Like the song goes, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. I spent most of my twenties with the blessings (that I’m only now counting) of flawless skin and the ability to eat (and drink) more or less what I wanted, with it having seemingly no impact on my physical appearance.
The latter is inevitably becoming less and less possible as I’m now within party-planning distance of turning 30 - I know the calorie count of most of Itsu’s menu, and hangovers now involve super detox smoothies and forcing myself to go for a run, rather than languishing over a plate of chips. The loss of my (I now realise) perfect skin, though, is somewhat harder to swallow: about six months ago, having stopped taking the pill, and during an incredibly stressful time at work, I developed acne .
It was the lovely Cowshed beautician who first called it acne, rather than just an unlucky bout of troublesome spots. Acne is a condition, where your skin repeatedly flares up with spots, and, of course, aside from the breakouts themselves, scarring is the potentially really scary bit. Acne also happens to be a horrible word, all hard and awkward and looks like the letters are somehow the wrong way round.
It’s hard to acknowledge that, at an age where I feel like I’ve got most other things under control (leaving concerns like “What will I do with my life?”, “How will I ever pay off my student loan?” and “Maybe white jeans CAN look flattering!” behind), I’ve been struck down by something that takes me right back to the angst of being a grumpy teenager.
I’m aware of my appearance like never before, aware of people lingering a little longer when they look at me - not because of my awesome new lipstick, but because of the explosion of red marks across my face. I am suddenly humbled and awed by the fact that 80% of teenagers suffer this, and a whole load of adults like me, with varying probable causes and levels of severity. I have tried a couple of suggested creams, and dipped my toe in the water of changing my diet but, being brutally honest, I’ve never had to have this sort of discipline before, and I’m not good at it. But I don’t want to look like this anymore, and I’m willing to put in a bit of hard work.
So, I am taking action. There must be a way to beat acne. I can speak three languages, cook a mean poached egg, and was back up and running ten weeks after breaking my leg in a skiing accident a couple of years ago. I must be able to beat acne before I turn 30 in nine months’ time. Right?