There’s a bit of ‘huh’ to this
And there’s a bit of ‘ouch’ to this
I wanna get closer to you
But I’ve pimples & fun gets a miss!
Oh well, I knew who was missing all the fun and I knew what could have helped. So did I let my secret out? Did I help? Did the pimples disappear? Was life all fun after that? And I also know what you desperately want to know. Who am I talking about? Is it a girl? Is it a boy? What am I talking about and what could have been missed? A party? A relationship? A job? A trip?
Well, what if I say that she went on to be a ‘Page 3’ Diva a few years later? What if I say that she sizzled on the ramp and never again hid her smile behind a sore pimple? What if I say that she went on to win a beauty crown that anyone would actually covet? But let just begin by saying that I met her on one sultry and humid day during the monsoons in Delhi. An internationally known brand had set up a sale on the ring road in a banquet hall and as I went in with Specky (my wife) and my son (who was barely three years old then) with my Yashica FX7, I could see that a prim and slim girl was looking at us with curiosity in her eyes.
As we browsed our way through the massive Benetton collection, she walked up and hesitatingly said to my wife, ‘Hi! I’m Sushmita, ma’am. I’m sure you taught me math.’ Specky appraised her from a teacher’s x-ray eyes and replied, ‘Aha! Yes, I do remember you… still not putting on any weight, are you?’
Well, the intros over, Sushmita called over her boy-friend, who was probably an executive with the company and she had just come to spend her day with him, and excitedly told him about us. She then immediately turned to me and asked, ‘Are you a photographer?’
‘Not really,’ I said, ‘I’m an enthusiast though… but then the writer in me loves any form that has creativity built in.’
Sushmita’s boy-friend explained to us that she was always attracted to anyone walking around with a camera slung over his shoulders, ‘She aims to be a model, you see. So any action that she perceives as a catalyst towards making her dreams come true, was an action not to be missed.’ Specky smiled and, as teachers are known to, simply put a question bluntly, ‘I thought the ramp doesn’t encourage faces with pimples. You really need to do something about it.’
‘You’re right, ma’am,’ said Sushmita and told us that she was loading up her face with every acne-solving cream that was there in the market. She took out a few tubes from her bag and even showed them to us. I could see topical applications of tretinoin and even isotretinoin there and smiled as I said, ‘If you aren’t careful with them, you can actually wake up with a terribly stretched skin that isn’t afraid to tell you that you’ve made it sore!’ Her boy friend laughed and said, ‘Yes, this happened only last week. That was when she started loading herself with sulphamethoxazole and trimethoprim combinations and even doxycycline.’
Pimples had always attracted me… and yes, I had written a few sensual couplets on girls with pimples… but being a part of the sales force in a large multinational pharmaceutical company, my reading on them had been fairly wide and voluminous. I told Sushmita that acne isn’t something to be mortally afraid of as it is simply an inflammatory skin condition that has superficial skin eruptions around hair follicles. I also told her that topical retin-A derivatives in combination with topical antibiotics and oral antibiotics were generally the first line of treatment for them.
‘But nothing seems to be helping me,’ she wailed.
I knew there were more expensive treatments that used a combination of adapalene and benzoyl peroxide where you get your retinoid and antibiotic together… but then before I could say anything more, Specky asked, ‘Have you tried rubbing toothpaste on your pimples?’ This meeting was fast getting to be more like a medical symposium on pimples.
I intervened and said, ‘If you haven’t, please don’t even try it. You will only end up with inflamed skin.’ I also added that most toothpastes contained triclosan that is an antibacterial ingredient often added to personal care items like soap, deodorant, and body wash. Triclosan did have anti-bacterial properties and many doctors did recommend it as an additional element in acne treatment, although mostly as a preventive and not an active intervention. Well, I must add that Sushmita was well read on the subject of acne and knew all about sebaceous glands and how their secretions, once blocked, were the causes of these appearances and eruptions. I wasn’t surprised to see her carrying a gel with 1% clindamycin and 5% benzoyl peroxide too. I laughed and called her an acne specialist right there!
Those were days when there were no laptops, iPads, smartphones, and obviously there was no internet. We either read whatever we wanted to know or we depended on such stray conversations with people who knew. So I told her that the one thing that was sure to give her relief was using neem.
‘Neem?’ she shouted making a wry face.
I told her that neem was actually an antibacterial herb that has the power to not only kill acne causing bacteria but would help her soothe the perpetual redness and irritation that was so dominant on her face. ‘You wouldn’t want to aggravate this redness and irritation on your facial skin, would you?’ I asked.
‘No,’ was the simple mono-syllabic answer from this future beauty queen.
I obviously gave her one of my 3-minute lectures on how the right amount of cleanliness, food habits, and lack of stress would speed up the remedial process. ‘But you shouldn’t really stress so much about acne,’ I added, ‘you know they appear because of hormonal imbalance and at puberty this hormone metabolism does run through a lot of changes.’ Sushmita nodded her head and a few years later in the mid-nineties when we saw her become a global phenomenon, I told Specky in one of our long-distance calls, ‘Neem helped Sushmita be with her dreams.’ Specky, who was studying for her DPhil at the University of York then as a Commonwealth Scholar, immediately said, ‘Yes. It was fortunate that she bumped into us that day or India would’ve missed its date with fame!’
So this was the story of how Sushmita won over her battle with pimples. So she has not missed even one moment of fun since then… but what is vital today is that we have access to a treasure of knowledge on the net and so we don’t need to wait for an accidental meeting with someone who will guide us correctly.
The supercalifragilistic Tree Tea Oil enigma
Moreover, in the late eighties and the early nineties did we even have something that matches the prowess of something as supercalifragilistic as Pure Active Neem Face Wash from Garnier? Their info-sheet mentions:
Pure Active Neem Facewash fights germs, pollution and removes oil. It contains real Neem Leaf and Tree Tea Oil extracts:
1) Fights germs: Washes away problem causing germs.
2) Fights Pollution: deep cleans pores to remove impurities caused by pollution.
3) Removes Oil: Washes away excess oil which attracts dirt & germs.
In the eighties we were compelled to harness the benefits of neem by an absolutely desi methodology… like converting neem leaves into a paste and mixing it with turmeric, milk, and gram flour for a home-made facial. This is what helps the acne-sufferers deal with this issue. The truth about acne is that barring a few stubborn cases, a bit of patience and the right change in cleaning the day’s sticky, sweaty dirt helps. Add to this a stress-free psyche and the adoption of a food habit that rules out those things that trigger hormonal imbalance and you’re on safer grounds.
The Pure Active Neem Facewash that I have mentioned has tree teal oil extracts as well. A medical website specifies: “Mild to moderate acne. Applying a 5% tea tree oil gel appears to be as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide (Oxy-5, Benzac AC, and others) for treating acne. Tea tree oil might work more slowly than benzoyl peroxide, but seems to be less irritating to facial skin. When applied twice daily for 45 days, tea tree oil reduces several acne symptoms, including acne severity.” So there you go… people in 2015 have access to this wonderful alternative that I’m sure creates a panic in the acne dna.
Our teenaged poppa
There is another small acne story that I want to share here. This one is the story of my cousin brother who somehow managed to pop his pimples and we called him our ‘teenaged poppa’. I pointed out to him, ‘You have successfully made a mere pimple graduate into a war veteran that looks like an angry red sore. These sores are like snipers who will camouflage as dry crusty scabs and will fire itches at will!’ He smiled at my description but continued with his pimple picking unabated until one day he came to me in tears and said, ‘I’m fed up. Suggest a solution.’ Now, if a cousin comes to you seeking help, you have no alternative but to give it without any more satire… and this is precisely what I did. I wrote a small rhyming poem for him to tack on the wall near his study table. This is what I wrote:
Pimples don’t rock your life if you leave them alone
Yes, pimples are fearful little terrorists
Who think they are big enough
To come and jab you with guilt
And a face that looks totally rough!
They provoke you to pick and poke them
And get sore when you get trapped.
So just don’t pick a pimple anymore
And stop being an idiot who is rapped!
Treat them well and clean them too
When they irritate, just ice them down
Use neem in any avatar
And they’ll cease to frown!
And those that you’ve already popped
Need to be cleaned, iced and submerged
In an antibiotic layer until they’re calm
And completely purged!
Well, all I can add here is that my cousin ‘poppa’ did read my poem every day and followed what I recommended. He did get relief from his popped pimples and even finally got rid of them and was back to his normal self.
The final word: Face Swachchta Abhiyan
Pimples don’t need final words… they need a daily cleansing attack! Look, swachchta isn’t only for our streets and homes… it is a principle that applies equally strongly to our face. So what I recommend is a ‘Face Swachchta Abhiyan’ for everyone and not just those who have pimples laying a siege on them. All I mean is that we keep the facial area clean and use something like the Neem face-wash that I mentioned earlier in this post, daily… and such a face-wash used twice or more times can only be beneficial. Do this and cease to be bewildered by this terrorist called a pimple!
31 January 2015