So Fresh, So Clean: A Mediation On Skincare

What’s your skin type? Dry and flaky? Oily and acneic? Perhaps it is both, or neither? Regardless, there is a routine out there to cater to your skin’s needs. Something simple like Clinique’s iconic three-step routine, or something more demanding such as the Korean 10-step routine – there are 2,600,000 results on Google for the search ‘skin care routine’ and innumerable brands touting theirs (hello Clinique!)

Skin care is a long-held obsession of mine. From the very remnants of my mum slathering moisturiser on to my face as a child up until now where I diligently cleanse, tone and moisturise twice a day. I do not have bad skin, in fact I am frequently complimented on the clarity and softness of it and that’s not a brag because it’s probably genetic – mum has good skin, dad has good skin, resulting offspring has good skin… It’s just my ‘thing’. I like washing my face, it’s nice.

going-going-gone-cleansing-irving-penn-vicki-archer

Scrub-a-dub-dub!

In many a haze of ennui I’ve gone days without more than a splash of water and some vague cream slapped on for days on the trot, yet still good skin. And that’s what it is, ‘good’ skin hence ‘clean’ skin i.e. acne-free skin. Acne does not connote impurity, it is not a signifier to others to stay away for this person is contagious, yet cultural conceptions inform that it can simply be scrubbed, lathered, polished and washed away. Perceptions of this kind are so deeply ingrained in society that the prevalence of suicide among patients with acne is higher than those without. Acne is a disease of the skin, not a neglect of it. Moreover, I don’t cleanse my face to ward off acne – I do it because I like to feel clean. I can’t stand the thought of getting into bed every night knowing that I’m carrying the world on my fragile epidermis, can’t get out the door in the morning knowing that I’ve got ‘sleep gunk’ in my pores. It’s totally mental, many studies have been produced proving that over-washing is a thing (and can be incredibly damaging at that), but there is nothing like basking in the hot flurry of a shower on a winter’s morning. Something about that flushed glow after rubbing my face with a flannel just sets me up for the day. For me skin care is about the process, the routine. I’m not infallible and some nights I dive headfirst into bed without a drop of water touching my face, mentally the undertaking was too much. But there is something so decadent, so alluring about those tubes and bottles; I don’t buy makeup, don’t buy expensive handbags, can’t I indulge in this £30 exfoliating polish, please?!

For acne sufferers an over-washing of the skin can destroy its acid mantle making the skin an alkaline environment, thus making the condition worse. In the way that brands tout their industrial grade cleansers, astringent acids of toners and creams probably lumbered together from lard and a bit of food dye for ‘problem’ skin to pull in the desperate sufferers of an oft dismissed disease, I fall prey to pretty packaging and fancy ingredients to quench my piece of mind. ‘Oh, but this one has orange extract in it!’ as if that’s going to cure my existential sense of dread from having to wake up at 7am on a Monday. It’s a placebo – a fragrant balm to distract my mind, an ‘active clearing gel’ to quell your blemish and make you beautiful.

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‘Beautiful’

Beauty doesn’t equate to cleanliness, or clarity. I can’t recommend my myriad of scrubs, creams and lotions for a spotless complexion, there is not a miracle cure out there that will make you as flawless as the (photoshopped) models pictured above. Hell, some days I wish there was a tonic out there that would absolve me of the sprinkling of freckles across my nose and cheeks, but I’m not willing to go down the bleaching route! Cleanse, tone and moisturise away but just treat your skin kindly… you only get one face.

Andre 3000 thinks you’re sexy if you’re fresh and clean, including your acne…


Cordain, L., Lindeberg, S., Hurtado, M., Hill, K., Eaton, S. and Brand-Miller, J. (2002). Acne Vulgaris: A Disease Of Western Civilisation. Archives of Dermatology, 138(12).

Gupta, and Gupta, (1998). Depression and suicidal ideation in dermatology patients with acne, alopecia areata, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. British Journal of Dermatology, 139(5), pp.846-850.

Hirons, C. (2012). Cheat Sheet – Acne – Caroline Hirons. [online] Caroline Hirons. Available at: http://www.carolinehirons.com/2012/05/acne-cheat-sheet.html [Accessed 31 Jan. 2017].

Somerville, M. (2016). The no-showering challenge: why we should all take part. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jun/14/why-we-should-shower-less-hygiene-water-preservation [Accessed 31 Jan. 2017].


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