I remember skyping with my family, back when I lived abroad and had cystic acne.
Their first question to me was always: “How are you?”… and the second was always: “How’s your skin?”.
I remember staying with a friend’s family for the holidays. At some point during dinner, I noticed everyone around the table staring at me.
They started to discuss what the heck was wrong with my skin.
I let them settle on “Don’t eat spicy food” (which I don’t), and I luckily managed to change the subject without bursting into tears.
I remember volunteering in a retreat center, and systematically avoiding a certain lady who, everytime she saw me, would very loudly ask how I was doing, while pointing at my inflamed cheeks.
If you suffer from acne, you’re likely to relate to these experiences.
And you probably have a million memories that come to your mind!
You’re fed up with people giving you skin advice you haven’t sought? I feel you.
So what do people say?
Ah! The stuff people say when they notice that ready-to-pop spot…
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of all the glorious things people have said to me during my acne battle:
“I have really bad acne, too”, says the person with a porcelain complexion 🙂
“Are you sure you want to eat this bar of chocolate? It’ll definitely break you out”, says my mom.
“Don’t you wash your face?!”
“Why don’t you use (insert Miracle Solution Product here)? It worked wonders for me”.
“You should take the pill”.
“You need to pop that pimple, it’ll heal faster” (we know better!)
“You should wear more makeup”.
Now, I see two problems with unsolicited acne advice:
- In most, if not all, cases, the advice is not needed;
- Generally speaking, the advice is rubbish.
Most people with acne, and all of us in the TLV Community, have spent an enormous amount of time researching whyyy, oh! why we have acne, and looking at conventional and holistic treatments, not to mention miraculous cures.
I know I have!
We have spent what feels like an eternity trying to figure out what’s best for our unique bodies.
As I reflect on this, I realise that all of the comments and pieces of advice I have received over the years were insensitive at the very least.
At best, people were offering me something I already knew about, or had already tried.
At worst, well… I once read the story of a shopkeeper who told an acne sufferer that drinking her own urine was going to save her skin. Ugh.
Acne is embarrassing enough without all the unsolicited comments, thanks!
What’s the intention behind the words?
So why do our friends, family members, doctors, colleagues, managers (goodness, even strangers on the street!) do this?!
I have found that people who comment generally have not gone through the acne rollercoaster themselves.
It’s as if they live in a different reality.
They do not understand what it is like to find that even more pimples have appeared on your cheek overnight.
They do not know the consequences of acne on our self-esteem.
And there are certainly things that only an acne sufferer understands, like being terrified to look at yourself in the mirror…
Cancelling dates and appointments because you’re afraid of leaving the house.
Touching (or worse, having someone else touch) your face for fear that yet another pimple has appeared, etc.
So, arm yourself with patience and compassion, and use those time-tested techniques to stay caaaaalllm, and get your groove on.
Technique #1 – Get clear: what’s OK, and what is not?
If anything, people are simply trying to be helpful, in their own, awkward ways.
Acne is an issue that most people aren’t educated on.
Think about it: you really only started to research acne when you got it, right?
Saying “Ouch, that comment hurt!”, or: “I’m sure you don’t mean to be rude, but I am hurt when you say that” sheds light on how detrimental their advice is to your self-esteem.
Most people will actually be genuinely sorry to have given offense, and will be surprised that you’ve calmly called them on it.
Technique #2 – Stand Up For Yourself: Set Up Strong Boundaries
Acne is a condition that can knock the most confident person right off their feet.
Our culture puts so much demand and pressure on looking a certain way.
And so, we, acne warriors, are made to feel ashamed of our skin.
However, we both know that you are way, way more than your skin.
Acne is an opportunity (yes, an opportunity!)… For you to heal your body and your life.
To set clearer and healthier boundaries.
To end relationships that do not serve you.
To open up to carefully selected people in your life about the weight on your shoulders.
So, know when to be firm, and do stand for yourself when somebody is out of line.
I know you can’t say “f*** off” to your in-laws or your boss, but you can (should) set boundaries: “I am aware of the problem, and you’re not welcome to comment on it”.
When you say this, you take a valuable step towards self-respect.
You can also ask your partner or friend to explain to that person the very real struggle of dealing with acne-prone skin, and your fight for self-love.
They will be more tactful once they understand what you’re going through.
Not to mention that it’s more efficient to say this than to ignore the comment or run away: you’re making sure that they will be more careful around you next time.
Technique #3 – A Tentative Experiment: Start to Laugh
A good way to break the tension is to start laughing. Example:
Your mother-in-law stares at your face for 5 long seconds, and declares: “Your face is full of pimples”.
Thank you, acne police, I’m glad you noticed.
Old me would freeze, or run to the bathroom, or wish to become invisible instantly.
New me answers: “Did you really mean to say this out loud?”, and start laughing.
Even if your mother-in-law has no filter with your health (which is none of her concern), and speaks before she thinks, keep your chin up. Reclaim your power.
If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably already started your holistic clear-skin journey. I want to acknowledge your courage, and your strength.
Congratulations to you 🙂
Friend, know that your skin WILL get better, no matter what people say, and even if you feel like it will never happen.
Know that when all of this is finally over, you will come out a stronger and more emphatic person.
Do not be the football of other people’s opinions.
Keep your chin up.
You’re worth it.
Let me know in the comments how you deal with those awkward situations!
Celine Harleaux is the founder of My Dawning Light, a website dedicated to empower self-conscious women with Usui Reiki.
She is passionate about helping her clients regain their strength, confidence, and awesomeness. And also passionate about those Reiki nudges that guide us in the right direction, and fill our lives with grace and ease.
She offers both in-person and distant Reiki classes and treatments through her website.