How do you feel about your skin? Do you compare yourself to others? Do you have a skin condition that impacts your mental health? Or feel uneasy if your skin breaks out?
You are not alone. Sadly, toxic societal and social media attitudes about skin still remain; the worrying existence of social media face editing apps promising to alter the appearance of your skin in just a few taps, feels at the very least unrealistic. And actually quite harmful!
In her article Love the skin you are in, Counselling Directory member and trauma therapist Joanna Bieszczad, talks about the mental health pitfalls of airbrushed images, “Many women spend excess amounts of time and money trying desperately to live up to these picture-perfect photos. It can sadly be damaging to mental health, and it is not something that should be encouraged.”
Fortunately, some outdated standards when it comes to the body and the way we look, have started to deteriorate over recent years due to the move toward inclusivity and a better understanding of mental health. So what is the trend towards skin neutrality, and how can this phenomenon positively impact our wellbeing?
What is skin neutrality?
Skin neutrality is simply feeling neutral about your skin. Rather than pushing yourself to feel positive about it or spending time feeling bad about yourself, it’s a recognition that there is no such thing as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ skin. Practising a neutral attitude toward your skin is a way to come between low self-esteem and the way you look. It’s OK to feel upset or disheartened if your skin flares up, but skin neutrality is a way of not getting swallowed up in emotions or negative thinking. It’s taking a healthy move toward skin conditions and the way your skin looks.
What is the difference between skin neutrality and skin positivity?
Taking inspiration from skin positivity, which champions and celebrates all types of skin, skin neutrality is a way for people who struggle to love their skin unreservedly to look for a feeling of acceptance or peace. It’s calling a truce with yourself, pulling away from either giving yourself a hard time or telling yourself you look great (if you’re feeling the very opposite of this). Skin neutrality could be seen as a stepping stone to skin positivity, where every day you see the good in your skin regardless of how it looks, or simply the final destination, depending on your history with skin and mental health struggles.
How do skin conditions affect mental health?
We can all get hooked on good skin days and beat ourselves up if our skin is having a flare-up. And skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and acne can really take their toll, leaving mental health scars.
The month of June welcomes acne awareness month; acne is one of the most common skin concerns in the UK, affecting most people of all ages at some point in their lives. It causes oily skin, spots and sometimes skin that is painful to touch. Acne awareness month is a way of lessening the shame associated with this particular skin condition, prompting discussions and awareness about how acne can be celebrated.
The hashtag #acneneutrality shows people with acne discarding the filters and sharing real pictures of their skin. This online encouragement is such a positive way to let people struggling know that they’re not alone. But sometimes we need a little extra help, especially if we face judgement from the outside world. If you’re finding it hard to move toward skin neutrality, it may be worth making an appointment to see your GP or seek one-to-one support from a counsellor.
A Counselling Directory psychotherapist talks about their experience living with a skin condition and the value of counselling in their article, Living with eczema.
Being able to talk to someone who listened and tried to understand by putting themselves in my shoes made me feel I could talk about how I felt on a much deeper level than I had ever done before.
Whatever steps you make to feel more accepting of yourself, becoming skin neutral (or being more aware of the concept), can help you appreciate the amazing things your skin does for your wellbeing - every single day. It’s not only the largest organ in your body, it's your front line of defence and even regulates body temperature. It works so hard, without you even knowing. So let’s show some support for skin by understanding how it looks is not its main function; it’s to keep you healthy (and what's even more amazing is that doesn't ask too much in return!)