April 25, 2009

Body Image Week: Presenting Lenore!

Today I am guest blogging at The Story Siren, and Kristi is guest blogging at Lenore's blog. And of course Lenore is guesting here! She's a woman who needs no introduction to most of the blogosphere, but for those who don't know here . . . Lenore writes a grand ole blog and posts pictures of her cat Emmy. She's highly personable and always has something to add to the discussion. I couldn't be happier to be hosting her on my blog.


When I was 17, if a genie had appeared and given me one wish, I would have used it on perfect skin. Goodbye oily t-zone with visible pores prone to clogging. Goodbye milky white skin tone that burns instead of tans. Goodbye stretch marks on my inner thighs left behind by an extreme tween growth spurt.

My imperfections were relatively minor, but they were so big in my teenage mind that they would have come before world peace or a lottery win. So I could only begin to imagine how Terra, teen protagonist of Justina Chen Headley’s novel NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL, must feel about a port wine stain that covers half her face. Her instinct is to hide, to cover up around other people, to retreat from life. Then she meets an adopted Chinese guy with a cleft palate scar who ends up being a catalyst for her journey towards self acceptance.

Reading about Terra’s struggles to feel comfortable in her own skin, it occurred to me that I don’t run across many YA novels about skin afflictions or oddities. Sure, a huge pimple erupting before a big date is a classic plot point that we are all familiar with, but what a about a novel from the POV of a burn victim or someone with severe acne?

In the last novel I read, Laura Whitcomb’s THE FETCH, two of the protagonists are affected by a supernatural phenomenon called “The Brightening” that makes their skin glow. So as to not freak others out, they dust themselves with heavy powder. And of course there is always the sparkle problem that plagues the vampires in Twilight. Julia Hoban’s WILLOW has to wear long sleeve shirts to cover up her cutting scars. And one of the twins in Jacquelyn Mitchard’s LOOK BOTH WAYS puts toothpaste on a pimple because she heard it is a miracle cure. It does dry out the pimple, but it also gives her a scaly, red rash. The only thing that helps is undertaker make-up borrowed from a funeral parlor.

I too have tried the toothpaste trick. In my quest for model-worthy skin, I’ve experimented with astringents, scrubs, cleansing pads (Oxy anyone?), masks, moisturizers, concealers, foundations and powders. Rabid fashion magazine consultation led to product overload, which just irritated my skin and made it worse. In fact, I found once I started just using a gentle skin cleanser, my skin was a lot better off.

The genie never granted my wish, but I am generally happy with my skin these days. So to sign off, I’ll leave you with some tips for fresh, glowing skin that have worked for me.

Use a facial moisturizer with sunscreen every day.
Don’t smoke.
Avoid excessive sugar.
Do an elimination diet to see what foods might be affecting your skin (I discovered my skin is sensitive to dairy).
Drink plenty of water.
Get adequate sleep (I need 7-8 hours).
Don’t stress!
Read more YA novels ;)

PS: If you know of any other novels that deal with skin issues, let me know in the comments. Thanks!


  1. Can I ask what an elimination diet is?

    I'm lucky enough to have good skin, but I still need to wash it every night. I like the basic Clean & Clear cream face wash. Then in the morning it's a layer of Oil of Olay moisturizer for sensitive skin with sunscreen.

    And I always get pimples right before something big because I can't help stressing a little about it.

  2. If only my ance pron skin would have been something I'd grown out of after adolescence, unfortunately I am still frequently visited by the zit fairy. And honestly at this point I've given up that it's going to get better.... but I've learned to live with it and enjoy my break-out free days.

  3. So much about skin (like most things about our bodies - a fact we really have to remember when we rush to blame ourselves for our perceived flaws) is genetics. My grandmother had the best skin: she would sit in the Florida sun with a layer of Johnson's Baby Oil on her arms and never once had to see a dermatologist.

  4. Thanks for the great post and thanks for the tips!

  5. Leigh, you reminded me.

    I may not be prone to zits but I am at high risk for skin cancer. I've already had several pre-cancerous growths removed. (Not fun: someone forgetting you have stitches in your arm and slugging you good luck.)

  6. Thanks for a great post!
    Meg Cabot's All-American Girl is always talking about her freckles and the fact her sister doesn't have any.
    Also as for my skin issue. I'm really pale, like at school all of the gingers were seeing who was palest by comparing their arms (after their summer tans) and I was paler than all of them. T-T

  7. after many years spent sleeping just three or four hours a night, I can attest to Lenore's caution here: Sleep more, hold to your beauty.

  8. Thanks for the post. I'd suggest some sort of exercise to sweat out the toxins from your skin - like bikram yoga which is a yoga done in a hot/ humid studio.

  9. Emily by Jack Weyland is a YA book about a burn victim. He is an LDS author, so there is a fair amount of spiritual stuff as well.

  10. Liv - Elimination diet is when you eliminate all trigger foods like gluten, dairy, sugar, etc and then add one at a time to see if they cause problems. Look up the Joshi diet. That's the one I did to find out that dairy triggers skin breakouts.

  11. Kristi - When I eat dairy, I still get zits too. Ugh.

    Leigh - That's so true!!

    Jen - I bet if we compared, I'd be paler :)

    Beth - In college I got an average of 2 hours of sleep a night. I just can't do that anymore.

    vv- My husband does Bikram hot yoga!!

    Amy - thanks for the tip. I hadn't heard of that one.

  12. Great post, Lenore :)

    I'm really prone to pimples on my chin, it drives me crazy. However, it really calms down whenever i go swimming a few days in a row, something about chlorine seems to help (o_o)

    Also, I use a clarins cleanser and toner now and it also helps. I'm usually happy with my skin as it only as the odd zit now and then. I just wish that those would vanish forever too.

  13. I have horrible skin and a lot of it comes from working in a greasy restaurant but since i have bills to pay there isn't much I can do about it. I loved North of Beautiful! great post.

  14. I just listened to the audio of Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (great, great book!), and the main character, Dashti, has a birthmark on one side of her face and one of her hands.

    Great post. I'm still somewhat jealous of my twin sister who has always, always had better skin than me. Sigh.

  15. I totally understand the whole issue with skin problems... Not only does my face constantly get acne (despite going to the dermatologist every few months!), I also have eczema. So my skin dries out all the time, and when it's too hot out then my eczema starts breaking out, it's horrible -_-

  16. Ahh ... it's so nice to treat yourself well ...


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