They always describe the skin as being delicate as the freshly clenched ice. The skin is soft like dainty dough. The fingers gently slide on it as though they would figure-skate as feathers wander through the air. The skin is smooth like the land none walked on and it is diaphanous like the shore that has never known the drought. It is not creased the way Venice is by its canals. It is not as uneven as the incised trunk of the old trees. The skin is silky… At least, this is what they tell us. According to the National Library of Medicine, in 2015 acne was estimated to affect 9.4% of the global population, making it the eighth-most prevalent disease worldwide. A quantitative review of forty-two studies from the PubMed, PsycINFO, MEDLINE, and Cochrane databases has shown a significant association of acne vulgaris with depression.
This article gathers some of the confessions Pearson College students felt comfortable sharing with First Person magazine regarding their experience with acne.
“I’ve struggled with acne ever since I was 13. Getting acne made me even more insecure about my appearance. I think it was caused by the unrealistic toxic beauty standards projected onto even teenagers, demanding “clear skin” as a criterion of beauty. I’ve been getting criticism from people around me including my most loved ones ever since I was 13. Comments such as “ your skin looks really bad”, “you should do this and it will go away”, and “do you clean your face properly?”
Nobody told me that getting acne is actually quite common for teenagers going through puberty. Now that I think about it, getting acne lowered my self-confidence to the point where it prevented me from achieving things. For example, I used to swim for the national team. Since the Maldives is an Islamic country when we practice, we have to wear swimsuits that cover most of our bodies (Muslim women have to cover their body and therefore are not allowed to wear clothing that is considered “revealing” such as swimwear). However, when we go to international competitions abroad we are forced to wear a swimsuit called the fast skin. Most of these types of swimsuits do not have sleeves or long tights, so they expose legs, armpits, and the back. I was 13 when I first got selected for an international swimming competition, which happened at the time I had severe back acne. When I found out that I would have to wear a swimsuit that would expose my back acne I refused to participate in the tournament. I was reminded of the comments that people make and I was afraid that people would judge me wearing my back full of acne. Reflecting on it now I feel like I missed a huge opportunity because of my insecurities regarding the skin.
Speaking of the present, many times I feel like there is no point in even trying to look good because of the huge red spots on my face and elsewhere. Trying to treat acne is a huge struggle as well. The medicines that have been prescribed for me make my face extremely dry, which makes me very anxious about being judged for my skin being too dry. Getting rid of acne is starting to feel impossible…”
“My monthly pocket money is spent on my acne treatment. During my stay at home, I visited dermatologists and cosmeticians. I had multiple acne treatment facials. I switched around my diet, restricting the food I enjoyed, trying to find what triggers my acne. I tried everything and nothing helped. Now I just stick to my skincare routine and I try to eat as “clean” as possible. The stress level is high here and I don’t always have the luxury of getting enough sleep. So I am aware that there are several factors that impact the way my skin is. Nonetheless, no matter how good the products I use are, they never help to the extent I could heal my skin. Sometimes, I would spend my 50$ on a single product just because it is so highly acclaimed on the internet that it gives me hope. But the products are never helpful enough to heal my skin. Some days are better than others, though the acne and the dissatisfaction with myself never go away.”
“I’ve been on Accutane for four months now. Although I can see certain improvements, it’s been so tricky to decide to follow through with this medication. It took me to come to a point of despair to decide that I would commit to such a medication that comes with several side effects. I used to hate my skin, refuse to go to social events, or cancel plans because of my insecurities and anxiety. One of the most comforting consequences of the pandemic for me was the fact that people were required to wear masks. Wearing a mask gave me the assurance that none could see enough of my face that would give them the foundation to judge my appearance. Though my skin is getting better, I still have blemishes and scars that I question whether they will ever go away…”
“ “Why don’t you cover them up?” I used to. I used to wake up forty-five minutes earlier every morning just to apply my treatment products and then try to cover everything up with make-up. I used to apply primer, followed by a thick layer of concealer and foundation. I used to do that because I knew that society openly rejects the existence of flaws and I just wanted to fit it. When the day would be over I would have to follow a three-step cleansing routine to remove all my “fake skin” in order not to make it worse. Regardless of the number of attempts to make my skin be better, I gave up on covering my acne because every time I did that it made me less confident, as I felt like I would cover a part of myself and deny the existence of it, ultimately rejecting my “flaws” and the fact that I am a human being and I can have “flaws”.”
“There is a lot of rain on Vancouver Island. Often when I wake up and see the dense drizzle I just want to wear something warm. I have multiple sweaters in my wardrobe, however my favorite are the ones made out of rib-knit fabric. My mother used to obsessively stress how essential it is to have all my clothes unwrinkled to look tidy, so I like that these sweaters are originally furrowed. They remind me that the skin is nothing more than the shield of my mind, designed in the first place to be the barrier that protects my body from any external harm. Some sweaters can not be ironed because they simply are uneven, and that does not imply that they are not doing their job of keeping you warm, and nobody says that you are not neat when you wear them. So why is it different when it comes to the skin?”