by Iulia Gheorghe
If I were to consider the skin as a suit, I would definitely find myself in a shoddy dressing room with three options in front of me: neon-greasy glow on pores like opened grayish scallops boiling in their own juicy juice on a sunny beach, a jawline beaded with pomegranate shaped pimples or the freshness of a bored parsnip abandoned in my grandma’s pantry. Ever since puberty, I have experimented various stages of skin quality and none involved words like rosy, glow, immaculate or zits-free. I have been trapped in a “50 forms of mediocre skin” phase and approaching my thirties, I think I lost the last train to pristine poreland.
"She could have received retirement benefits after dealing for all this time..."
I wouldn’t bet my bottom dollar that my skin would get a holy revamp before menopause. My mother’s 40 years of skin problems experience comforts my hypothesis. She could have received retirement benefits after dealing for all this time with grease in summer and spots all time of the year. After trying to solve the unsolvable with a cocktail of lotions, phototherapy and mesotherapy, she accepted that pimples were there to stay, put some make-up on (become addicted to matte-mousse foundations and poreless finish powders) and lived her life.
I stole her acne-dealing philosophy. As Stanford professor Shirzad Chamine advises us in his book Positive Intelligence, I activated my inner Sage mode, freeing myself from resentment (why is my face on fire AGAIN?!) and bitterness (angel faces, go to HELL). I adopted a more or less disciplined skincare ritual, avoided clogging pore ingredients and felt lucky that I have never experienced severe acne, scars, rashes and other painful conditions that garnish the bad skin pandemonium. I didn’t consult dermatologists exclusively to ask for a zits mass-elimination formula, although I was still asking them for cream recommendations at the end of my annual appointments. After a poor-sleep night, bathed in anxious dreams with threatening moles looking like real psychopaths, the check-up usually turns just fine, endorphins flood my brain and I almost don’t care about the destiny of a couple of pimples just visiting. Years passed, and I tried a bunch of ointments (most of them stinky and sticky). Life is short, so the mucilaginous ones found themselves in my recycle bin. Skinoren and retinoid creams worked pretty well. Youcam perfect and a touch of Mac powder (ok, more of a coat than a touch, but not a fur coat, maybe the equivalent of a breezy blazer) were the cherry on the top of my pursuit of a decent skin.
"The experience was half X-files, half Housewives of Beverly Hills"
A couple of weeks ago, the cherry was eaten by a lady in a white gown. I usually deal with internal saboteurs who bring their own biases to the decision parties in my head. This time, it was an external one. As I moved to a new neighborhood, I went to a new dermatologist for my annual check-up. The experience was half X-files, half Housewives of Beverly Hills, as I was trying to figure out if she was either an alien with no feelings or a shallow person that cared only about the so-called unanimous beauty standards. She barely looked at my moles as her frowned eyes bombarded my chin and jaw with a weird expression. "KILL THEM ALL!" She started to cry that I had to treat my acne. Puzzled, I told her that I had been dealing with mild acne since my teenage years and things never got out of control. She insisted that I had to try more. “You can’t live like that, you must fix this”. And then she recommended me laser hair removal because “waxing is bad”.
For a couple of seconds, I felt like Moaning Myrtle. Did she suggest that accepting my blemished skin is not a healthy option? Did she judge me for my passiveness? Moaning Myrtle turned into Hulk as I was filling up with rage. I consulted her to check if I’m cancer free, not to fix my skin by poisoning my body with nasty treatments. It was mild acne. I didn’t ask for her help. This was not a debilitating symptom that made my life unbearable. Maybe my skin was mediocre, but her work ethic was crappier. My inner bitch felt the need to riposte. The researchers from King’s College London discovered that people with acne appeared to be protected against the signs of ageing so I wanted to tell her that maybe if she had had some zits in her adulthood, she wouldn’t have looked like a crepe in her fifties. But I knew that was the wrong reaction: my own brain was sometimes biased by the standards that I was fighting against.
"We are so focused on criticizing the way it looks, that we forget its main functions: skin both protects us and gives us the opportunity to experiment sensations."
Skin quality is biology and stardust is to be found somewhere else. Our skin is a suit of the size of three bath towels. Maybe I wasn’t the big winner of the perfect skin lottery, but my skin is doing a pretty good job. We are so focused on criticizing the way it looks, that we forget its main functions: skin both protects us and gives us the opportunity to experiment sensations. Burnt people are very vulnerable to infections because of the damaged skin tissues. Wrinkled or not, acne-prone or not, it’s thanks to our skin that we can all feel in the same way the touch of our mother one on our cheek. The soft warmth of a ray of light on our forehead. The frosted snowflake on our nose. The tongue of our partner…you get it. I surely did. I found the derma Grail by respecting my skin for what it was: imperfect, but totally functional and generating pleasure and pain 24 hours per day.