Uni Life: another year goes by and nothing has hit the spot

I used to think my acne was caused by the Dubai heat, but chilly Cambridge has forced me to reconsider.

For six years, I have been putting in every effort, leaving no stone unturned, to achieve a goal that creeps tantalisingly close, then slips away through my scrabbling fingers. I have tried every lotion and potion in the quest for acne-free skin. Nothing has worked. It is intensely annoying that everyone else my age is long past their acne stage.

Hankering after clear skin might be a shallow thing to do when the human mind has the capacity to be better occupied in deep thoughts concerning Freudian philosophy or how to save the dolphins. Nevertheless, I am fed up of discovering yet another humongous, volcanic blob between my eyebrows that makes me look like a red-eyed Cyclops. Worse are those pesky whiteheads that creep up underneath the nostril, making it look like you have a cold and forgot to wipe your nose.

It’s the Dubai heat, I used to think. My skin would miraculously clear up whenever we went on holiday to colder countries. Before I had left for university, I reckoned that one good thing about moving to England would be the effect of lower temperatures on stubborn spots. The air in Cambridge is bracing, probably too much so. We walk to lectures with heads bowed against the freezing wind, hands thrust deep into trench-coat pockets, thinking longingly of far­away lands where seeing the sun is a commonplace occurrence. Any good that the cold might have done, though, was negated by sleepless nights and the glut of steaks, burgers and Cornish pasties I eat here.

The dermatologist recommended Retinol A, which emanated a gruesome stench. It certainly caused the pimples to peel off – along with the rest of the skin on my face. A clove cream from the FabIndia store in India fared better – despite making me look jaundiced. But I ran out of the first pot and the branch in Dubai didn’t stock it. The Dh280 cream from Kiehl’s was, hurrah, invisible and odourless. Unfortunately, it was also useless; I could have been rubbing mud on my face for all the good it did – which reminds me, mud packs were useless, too.

What you need, a friend told me wisely, is to go back to nature. “You need to work with the elements,” she said. A horribly gloopy concoction of turmeric, gram flour, yogurt and lemon juice was slathered on my face and somehow all over my clothes, too, which turned a fetching shade of yellow because of the turmeric.

My New Year’s resolution, like every year that has gone by, is to cast away spots forever, apart from the usual insincere nonsense about working harder and being nicer to irksome little children. My latest remedy is a daily application of Colgate toothpaste. At least it is cheap, readily available and endows my face with the scent of fresh breath, so people can be under the pleasant delusion that I’ve brushed my teeth.

The writer is an 18-year-old student at Cambridge who grew up in Dubai