Anyone with acne I’m sure will agree with the pain that is unsolicited advice or unwanted attention because of their skin. I honestly don’t know what compels people to dish it out as some comments are downright insensitive. I appreciate they’re trying to help but I find it really difficult the number of people that make the condition of my skin their business. Particularly as acne varies so much from person to person and it can be incredibly complicated to overcome.
For me personally it isn’t as simple as some of the suggestions I’ve had in the past from strangers, friends and family. Ultimately no one would ever choose to have acne hence me trying topical prescriptions, diet changes, supplements, birth control and lengthy antibiotic treatments whilst riding an emotional roller coaster spanning 6 years and I still don’t have clear skin. It’s so complex and far from easy which people don’t seem to understand – all the things I’ve tried to clear my skin can be found here and I’m still trying.
Over the years without asking and sometimes out of the blue I’ve had products suggested, generally skin care but once this included laundry detergent along with a suggested sheet washing regime from a stranger in a supermarket. I’ve had people suggest I just give up dairy, eggs, caffeine, alcohol, anything. I’ve had a housemate randomly announce if I stopped washing my face with all those products then surely everything would regulate itself and I wouldn’t look like this anymore. Others without being close to me have criticised my diet for being too sugary and unhealthy or that I simply don’t drink enough water or poke my face too often. I’ve lost count of the number of random people who’ve offered miraculous solutions to me. Unsurprisingly unless they’re really out of the box I’ve probably come across them when hopelessly Googling “how to clear acne” or “how to get clear skin” and here we are still without 100% success.
The trouble with unsolicited advice is it can come across as insulting, as though we’re lazy and not trying hard enough to look better or that we’re dirty with poor hygiene for not washing our faces with the Clearasil someone recommended. It can easily make me feel like a failure for not winning the physical war with acne. Part of the problem with unsolicited advice is that unfortunately lots of people think that having a smattering of pimples in your teens, which is very normal, qualifies them to dole out acne advice – it doesn’t. Most normal, considerate people wouldn’t walk up to someone they didn’t know with dandruff and tell them to buy Head and Shoulders because it worked for their sister in law. Just like they wouldn’t approach someone overweight and suggest meal replacement shakes that worked for their twice removed cousin. So why do so many people often make my skin, or acne, their business?
Is it that people are that horrified at the sight of blemishes and scarring that they feel the need to try and impart some wisdom to correct it? Or that they feel sorry for me? It has crossed my mind. Nowadays I can leave the house without make up on which is something that would once have been impossible for me aged 20 and this is not out of vanity it was largely out of self-preservation. Yet if I were to bump into someone I know until very recently I’d feel like I had to apologise for my un-made up face thinking that if I didn’t acknowledge “I looked awful” then they’d do it on my behalf which always hurt that bit more. I’d say sorry for not having air-brush perfect skin when my foundation-mask was removed just in case the shock of my real skin offended them.
It’s been 6 years since the condition of my skin took a nose dive for the worse. The older I’ve got the closer I’ve shifted towards some sort of unwilling acceptance of my acne because I’ve realised as much as I might will it to clear up it may continue to affect me for quite some time as opposed to just “growing out of it”. Honestly I’m tired of carrying around the shame, self-hate, disgust and misery I’ve felt because of my acne. If I can learn to look in the mirror every day at blemishes of all varieties and scarring knowing that it can be upsetting and is something I’d never have chosen but at the same time that I am so much more than the condition of my skin, why can’t those who have to look at for a tiny fraction of time always just bite their tongue and accept it too? It’s my face, if I can learn to live with it then I’d sure as hell hope others can too as opposed to having strangers say things like “she’d be pretty if it weren’t for her face” or relatives saying “oh you’ll look ok when you cover it all up”.
I decided this month that I am done apologising for my skin from here on out? I came to the dramatic realisation that why should I apologise for something that isn’t my fault and for having less than “perfect” skin when I’ve given this everything I’ve got without ever quitting? I will no longer say sorry for having a bare face on days I decide I not to wear make up for whatever reason. I won’t text friends an advanced warning anymore that I couldn’t be bothered to put on foundation and “look like a troll” because I can appreciate now that acne doesn’t make me ugly. Those who cannot accept my skin are people I don’t need in my life and the ones making rude remarks are the ugly ones. I am determined to do my very best to win the emotional war with acne so me verbally insulting my skin will be a thing of the past. To those who said years back “she’d be pretty if it weren’t for her face” I would now be inclined to say that they’d be pretty if it weren’t for their personality as their insults say a lot more about them than me.
My wishes for change are that we all abide by the rule of never commenting on a feature of another person’s appearance unless it is something that can be changed within the space of a minute and that real skin, pores, scars, blemishes, redness and anything that isn’t air brushed are normalised instead of blurred filter edits.
Sensitive comments welcome.