When I started writing this diary six months ago , the prognosis was that it would take many months for my skin to improve. Confronted with the reality of living with acne for another six months, that seemed like an infinite amount of time. At that point, every day (actually, every time I looked in a mirror - which I actively tried to avoid wherever possible), I would wonder how much longer my skin would look like this, and whether it would ever be ‘normal’ again.
My deadline was my thirtieth birthday - a milestone I hadn’t dreaded until my skin started to make me look like a teenager again, and not in the good way. That milestone is still three months away, but I am happy to report that I can now spend most of that time planning one helluva party, rather than worrying about my skin. My skin isn’t perfect, but it’s hugely improved, and crucially is neither physically nor emotionally painful any longer, and so my diary is drawing to a close. For once in my life - a relief to have nothing to write about!
In her Harley Street clinic back in May, Dr Sam pointed out the potential silver lining to my adult acne - that I might end up treating my skin better all-round as a result. She was right, both in this observation and the strict but super-effective regime she prescribed me. Understanding why my skin was behaving the way it was, and how to help it get better, made me see how odd it was that I’d put up with my skin being so far from normal for so long without getting professional help. If I felt like my liver or my heart wasn’t working properly, I’d be seeking medical treatment right away. Fussing over the appearance of my skin, though, felt like a vain indulgence, not essential maintenance of a major organ. In many ways, we give our skin a tough time - because it is the organ that is on the outside, the one that makes us look the way we do, and the one that's open to aesthetic criticism even if it's, technically, functioning perfectly well.
Until I experienced acne I also couldn’t have understood its real psychological effects. Which brings me to my next learning: the importance of makeup . This is not about makeup as a tool for self-expression (although, now that I can wield a blusher brush a little more adeptly, I’m starting to get that too), but about makeup as a way to make you feel like you again, when your body’s going through a tough time.
One of the most fantastic moments of my treatment was not (directly) the result of tablets or creams, but, when wearing foundation to work for the first time, I received compliments about how lovely my skin looked. Really, it just looked normal - gone was the acne that people had been used to seeing smattered over my face every day. I still saw it, of course, when I took my makeup off each evening, but knowing that people could meet me without meeting my acne was a hugely liberating experience. Needless to say, learning to apply foundation properly, whilst fraught with teething problems, has been one thing I’m pretty proud to have finally ticked off my list pre-30. And, like Dr Sam pointed out, I’ll probably end up looking a little more glossy than I used to.
As I stop being an adult acne sufferer and go back to just being an adult (well, maybe), I am also sure of one thing, when I think back to how much stress I was under at this time last year, when my acne first erupted: your skin is a good indicator of how you're doing on the inside. Not an original thought, but worth remembering. If it doesn't look happy, you're probably not treating yourself all that well. As a friend pointed out last Christmas when I despaired of my persistent spots and poor complexion, and was hugely run down from anxiety and lack of sleep: if this is what your lifestyle is doing to your skin, imagine what it's doing to your insides.
Now, this friend is not medically qualified, but sometimes the people that know you best are most qualified to point out what's not right in your life. She'd never seen my skin act like that before, and, whilst I credit my medical treatment hugely for my progress, undoubtedly the times my skin has looked best over the last six months have been when I'm on holiday, or getting seven hours sleep a night, or making it to yoga on a regular basis. Make time for those things. I'm pretty sure your skin isn't the only thing that'll thank you for it.