6 Things Not to Say to Someone Who Struggles With Their Skin

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Sophie Coffey
Sophie Coffey
A self-confessed shopaholic with a severe bookshop obsession.

Skin woes are a standard hurdle for every teenager but for some they are a much bigger obstacle and something that can greatly affect self-esteem. When trying to console friends the phrases you employ (while well intended) may do more harm than good. Here’s why. And yes, people have actually said every single one of these!

“Yes, but its different for you!”

Oh my god! I do not know how many times I heard this one, but it was way too many! You know that really horrible moment when someone who has one individual tiny spot complains about their skin, while you stand beside them feeling like a horror film extra. Yeah that feeling!

It is never enjoyable, but it gets worse. Try as you might there are times when you just cannot bite your tongue as a friend moans about a minor blemish you had not even noticed. In these cases, you might find yourself attempting to console them by gesturing self-deprecatingly at your own embellished face. The unfailing response; “Yes, but it’s different for you!”

Why is it different for me? Why is my skin on a different scale? What about my acne is so dreadful, that its different for me? Whether you intend to or not, this is like telling someone else that while your skin personally is suffering a temporary breakout, theirs is a lost cause that they need to accept.

“I wish I had your skin/I love your skin”

Let’s be honest, no, you really do not wish you had my skin. For all of your well-intended attempts at consoling or comforting, the blatant dishonesty of this just comes across as patronising. Most of us have encountered that situation of being in class when a corrected test is being returned and your friend is complaining about her “terrible” 93%! However, said friend is swift to congratulate you on your “amazing” 68% on the exact same test. That identical principle applies here to comments declaring “I wish I had your skin”. While kind in their intent, they are empty words that strain instead of soothe.

“Why don’t you just try…….”

There is a long list of apparent cures, remedies, and products for acne. Each is accompanied by their own set of recommendations and unique selling points. Most acne sufferers have a list of their own, one that is made up of their personal compilation of tried and tested treatments. For many people, this list is already long and disheartening and while something may have worked for you or your friend, everybody’s skin is different. The inclusion of the word “just” also belittles the statement. It implies that our struggles with our skin could be solved if we simply made a little more effort. While recommendations are always appreciated the importance of the phrasing is why this comment made my list.

“You should cut out sugar and drink more water”

Acne is a normal part of being a teenager and young adult. It is as simple as that. Some people will struggle with it more than others (oh hello there!), while others will sail through life practically spotless (seriously what mythical magical creature are you?)

Yes, there are certain factors that can influence your skin including diet, hydration and exercise. However, a key component is also genetics. Acne often runs in families meaning it is literally a part of your DNA. For this reason, telling someone about how beneficial it has been for you to cut out certain foods and drink litres of water daily, is utterly futile.

Perhaps you think you are giving them great advice but as an acne sufferer chances are that they have probably researched and tested this all themselves anyway. Another important impact of the employment of this particular phrase is that it is likely your friend is now incredibly self-conscious about what foods they eat in front of you. This is another comment that unintentionally places the blame on the acne sufferer.

“What happened?”

Firstly, what do you mean what happened? I think it is fairly clear to be honest, considering that the evidence is adorned all over my face! What happened was that my teenage skin did that teenage thing where it loudly informs the world of its anger by swelling and reddening.

Secondly, while this particular phrase is usually exclaimed without much prior thought, it has a lasting effect. We often comfort acne sufferers by insisting their spots are barely noticeable. Any comfort this offers is immediately negated by a comment that makes it clear how obvious any acne marks are.

“You shouldn’t wear make-up”

There is no doubt that make-up can affect your skin, but this depends on the ingredients, brand and whether you remove it properly. Even with all of these factors considered it is still far from an exact science and for those for whom acne is a constant battle, concealer and foundation are among the only weapons. The long-term effects of not wearing make-up may be significant but be aware that these will not always outweigh the short-term benefits for acne sufferers.


For more on my acne journey check out my account of my time on roaccutane!

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