My name is Carli, I am 26 years old and my skin is my enemy.
I don’t recall a time, month, week or day when I haven’t had spots. This isn’t a cry for sympathy, or even a particularly woeful moan, it’s simply a statement of fact. You might eye up the woman wearing Manolos on the train, or the one with the Mulberry Alexa on your bus, but my secret hobby is to scrutinise the pores of every woman I meet – on the commute, at work, and each one of my friends. The added interest (torment?) is that most of the lovely girls I work with, and count as my friends, are blessedly blemish-free. Sure, they might get a zit after a heavy weekend, or suffer the odd blackhead, but by and large their skin is clear, tight, fresh. In contrast, mine is marked with spots, scars and other ravages which in the past year have included a nasty bout of seborrheic dermatitis, resulting in patches of dry crusts across my face, neck, back and chest – the final insult to a quarter-life of waging war against my own skin.
I am not suggesting I suffer from full-blown acne: I don’t. And many sufferers of persistently flared skin will probably treat my ‘afflictions’ with disdain. However, a shared obsession is the desire to inspect the skin of the flawless, to ask a million questions about skincare and diet to try and pinpoint a crucial difference separating me with peachy clear flesh. Not forgetting the unity there is in the ‘magic’ of three more mole-hills erupting from our chins seemingly overnight.
I’ve tried the creams, visited the derms, had the tests, cut out the food groups. But essentially I am just unlucky. My mother has the skin of someone half her age, smooth, even and fresh-looking, but she still maintains she suffered until almost middle age with troublesome skin. Yes, sometimes I despair, wishing desperately for ONE DAY of clearness, where foundation could be a frivolous extra and not the one liquid saving my self-confidence, but the low moments of my early twenties have been replaced by curiosity as to what it would feel like, would I would look like, if I could treat my face as something to experiment with, not as a minefield, and if makeup was about enhancement only, not coverage. God the creams, the potions, the lotions I’ve tried. If I’m ever wondering why I don’t have savings, a quick look inside my makeup bag and bathroom will make a few Shu Uemera-related suggestions. Of course, some things need a prize merely for existing: YSL Touche Eclat is a joy for my under eyes – did I mention I had a genetic tendency to under-eye shadows? You’ve got to laugh, when every beauty ‘no no’ I read about in magazines is or has been a feature of my face.
My pet hate? ‘Friends’ who tell me that it’s so freeing not to wear foundation, how they ‘get so many compliments’ on their fresh-faced no-makeup look. I often express amazement and approval at their own good luck, but really the response I’m often reaching for is: go to hell.
Yes, I have plenty to be thankful for in life, and no I don’t have a life-threatening affliction (touch wood). But clear skin is my Everest. It only just occurred to me that I couldn’t remember a time with unmarked skin – it must have been a time pre-hormones. But I’ll keep on climbing my mountain and try not to be too hard on my face – but in the meantime if you need me, I’ll be in the skincare aisle of Boots.