is not strictly true, hair grows, hair changes, you can dye it and cut it and attach fake hair to it that can make you look like a Disney princess (I’ve always been an Arial). But there is one thing that is not so easy to change, it’s the one thing that is on display constantly, there is no hiding, no dry shampoo (ooh I could be on to something there!) Your skin is the true crown and glory and if like me you have issues with it, it can be soul destroying. You see as much as it isn't, people will always see your skin as the window to your health, your choices, your life – so throw in some acne that is still here at 26 years old and you might understand why I would trade in my curly red hair for clear skin any day.
Acne is seen as a right of passage, a part of growing up and usually leads to some funny stories with my friends, that huge white head that just emerged like an iceberg the morning of the school play/ the party, hot date (it wasn’t). But acne isn’t so funny when it happens at the time of your life when you want nothing more than to fit in and this doesn’t change once you trade the classroom for the office.
I know you’ve probably read many articles on skincare and in turn acne before, but I just want to be clear – acne is not caused by not washing your face or being hygienic in general nor is it cause by eating too much sugar. Let’s get a bit scientific for a moment, the sebaceous glands (those pesky oil- producing ones) of people who get acne are particularly sensitive to normal blood levels of the hormone testosterone. This causes the glands to produce an excess of oil, at the same time the dead skin cells lining the pores are not shed properly and clog up the follicles – these two effects result in a build-up of oil-producing blackheads and whiteheads and wah-lah welcome to acne!
Having acne as a teen can be devastating, the only hope is that once you get older it will miraculously go because after all, that’s what we’re told, growing up with ‘moderate’ acne as the doctor called it. I was lead to believe that by the time I hit 18 it would no longer be an issue, oh how wrong they were. I know not many doctors would want to shatter an already fragile teen by telling them actually you might not ever be rid of your acne, but I think if I was told it was a possibility then the psychological effects wouldn’t have been so traumatic.
Acne has a way of making me feel ashamed, dirty – unworthy, it’s something that I can’t help, my tablets and skincare routine work to a certain point but on days when my skin doesn’t want to play ball I am left not wanting to even hang the washing out neverminded go out with friends. Dating was out of the question along with going out without make-up, going out in the hot weather because sweat would aggravate the breakouts and cause my skin to turn red for days. As much as I’d hope I wouldn’t let my skin stop me from living even now after many years’ experience, acne still stops some of my plans and affects every aspect of my self-worth and confidence.
Though proven wrong countless times through scientific studies the stereotype of acne being about cleanliness still surrounds the condition, this reason alone is enough to make sufferers feel that it's their fault, that they’re not doing enough to help themselves. This, in turn, can make acne worse as sufferers tend to over-wash their face to try and compensate for the excess oil and yup you guessed it – leads the skin to produce yet more oil.
A survey by the British Skin Foundation found that 28% of the population admitted to suffering from acne at some stage, 39% of those don’t know how to handle it. 7 in 10 have visible scarring 72% saying this makes them feel self-conscious. Stefanie Williams, medical director European Dermatology London, does not mince her words on the subject. “It is like an epidemic, we have so many sufferers. It is important to acknowledge that it is a skin disease. It is not normal and not a rite of passage.”
Although a skin disease some of our choices can affect our skin, it doesn’t cause the original diagnosis. Factors such as genetics, diet, changes in hormones and stress and choosing the wrong skincare can have a big influence. Those in their thirties or forties who start to see lines and wrinkles begin investing in anti-ageing skincare regimes. These creams can be very rich and overload the skin and worsen acne.
The bad news is there is no cure for acne but there are things you can do to help combat it and take some control. My saviour came in the form of medication (antibiotics and topical cream) and a strict skincare routine that I finally found worked for me after much trial and error over the past 15 years. I would recommend taking your time and find out what works for you – the products you use on your skin is a biggie but it’s worth looking at you diet as well – giving up dairy worked wonders for me and has been proven to improve the appearance of acne, unfortunately, the only way to do this is to take certain foods out of your diet for a week and see how your skin reacts. Bearing in mind this worked for me and any concerns you have should be consulted with your GP.
However, I shall leave you with this one golden rule reader – never (ever, ever!) touch your face throughout the day eve with clean hands! We are continually using our hands and we pick up bacteria from everything – then what do we do? We touch our face! And the bacteria are then transferred onto out skin and into our pores. Lovely. Even resting your hand on your face counts – don’t do it. We have durable make-up that could survive an earthquake for a reason.