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'Acne Has Forced Me To Cancel My Post-Covid Plans'

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'Acne Has Forced Me To Cancel My Post-Covid Plans'

At 12.01AM on Monday, many of us heard fireworks and celebrations from our windows, as people flocked to mark 'Freedom Day' - the so-called return of life as we once knew it.

But as socialising resumed and Covid-19 rules relaxed across England, 20-year-old Tanya Marwaha was less certain about what this would mean for her.

As a long-time acne sufferer, lockdown has at times acted as a safety blanket, freeing her from perceived judgement and many of the environmental triggers that caused her complexion to flare up.

And that's why, like many with skincare concerns, she's been plagued by the thought of returning to a life of dirty masks, pollution and a thick face of makeup - a recipe for a breakout and all the anxiety that comes with it.

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Tanya has suffered from acne for the last decade (Credit: Interviewees own)
Tanya has suffered from acne for the last decade (Credit: Interviewees own)

Speaking to Tyla, Surrey-based LSE student Tanya - who has suffered from acne and scarring for around a decade - says: "My skin is really high maintenance and can be really draining at times, it's just always being on edge, thinking ‘is this gonna make me break out?'

"Now that things are opening, I’ve started applying sun cream and lots of makeup to cover up existing insecurities again.

"Plus, wearing a mask gives me acne, and as much as I exfoliate it just doesn't go, so I try to avoid going out where I have to do this as much as possible."

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Explaining how she feels about stepping back into society, she admits: "It's an endless cycle of my pores being clogged and getting spots, and then having to deal with that.

"It's just so high maintenance and can be really draining at times... putting a spot treatment on and then worrying, so it was a lot better during lockdown to be honest."

It all started for Tanya when she hit puberty early, at the age of just 10, and developed cystic acne on her face and back, before many of her school friends had any spots at all.

On top of her spots, Tanya also suffers from hyper-pigmentation, which she said is more noticeable because of her Indian skin-tone.

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"I would always be trying home remedies or things to get rid of the scars, but the thing was, because I felt so insecure and so anxious I would then end up picking [the spots], which would scar it even more."

Lockdown gave a lot of people more time to focus on their skincare regimes (Credit: Unsplash)
Lockdown gave a lot of people more time to focus on their skincare regimes (Credit: Unsplash)

Tanya tried multiple prescription treatments to no avail during her teenage years - some of which left her with red, swollen infections, and the feeling that her skin was "burning".

By the time she joined sixth form at 17, she was taking weeks off at a time because her skin was so infected that she didn't want anybody else to see her.

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And she admits those few troublesome years significantly affected her self esteem.

"From the age of 15 to 17 I stopped taking pictures," she recalls. "I remember picking up my phone and being like, 'I don’t even know how to take a selfie any more', because thats how much I didn't wanna see my skin.

"I would feel really uncomfortable passing by mirrors and stuff like that."

Tanya has finally mastered her acne - but it still rules her day-to-day life (Credit: Interviewees own)
Tanya has finally mastered her acne - but it still rules her day-to-day life (Credit: Interviewees own)
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Eventually, she went on the contraceptive pill, which finally helped to manage her acne, but it's not something she wants to be on forever, and she's all too aware of the other side effects she has to put up with in order to avoid getting spots.

While the pill has prevented any major flare ups of cystic acne, even now she says she still has hormonal flare ups, and "bumpy" and "uneven" skin where the spots used to be.

"I’ve had people point it out to me when they’re sitting next to me," she says. "So I feel really uncomfortable when someone sits close to me - especially a guy.

"You can’t see it from far away but up close you can, and ever since it has been pointed out to me, it’s like I'm always thinking ‘are they wondering what it is?'.

"Every time I go out and I'm around other people I think about it. I try to put makeup on it but makeup kind of sits on the top, and with my skin tone it's hard to find something that would actually match.

"So, sometimes I try to avoid those situations where I have to wear a lot of makeup."

Acne affects 95% of people across the UK at some point (Credit: Shutterstock)
Acne affects 95% of people across the UK at some point (Credit: Shutterstock)

She also says there's "no way" she would consider going on a date if her skin was bad.

"I’m trying to get used to the fact that everyones skin has different textures, but when you look online you don’t really see it, so its hard to think 'it's ok for me to have it," she says.

"Your face is something you can’t hide, and even though wearing masks kind of does that, it just makes it worse in the long run.

"The last thing I’d want to do is come back from a day’s outing and have to deal with the next week of spots everywhere."

Speaking to Tyla, cosmetic doctor and skin specialist, Dr Rekha Tailor says that adult acne is on the rise, especially in women, with 85 per cent of women reporting to suffer from it at some point during their adulthood.

"Acne is a common skin condition," she explains. "And while the symptoms range from mild to severe, there is a significant amount of evidence as well as anecdotal evidence from many of my own patients, of the psychological distress associated with [it].

Tanya says bad skin would put her off dating (Credit: Interviewees Own)
Tanya says bad skin would put her off dating (Credit: Interviewees Own)

“Unfortunately acne, by its very nature, has a particular effect on appearance so it can impact a patient’s self esteem and be damaging to self-image, leading to isolation and in turn depression and anxiety as well as sometimes severe mental health disorders.

"It’s vital that there is a better understanding that even mild acne can have severe effects on a patient’s emotional wellbeing."

If acne is a persistent issue in your life you should always go to the doctor or an aesthetician for advice as a first port of call, as there are many prescribed methods to try, depending on your needs.

The NHS also offers the following advice:

  • "Do not wash affected areas of skin more than twice a day. Frequent washing can irritate the skin and make symptoms worse.
  • Wash the affected area with a mild soap or cleanser and lukewarm water. Very hot or cold water can make acne worse.
  • Do not try to "clean out" blackheads or squeeze spots. This can make them worse and cause permanent scarring.
  • Avoid using too much make-up and cosmetics. Use water-based products that are described as non-comedogenic. This means the product is less likely to block the pores in your skin.
  • Completely remove make-up before going to bed.
  • If dry skin is a problem, use a fragrance-free water-based emollient."

Featured Image Credit: Interviewees Own

Topics: Beauty, Life

Joanna Freedman
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