She looked me up and down with a disapproving, almost hateful, expression on her face.
“That’ll be thirty-five pence.”
I paid for the chocolate bar I was, no doubt, desperate to munch, feeling insecure.
“The yellow doesn’t suit you,” she couldn’t help but impart before I left the corner shop. She wasn’t careful how she said, either. The words rushed out of her mouth in an insulting tone, blunt and sarcastic.
It wasn’t ‘yellow’, it was gold. And it was powdered eyeshadow. I had attempted to carefully dab it in the corners of my eyes, thinking it would draw attention away from my skin. It was all the rage at the time – just like the heavy eyeliner I wore like a sort of trademark. Although, it was more of a uniform because, back in 1980s, I was teetering between the ‘pretty-punk’ look and trying to imitate Farrah Fawcett.
I don’t think I ever carried off either look particularly well, and a cutting comment was all it took to really knock my confidence. Certainly around ‘older people’.
When it came to my peers, it was another story. I was outgoing. I enjoyed going to discos, summer festivals and concerts. I was a dedicated night owl, so any skin imperfections were less likely to be zeroed in on. In fact, I went to a lot of events because I was never short of free tickets. There were actual perks to being a newspaper reporter back then!
And herein lies the crux of my skin care sins… (I’m pictured below, circa 1982)
When You Are Young, You Don’t Care
I can’t remember the number of times I fell into bed with a full face of make-up still clinging to my skin. It must have been hundreds of times. Probably thousands. The one skin care product I owned was an astringent – and I only ever used that when I felt foundation wasn’t cutting it in my never-ending bid to camouflage blackheads.
By my middle twenties, I don’t think there was a millimetre of my nose not peppered with black dots.
And this leads me to another lingering memory of a hurtful comment…
“Your face is covered in blackheads.”
I, actually, didn’t need to be told that – especially by a Miss Perfect colleague, whose blemish-free skin resembled that of a cover girl. I already knew. But, when you are young, statements that are intended to hurt really do.
It’s strange because, all these years later, I can still picture where I was sitting in the newsroom when she said it. Maybe, it was a ‘you have to be cruel to be kind’ way of encouraging me to actually do something about my skin. But, that was never going to work. I was too busy spending money on make-up and convincing myself blackheads were just ‘something you get when you are young’.
I must have believed that I’d wake up one day to find they’d magically disappeared.
And Then It Hits You…
I still had blackheads in my early thirties. If it wasn’t for a chance purchase, I’d probably still be covered in them now. I was lucky, because I managed to ‘catch’ my skin before even more lasting damage was done.
That single product woke me up to what I’d been doing wrong – ignoring my skin’s needs. It led me to experiment with other products and triggered a lasting obsession with skin care.
I’ve always found it easier to stick to a routine with a kit. They’ve got better over the years – there are sets for all skin types and ages. And they often work out cheaper than buying individual products.
I’m 55 now (there’s a snap of me at the bottom of my blog on gifts for cancer patients). My biggest concerns are keeping enlarged pores (the lasting result of all those blackheads!) clear and evading wrinkles. All-in-all, I’m not doing too bad. My skin is in better condition now than it was 15 years ago – probably the culminative effect of all the care and attention it has received.
Of course, not all my skin care-related memories are bad ones. I remember the owner of a high-end boutique (she stocked Clarins and Clinique, brands that would not have interested me in the least back then) offering to do my make-up before a television appearance. I was being interviewed about a project I had been working on for a newspaper.
She was absolutely fantastic, explaining that lighting in the studio necessitated a thick layer of foundation and in a shade or two darker than my normal tone. I don’t know how she did it, but her make-over had an airbrush effect. Of course, I was never able to replicate the look at home.
If I could have my time again, I would definitely not wear black eyeliner like it was going out of fashion and I would properly cleanse, tone and moisturise my face – not matter how tired, no matter how drunk, no matter how blasé.
And, if I had a teenage daughter, I’d get her interested in taking care of her skin right now. Because, thirty to forty years down the road, she will thank you.
Never forget… Your face is your fortune.
I’d love to read about your skin care horror stories. Please feel free to share below.