Okay, I know that the K-Beauty trends of achieving ‘glass’ and ‘honey’ skin aren’t literal. They’re easy labels that spark immediate connotations of hydration and purity in the mind’s eye. They’re about using a bevvy of acids, vitamins and moisturisers to achieve a clean texture, dewy suppleness, and maximum hydration, not a spot in sight. Sounds great!
But for someone who lives in the shadow of pimples past, present, and future, all I hear is the thud of basic beauty standards being plonked onto a higher shelf, even further out of my reach. Am I not even allowed to use makeup to protect me from ever changing beauty standards anymore?
I have combination skin. An even mix of ‘the more I try, the worse it gets’, and ‘I know I shouldn’t pick, but I can’t help myself’. When everything else feels out of control (and plenty of things feel out of control for a lot of us right now) if I think I can get a peeping whitehead out of my face before it’s ready, you best believe I won’t rest until it’s done. I know this is a bad habit. I know it scars my pale skin with blemishes, or ‘imperfections’, but I just can’t stop.
I started to struggle with persistent and mishandled breakouts way back when The Veronicas Untouched first hit the charts. The teen magazines I consumed were a constant reminder that my own, too-touched face fell short of ‘perfect’.
As a result of my insecurities, I went on the pill at seventeen, to correct what I would now consider an inconsequential smattering of spots.
My reward for putting up with intense mood fluctuations and the libido of a cardboard cut-out for the three years I was on the pill? Persistent and painful withdrawal acne as soon as I went off it, and still struggle with to the present day. Jack pot!
Now, I’m on the precipice of my thirtieth birthday, and I have the immense good fortune of finally coming to terms with the fact that my complexion is not intrinsically linked to my self-worth. Hallelujah.
But it took a long time to get here. I’ve tried almost every professional recommendation under the sun to ‘sort out’ my skin, most of which demanded that I spend as little time as possible actually under the sun.
Antibiotics and Roaccutane made me nauseous and highly susceptible to UV damage at the literal drop of a hat (another huge skincare no-no, go figure). Topical treatments I was prescribed made my face flakier than the chocolate bar and bleached all of my good linen.
I’m going sober during this lockdown, in the hopes that an over-indulgence of vino has been the root of my problems, but somehow, my skin is worse today than it was two weeks ago.
I’ve wasted so much time and money in my quest for perfection. When I look away from my phone and into the physical faces around me, I remember, perfection doesn’t even exist.
This isn’t a new concept; we know what we see on social media is an illusion of reality. But, I need constant reminding, to unlearn years of inner monologue attacking my shameful, uncontrollable skin.
So, here’s yet another reminder.
It’s okay to have breakouts.
It’s okay to indulge in a ten-step skin care routine if that’s your jam (or honey).
It’s okay to be too tired to wash your face before bed and not feel guilty about what it might mean for the crop of new ‘imperfections’ brewing below the surface.
It’s okay to have blemishes on your face; there’s no scientifically proven correlation between a pimple and self-worth.
It’s okay to just want your skin to look like skin, whatever that means for you.
Caitlin Booth is a freelance writer. You can find her on Instagram here.