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From burnout to balance: You can’t always spot good health

From burnout to balance: You can’t always spot good health

I can remember accompanying Dad to church one day a few years ago. Afterwards, he ran into an old friend, started chatting and introduced me. The friend looked me over and said,
“And how old are you, my dear?”
“Umm…37,” I replied, to her apparent surprise.
The moral of this story, I think, is that I look a little younger than I actually am. Or maybe that when you get to a certain age, everyone looks like, in my late father’s words, a ‘spring chicken’.

My face is plump and round, so the wrinkles haven’t had much of a chance to really settle in yet. The other thing that gives me a bit of a youthful glow is my skin, which is – and I hope you don’t mind me sharing this – really oily.

I’ve been reminded of this recently as my skin has broken out again. For the last 20 years, I’ve taken medication to stop the breakouts that started when I was in high school, but while my skin has been pretty clear, the medication has been driving my blood pressure up. I stopped taking it a few months ago, under doctor’s orders. So here I am, in my 40s, with just as many spots around my forehead, chin, chest and back as some of the teenagers I teach. (Just for the sake of clarity: I haven’t seen the kids’ chests or backs, nor do I wish to.)

Out of interest, I looked up prices for acne treatments, which seem to start at around the $100 mark and go up to at least $300, with the option for adding something called ‘numbing cream’ for another $25. (Does it anesthetise you to the fact you’ve just squandered hundreds of dollars on questionable treatments?)

I don’t believe in any of that, although I’ve tried to be extra careful about getting plenty of water and plenty of sleep, but I’ve still broken out the concealer most mornings. (Can I also just say that ‘Concealer’ would be an excellent title for Lorde’s next album, or any female singer songwriter, really.)

Despite the concealer, people notice the pimples. On a particularly pimply day, a colleague asked me if I was under the weather. I’m actually in better health than I was before, even if you wouldn’t know it from looking at me. My doctor said I had been at risk of a stroke – a few pimples are a small price to pay for normal blood pressure.

So I’ve been thinking of all those bright-eyed, clear-skinned ‘wellness influencers’ who put their looks down to a particular lifestyle or product. You know what I think? Some lucky people just have clear skin or great figures without even trying that hard – especially when they are young. I remember some of the supermodels of the 90s. Despite, drink, drugs and all-night parties, they looked pretty fabulous. While there are many healthy habits that can improve our looks, sometimes you just have to be content to know that health, unlike beauty, is not just skin deep.

First published: May 2019

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