Throughout my teens and a lot of my twenties, I had zits. And wonky teeth. My obsessions were my zits and my wonky teeth.
I wish I could get back all the time I spent worrying about those twin horrors. My wonky teeth could have been sorted out when I was 13, with braces, but I fought the suggestion, not wanting the bloody hassle and teeth extracted and all that. And my mother, not much of a nagger or a hassler, shrugged her shoulders and said “Okay. Your choice”
But my zits were a problem. What nobody who doesn’t have bad zits realises is how down they make you feel. They hurt. They make you feel self-conscious. And then you feel bleak and shallow for being so worried about your appearance when some children in the world don’t have food or a home or a bed.
I tried all sorts of things, antibiotics, different contraceptive pills, with varying and occasional success – then when the various pills and powders and potions failed, I went to the Skin Health Spa on Wigmore Street for a course of microdermabrasion and some mild glycolic acid face wash, which worked. For a bit.
The only thing that really cured my zits was having kids – because my zits are caused by hormones, nothing else. And the crushing double-whammy pregnancy-birth thing reset them, or stunned them or subdued them or something and they haven’t been a problem since.
It’s such a relief. I also, in my late twenties, had my teeth straightened using Invisalign because I was sick of being fretting about them
Not having zits and not having wonky teeth have freed up my mind to think about all sorts of other things. I have no doubt that if I devoted the time and energy I spent on meticulously covering up three or four real traffic light spots on my chin I could solve world hunger within a fortnight – which I will do, by the way! As soon as my youngest child is at school.
But another hormonal shift has occurred. Now that my hormonal ebb and flow has settled down, a mere two years after my youngest child was born, I find myself uncontrollably zitty at certain times of the month. And it brought all the horrors of having spots right back to the forefront of my consciousness.
When you have hormonal zits, nothing topical (that is, anything applied directly to the skin) especially works. But some things can help – these are my best non-prescription products that can help you with a flare-up. Or at least, provide a bit of distraction.
The Clarisonic facial brush. I use this pretty much every day, it’s good for keeping blackheads and general dead skin cells and grossness at bay. They cost a fortune and have an awful habit of losing their charge after one or two days (despite starting out able to hold their charge for a week) meaning that it grinds to a halt in them middle of your facial scrub. Then you have to remember to take it out of the shower and charge it up. It’s a bore. If you get one, make sure you buy it from an actual shop, like John Lewis, and keep the receipt, so that if yours starts doing this you can demand a refund or a replacement.
Mine has now completely died and while I mull over whether or not to spend another four thousand pounds on a new one I’ve been scrubbing my face in circular motions with a flannel and must say, it’s been having more or less the same effect as the Clarisonic. But it’s not as fun.
I use Origins Checks and Balances foaming facial wash in conjunction with the Clarisonic. If you have oily or sensitive skin or any skin prone to breakouts, it’s key to use a foaming cleanser rather than something gel-based, which will irritate your skin like mad. This is very good and also outstanding value. You only need a tiny weeny blob each time you use it to get a good foam on. One tube ought to last you about a year. Fact.
Use once a week (ish) for a mild resurfacing effect. Even if your skin isn’t especially sensitive, get the one for sensitive skin. I was advised to do this by a friend – I was a bit scared to ask what happens if you buy the non-sensitive one, but I think I can guess.
This does more or less the same job as the Dr Sebagh but you don’t have to wash it off, you just leave it on overnight and in the morning your skin is just somehow better.
Elemis SOS Emergency cream is particularly good in the winter, when your skin might be shitty and blotchy for non-hormonal reasons such as lack of sunlight, central heating, being blasted by gruesome weather as you battle to the playground and back with two bellyaching children. It is thick and smells pleasingly botanical.