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If a teen is fixated on their spots it can be good to airbrush them away

By Jane Graham

Published 23/10/2015

Facing facts: acne can be bane of a teenagers’ lives
Facing facts: acne can be bane of a teenagers’ lives

We should encourage our children to embrace their acne; it's part of who they are. Hmm. In every campaign grounded in righteous positivity, there comes a tipping-point, where the principle of the thing trips up the common sense instinct which initiated it.

Like most sensible women, I think media images of airbrushed, impossibly beautiful women do real damage to girls in the real world. No matter how hard you work as a mother to explain, scorn, laugh out loud at the malignant "norms" implied by women's magazines poking sticks at flabby bellies and cellulite (and no, editors, disguising your nasty little exposes as "celebrations of curves" doesn't wash) and photoshopped pictures posted by numbskull celebrities on Instagram, they still do a job on our kids.

They make them paranoid, anxious, and overly self-conscious about their own imperfect, normal bodies. They also provide ammunition for bullies looking to attack conspicuously "flawed" peers. So, yes, we all agree, body fascism and faked skinny pictures are a bad thing.

There's a danger, though, of getting so fired up by the obvious wrongness of this culture that we refuse individuals the right to feel uncomfortable with any part of themselves.

There is now a trend for accusing women who attempt to cover up, improve, or change aspects of their appearance of being fluffy-headed, over-impressionable, self-fixated, or traitors to the sisterhood. This is, I feel - to put it politely - patronising and dictatorial; a kind of brain fascism, if you will.

There was a little hoo-ha this week when Sussex mother Alexandria Norman accused a school photo company of "stealing the innocence" of her daughter by offering to retouch her pictures. The Daily Mail reported a frenzy of "furious" parents piling in to support Mrs Norman in her outrage.

"It will make our children feel that we don't accept them as they are," she said. "And that we aren't as happy with the photos unless we cover up their 'blemishes'."

I was asked on to a radio show to discuss the harrowing experience of the mum who was not made to do anything she didn't think was a good idea. I was joined by a body image expert who explained the dangers of retouching photographs.

My own initial reaction to the story was concern that children who were happy with their appearance would not react well to having their parents "improve" it with technology. I still think if the only party interested in using this service is the parent, and not the child, it's best left well alone.

If, on the other hand, teenage girls - or boys - who are struggling with acne and want a school photo which doesn't serve as an eternal reminder of a horrible plight on their daily lives, I can't see a problem with simply skin-blur.

Moles, freckles, cow's licks and even tomato soup stains - these are little treasures of time and individuality and should be maintained.

Acne and fresh, angry scars aren't, as the body expert I debated with insisted, "who we are". They're insidious interlopers which make us miserable and which are, with any luck, transient. It's normal, and perfectly acceptable, to want to be allowed to forget them once in a while.

There can be a positive outcome to airbrushing teenage acne.

For those kids who are so fixated on their spots they imagine it's the first thing everyone notices about them, it may be a way of giving them an idea of what the rest of us really see - bright eyes, rosy cheeks, the beautiful signs of health and youth.

The things that make the rest of us sigh with envy and delight.

In short, a rather lovely thing.

George’s elitism is back in full swing

George Osborne must welcome, as part of our new “golden era” relationship with China, the move by Wentworth Golf Club, recently purchased by a Beijing-based group, to charge members £100,000 to remain.

Apparently, the Surrey club is keen to improve its relationship with the locals — “Middle Eastern royalty, international business tycoons, professional golfers and celebrities”, according to the BBC.

Non-millionaire members, many of whose social life, as well as sporting life, is focused on the club, are evidently of lesser concern.

Osborne may be pleased to see that unapologetic snobbery and cash-based elitism is back on the agenda; he can call himself a trailblazer now.

Don’t take a pop at One Direction

The clamour to attack One Direction for cancelling their Belfast show on Tuesday is a nonsense.

While I felt very sorry for the kids in tears on the night, and wonder if the announcement could have been made earlier, it seems reasonable, bearing in mind the band have never cancelled a show in five years, to assume the decision was justified.

The unusually speedy organisation of a show on Friday for everyone who missed out is more than compensation, and the urge to give the band a kicking for their briefly postponed gig is just another example of the media taking pleasure in undermining successful young pop stars.

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