The psychology of poor skin


There are girls in the world who have ever broken out. They don’t know what it’s like to have a big zit coming up. They’ve never looked for a long-wear concealer or a miracle spot treatment. They’ve never touched their faces to feel for bumps. They’ve never used their hair to cover parts of their faces. Or even worried about waking up with a lover with less than clear skin. 

I’m not one of those girls. 

My complexion has given me high highs and low lows. When my skin is clear I feel optimistic, kind, generous and willing to overlook mistakes. But when my skin goes crazy I don’t even feel like stepping out of the house. Beautiful skin isn’t just about vanity, it’s about keeping yourself mentally sane. Especially today when social media has ‘real girls’ with photoshopped faces. 

I got my first pimple when I was 13. At that time I felt cool and grown up because a lot of senior girls at school had them. As a teenager I was quite skinny and could literally eat a whole bag of sweets without putting on weight. Now in retrospect I feel that those habits had contributed to poor skin. In school I didn’t have a major outbreak of acne, just skin that looked red and irritated all the time. It was part poor habits and part pollution that was irritating my skin, because the moment I left Delhi my face magically cleared up, and with it my mood brightened too. 

But these were minor skirmishes, my skin became really, really bad when I visited a homeopath for painful periods. From being relatively clear my face became a minefield of eruptions. Month after month the breakouts kept coming. “Whatever is in will come out and then it will stop,” said the homeopath. But it didn’t stop. My skin went from bad to worse. And what made it really horrible were people’s comments. “What’s happened to your face?” they’d ask. Trust me if I had the answer I would have fixed it. And also I know what’s happening to my face, without you pointing it out. It would help me so much if you’d just ignore it. 

But people never do. Friends, relatives, acquaintances…everyone feels like they have a right to comment. Did I even ask for your opinion in the first place? Eventually I chucked the homeopath and got a dermatologist who cleared my skin with a dose of doxycycline and benzoyl peroxide. And then it was relatively ok - not great but bearable. 

In my 20s I discovered music festivals and the accoutrements that came along with it. Oh how we would wake up at three and get to the rave just to catch the sunrise. How we would spend days dancing with strangers. How many endless conversations we had that at that times seemed so meaningful. But I now realise all that partying was just a waste of time and was completely and totally terrible for my skin. The more I partied the worse my skin became - red, inflamed, textured, and yet I didn’t stop.

I moved overseas to Kuala Lumpur for a few years and the partying combined with the tropical weather gave me the worst skin of my life. When you have really bad breakouts you don’t even want to step out of the house. And when you do go out you keep your head low not wanting to look at anyone in the eye. It’s almost like you’ve done something wrong, when in fact it’s just your own body betraying you. 

Eventually I got bored of the scene - the dumb conversations, the morning drive back home, and spending the next day feeling sorry for myself wasn’t just attractive anymore. I visited another dermatologist who put me on a dose of accutane. Oh my god, if there weren’t so many side effects with that medicine I would take it for the rest of my life. Not only did it stop the breakouts, it tightened my pores and eliminated redness. I didn’t even need to wash my hair!

For the last few years I’m addicted to health. I drink gallons of water, eat my fruit and veg, do yoga and meditate. While I still have phases of bad skin they’re nothing like I had earlier. In fact friends can’t even believe that I ever broke out. People think they need to change their diet for a few months to clear their skin. But diet and nutrition only works if it’s a permanent lifestyle change. Because I’ve suffered from bad skin, I’ve become hyper vigilant about it. I use only the best skincare, have a dermatologist on call, and don’t eat rubbish. Now my palate has also changed so I don’t even enjoy the crap I ate before. 

Poor skin has far reaching consequences. Mostly it’s your confidence and mood that takes a huge beating. And you notice everyone’s complexions, be it the woman who works in your house or even the security guard at the gate. However there is one advantage. While girls with naturally beautiful complexions can be careless about skincare, you never are. You know your skin your best accessory, and it's worth every dime. Because of this you age beautifully. And more than that it makes you empathetic about other’s imperfections.

Lead image: Shutterstock