This story begins with the discovery of my first gray hair. Upon further
Trying to get the best shot possible of the wiry little strand, I studied each grainy phone picture snapped by the glow of my computer screen. But do you know what was actually stealing the show, to my over-critical eye? My pores. My big, fat, ugly, clogged pores. They don’t even have the decency to confine themselves somewhere normal like my nose but instead insist on setting up camp all over my face.
Having spent a large portion of my teenage years with my face inches away from a mirror obsessing over (and picking/squeezing/popping) every one of my numerous blemishes and imperfections, I was of course aware of the fact that I have large pores. This time, though, they were just offensive. Couldn’t even have a dramatic moment about my First Gray Hair without my skin wrecking up the place. For the millionth time, I pined for “normal” skin, whatever that is. I sucked it up and texted the picture to my mother and followed with a self-deprecating comment about the aforementioned gigantic pores.
My mother’s reply: “Sorry about the genetics.”
In large part, your skin will always be what you were born with. I have oily, acne-prone skin, with large pores. While I can treat the acne and can try to treat my skin more gently to cut down on oil production, I’m probably always going to have skin that is oily and that is prone to occasional breakouts. My pores will not change in size, because pores don’t open and close as is popularly believed, so there’s another thing I might as well stop worrying about. And those little gray dots that fill the pores on my nose, and my cheeks, and my temple right by that first little gray hair? Those are called sebaceous filaments, and they are part of the skin’s natural process of filling hair follicles with sebum. They’re not blackheads, they’re not bad, they’re not good, they just are – and you can’t get rid of them. If you try to squeeze them, though, you run the risk of stretching out your pores and making them worse.
Maybe you have dark circles under your eyes, with eye bags so large they have to be checked at the airport. Mine sure are! And if we can revisit the genetics thing, so are my mom’s. Nothing short of surgery is going to make those suckers be any less baggy. I can drink more water and I can moisturize – which I should be doing anyway because that’s good for your skin! – but there’s not a magical product, cheap or expensive, that is going to give me the perfectly smooth, porcelain, glowing, pore-less skin that I crave.
And newsflash – no one has that skin. If you’re browsing Skincare Addiction, you’re probably trying to improve your skin. You might see a lot of flaws in yourself. You might be addicted to taking better care of your skin. And this might make you look at others’ skin a little more closely, noticing all the imperfections, flaws, or what you think might be the perfect, glowing complexions of others. But I can guarantee you that no one is looking at your own face as closely as you are. No one is studying it in full detail from a distance of mere inches like you do every morning, and if they do have their face that close to your face I’m willing to bet that they do not even care about whatever horrible mess you think you see in your own skin.
Acceptance, here, is key.
Now here’s my disclaimer: No one should feel like they just need to put up with untreated skin conditions like cystic acne, rosacea, eczema, or even regular hormonal breakouts. There are scads of over the counter and prescription treatments for these kinds of issues, and you should always visit a dermatologist for any skin concerns. But some things, like the size of your pores, can’t be “fixed.” Pores are just pores. You’re going to get wrinkles, too, if you don’t already (I do!), and that’s normal.
Real talk: I’m not ~*~magically cured~*~ of my self-consciousness about my skin just because I know that there’s nothing I can do about some of the flaws I see . . . But the knowledge helps. I also have to remind myself to take a step back and realize that no one is as obsessed with my skin as I am, and that helps also.
At dinner the other night, I was telling my friend about Skincare Addiction. I leaned forward across the table, under a rather obnoxiously bright hanging light, and pointed at my bare skin. “Look,” I said. “See all these little black dots on my nose?”
“Well, err . . . ” she said, peering closely. “Sort of? I guess?”
“Sebaceous filaments,” I said – what a word for something so small and insignificant. “And I’ve always been really self-conscious about them. But they’re, like, normal.”
“I don’t know,” she said. “They’re not really noticeable. You have great skin.”
And unlike my mother, my friend is not obligated to tell me how pretty I am. So there.