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Unquiet Skin cover

Skin deep: this film explores what it’s like living with a skin disorder

‘We regain power when having the courage to unlearn the beauty standards we never asked for’

“The lasting effects of having a skin condition, aside from the immediate, are wounds that last past the healing stages,” says filmmaker Patrick Taylor. “It leaves invisible marks that can affect your mental health on a day-to-day basis.”

Taylor knows about this first-hand. The London-based director has dealt with eczema since childhood, and he drew on these personal experiences for his latest short film, Unquiet Skin. Exploring the relationship between skin conditions and mental health, Unquiet Skin stars three women who are dealing with their own battles with their skin, whether that’s acne, eczema or Mongolian Blue Spots, and challenging beauty standards. 

“I wanted to magnify and normalise different skin types whilst exploring the physical and emotional pain that comes with it,” says Taylor. “We’re all the same on a cellular level. Ultimately, the individual will be going through a lot of pain and sometimes isolation as a result. It’s important to understand that their condition is a part of them, but that it doesn’t necessarily define them.” We spoke to the three stars of the film, Sophie, Kerrie-Anne, and Aramidé about filming, their relationship with their skin, and how to move the conversation forward.

Why did you want to be a part of the film? 

Sophie: When the opportunity arose, I immediately knew this was something I needed to do; not only for my own journey to self-acceptance but for all the other acne angels who may feel the same way. I never saw acne-prone skin featured in films – so it felt natural and important to become that person. Even if it’s just the first step, I feel proud to be part of a movement normalising acne in creative industries and the public media. I never thought my deepest insecurity would eventually be looked at through a lens as something to be celebrated. 

Kerrie-Anne: I was inspired by all the amazing skin advocates courageously sharing their skin journeys on social media. Being part of the film was a chance for me to break free from the hold my skin and appearance has had on me most of my life. 

Aramidé: I believe more dark-skinned women without Eurocentric features should be seen on screen. The objective? To challenge beauty norms and the status quo surrounding skin. As a woman with a skin condition, I wanted to be a part of this film to represent and empower all living with a skin condition as well as reduce the stigma associated with visible skin disease. Skin is for function. Skin is not an aesthetic. Your skin is your largest organ. Protecting all your other organs. Fighting to keep you alive.

How has your skin condition affected your life? 

Sophie: Although there were many physically and mentally painful moments, having PCOS and acne changed my personality and introduced me to a whole new community. It taught me a lot about empathy, looking beyond how we present ourselves and truly embodying the idea that beauty isn’t just skin deep. It doesn’t hurt to have more knowledge about skincare, health, and healing, too! 

Kerrie-Anne: My skin has affected me physically, emotionally, and socially. It’s had a huge part in defining my identity, confidence and how I live my day-to-day life. I will never be as carefree as I would like. Little things that other people might not have another thought about, like sleeping on sheets laundered in unknown detergent, sharing make-up with friends, or jumping into a pool on a hot summer’s day are all things that could trigger an eczema flare.

It’s a never-ending journey learning how to be confident in my own skin and not letting some of the negative childhood experiences affect me. While to a lesser degree now, I still struggle with my identity and confidence, particularly when my eczema is flaring. But every time I push myself I build up my confidence a little more and the control my skin has on me psychologically reduces. I have learnt to live with it and what was something I previously could only see negatives in, I can now also create positive experiences from. Having a skin condition as well as other chronic health conditions has even influenced my choice of career. I now work in drug development to transform the perspective of people living with different diseases into scientific evidence that is used in clinical research.  

Aramidé: After years of confusion and living under a false sense of security. I am now living in complete acceptance and freedom with my skin. I love my skin and I believe in my beauty no matter what my skin condition.

How can we start changing the way we think about skin conditions in our culture? 

Sophie: In terms of what the industry can do, I hope to see more transparent, inclusive beauty campaigns that actually showcase real skin. I always found it so ironic that acne products were never shown alongside people with acne. As a community we can educate ourselves about how skin conditions happen and re-write the narrative of social normalities within identity and appearance. We regain power when having the courage to unlearn the beauty standards we never asked for, and as a result we reduce the shame associated with it. That to me, is a huge win.

Kerrie-Anne: Raising awareness through films like this are a great start, showing the world that there is beauty in our differences. We are visual creatures so the more we portray different skin conditions and skin diversity in the media, the more familiar and normal it becomes. Open and non-judgemental conversations about what different skin conditions are and the impact it has will help too.

Aramidé: Skin for far too long has been viewed as an aesthetic. The priority is for clean, clear glowing skin. However, skin is for function. When you consider this, you realise the impact of treating skin in a certain way but you can also consider those living with skin conditions. Skin conditions which affect the function of skin. 

Skin keeps all our other organs safe, protects us from infection, regulates temperature and is responsible for touch. When you realise this and that those living with skin conditions are affected by these factors - this could be a catalyst for change. Skin conditions are not just dry or unattractive skin. They cause pain. Affect touch and the ability to feel. Make you more prone to infection. Skin conditions can affect your thermoregulation. 

Skin is for function. Skin is not an aesthetic.

Director and Editor: Patrick Taylor @paddyking
DOP: Adam Singodia @adamsingodia
Camera Assistant: James Huthwaite @jameshuth
First Assistant Director: Alfie Jackson @alfieleighjackson
Composer: Johnny Lillis
Sound Design, Mix: Ines Adriana @_inesadriana_
Colourist: Myles Bevan, Time Based Arts @m.y.l.e.s @timebasedarts
Colour Producer: Dan Kreeger, Time Based Arts @thekreeger @timebasedarts
VO Recording: Mike Chubb, PRL Studio 
Film and Processing: Kodak London @kodak_shootfilm
Film Scan: Digital Orchard @digitalorchard