This is one of the most particularly challenging aspects of living with a skin condition and the thing I am most frequently asked for advice on – dating and relationships with acne.
I’m going to be sharing with you today my personal experiences navigating those internal conflicts with intimacy and confidence and how I eventually stopped concealing around my husband after three years of hiding my acne from him.
So whether you are single or in a relationship, after reading this blog, I hope that you’ll feel better equipped to connect with someone romantically without your skin insecurities holding you back.
So because I first started breaking out at fifteen, I’ve never known dating and relationships without acne. And when my mental health was at it’s worst after about ten years of struggling with it, I remember how I convinced myself that no one could possibly love what I saw when I looked in the mirror. So I wanted to begin by telling you what I needed to hear back then, which is:
The hardest challenge for you right now isn’t about changing the way other people see you, it’s about changing the way you see yourself. You are worthy of love now!
When I first discovered what it meant to love myself, my perspective on my skin changed completely. It sounds cliche – I know… but I had grown into an adult hating this part of myself everyday for so long and it had got me nowhere. When I made self love a priority instead of clearing my acne, magic started happening. So for me, the relationship I had with myself was the most important one for me to work on first before I could even think about feeling confident around another human-being.
But whether you’ve come to accept your skin or not, when you start thinking about entering into a relationship, for some self doubt can start to remerge. Suddenly you start questioning your attractiveness and your confidence evaporates! This is when you need to ramp up the self love! And I’ll be honest my methods are probably a bit out there and to begin with I felt pretty silly but once I got over that I started feeling the benefits! I don’t even know how I came up with some of this stuff, but I think I read somewhere that when you smile it kick starts a chemical reaction in the brain, which in turn releases happy hormones. So every morning instead of feeling for a new breakout the moment I woke up (which would instantly dictate my mood for the rest of the day), I would go to the bathroom instead and smile at myself in the mirror while I brushed my hair, applied my skincare and my makeup and cleaned my teeth! I swear if anyone saw me doing this they would have thought I’d finally cracked! Afterwards I’d say something nice to my reflection. In the beginning I said things like “Your skin is glowing this morning.” and I can’t emphasise enough how transformative it was for me to speak kindly to myself. As a woman, I was used to “faking it” in relationships but I’d never faked it with myself before and I still can’t believe it worked!
So when it comes to first dates and meeting new people I’m often asked whether it’s better to be barefaced which I know a lot of you are daunted by. And the answer to that one is simple. Just show up however you feel most confident. Because if your skin insecurities impact the way you behave in social environments, and wearing makeup allows you to behave more like yourself then that’s not false advertising – it’s a good old fashioned confidence boost.
What’s important is that you don’t create an image of yourself that isn’t sustainable like I did. If you’re messaging or video calling each other with filters applied – that’s going to make it a lot harder for you to feel able to be yourself. But I’m not saying don’t use filters completely, I’m just saying keep it balanced. Send an unfiltered picture every now and then that shows a bit of texture. Personally I find it so much easier to use social apps to do what I find harder to do in person. Using that space for real skin, spares me the shocked faces in person when I find the confidence to go without foundation. It means they’ve already seen my acne, digested it and that’s possibly allowed them to feel more confident about their own insecurities around ME. If you are still in a place where going without makeup isn’t an option for you anytime soon but you don’t want to hide your skin from them forever (assuming the date goes well), I’ve found that bringing up my skin up in conversation while it’s fully concealed a more comfortable way of talking about my insecurities openly. And the way that I would slip this into conversation subtly would be when I’m asked about my hobbies. (That question usually comes up.) I’d say that “I’m really into skincare, and watching makeup tutorials online. I guess because I’ve always struggled with breakouts it’s made me into a bit of a skincare enthusiast.”
When your relationship progresses to an intimate one, it can bring a whole new set of challenges especially if you haven’t felt able to be transparent about your skin. But to be honest with you, even if you have let them see your texture or had conversations about your insecurities – you may still feel nervous about them actually touching your skin. This is a completely normal. And there is nothing wrong with letting them know that. Even now that Chris sees me barefaced more than he sees me with makeup, I still instinctively pull away when he goes to touch my face. It’s partly down to old habits of not wanting my makeup to come off and expose my acne but it’s also because of the energy I put into my skincare routine – and hands are dirty. That being said, it was also really important to me that I challenge that behaviour i’d developed because Chris touching my face was his way of showing me affection and I didn’t want to deny him that.
Sometimes I have to stop and appreciate how far I’ve come with Chris. For the first three years of our relationship I wore makeup to bed and woke up before him to reapply. It was exhausting. Somehow I’d convinced myself that he wouldn’t love me if he saw what my skin really looked like. Of course that was untrue. And this idea of revealing my skin to him seemed like such an impossible thing to do at the time. We lived in staff accommodation at the resort we worked at, we were neighbours which was great for keeping our relationship on the down-low but not so good for me as he was forever popping in unannounced so I couldn’t even go barefaced when I was alone. We moved in together after a few months of dating, so I had to get pretty creative at concealing my skin. I bought so many clay masks so that I could just wear that around the house instead of makeup. Needless to say my relationship with Chris wasn’t having a very good impact on my skin! I’m sad that it took me to reach breaking point before I felt like I could confide in Chris about how my acne made me feel. He had no idea. And it wasn’t until I told him that he realised he had never seen me without makeup. The conversation that I’d built up in my head for months was over in less than a minute. He breezed through it was just like “OK, I’m here for you. What do you fancy for dinner?”
Once it was all out in the open, it then took me a few months to feel confident being barefaced around Chris. And I was really surprised how quickly after that it felt like it had always been that way.
I hope after reading this you are able to take some strength from my experience and start having a few conversations of your own.