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15th Sep 2022

Skin positivity: Dealing with so-called ‘bad’ skin – inside and out

Jade Hayden

“My skin is crap today.”

We’ve all been there, we’ve all said it. We may even be there right now; avoiding mirrors, cancelling nights out, and aimlessly perusing the fresh welts on our faces that have cropped up after a particularly stressful day, a long weekend, or a dairy-filled week.

It’s easy to chastise ourselves for not sporting a flawless finish every day of the week (and tempting too), but what too many of us tend to forget is that most people don’t. Not even close.

Where body positivity continues to reign supreme on certain corners of Instagram, for the most part, our skin has not been granted the same amnesty. But according to an expert, it should be.

The Body Shop recently rebranded their Drops of Youth skincare line to ‘Edelweiss’ – a move that was both inspired by and a reaction to a move towards a more inclusive and positive attitude towards skincare.

After all, having great skin and looking well isn’t restricted only to those who are young – or “youthful.”

“Skin positivity is about accepting skin as it is,” Consultant Dermatologist Dr Alia Ahmed says. “It is removing the negative connotations around skin conditions (e.g. ‘wrinkles’ mean you are ‘old’) and changing the narrative. Skin positivity is about empowering people to feel comfortable to share their skin stories and removing the need to ‘hide’ skin that does not meet societal standards.”

Dr Ahmed has worked consistently over the years with people who struggle with a variety of skin conditions, or simply just their own self confidence. It was during her experience that she began to preach skin positivity – an off-shoot of body positivity – which sees countless skin types celebrated and encourages people to re-frame their attitude to their own skin.

“Skin travels our life journey with us and will inevitably show the signs of ups and downs,” she says. “Supporting people in this journey is one of the best gifts that my work as a dermatologist has given me.”

But what does one do when their skin is the source of much stress, anxiety, and low self esteem? People with chronic skin conditions like acne, for example, can often experience low confidence, shame, and even a poor quality of life. In fact, according to a 2020 survey, 98% of people with skin conditions say that it affects their emotional and psychological well-being.

Dr Ahmed says that there are many ways for a person to feel more positive about their skin, the most important being ensuring that their concerns are not trivialised, and seeking then treatment.

“Many people with skin concerns are being under-treated or believe there is no effective treatment,” says Dr Ahmed. “In fact there are some excellent treatment options available, these may be medical, skincare or a mix of the two.

“Knowing why your skin is behaving the way it is and learning how it can be managed is extremely empowering. It allows you to make decisions about how you want to deal with your skin.”

After that, it’s paramount that a person ensures the narrative around skin they’re exposed to is a positive one, and that they accept that not everybody has perfect skin, and that not everybody who says they’re “just trying to help” is actually doing so.

“People with skin concerns can be on the receiving end of comments, some of them well-meant but still hurtful,” says Dr Ahmed.

“Learning how to respond to these is an important aspect of living with chronic conditions […] Incorporating ‘real’ skin into media campaigns is [also] highly important to ‘normalise’ skin conditions by removing stigma. In fact all skin is normal, it just behaves differently for different people.”