Roommates may be bad for your skin, experts say
By JACK POLLARD
Roommates; everyone has them. Living in close quarters with a friend or complete stranger is an integral part of life at college. The transition of adapting to another person’s schedule and living habits can be challenging, however, and for some people that are forced to change beauty regimens 18 years in the making, it begs the question: Is your roommate bad for your skin? I reached out to the Health Center, the Talley Center and a student in order to find out. Unfortunately, despite both emails and in-office inquiries, the Health Center proved unavailable for comment last week. However, I was able to meet with the Talley Center’s Director, Dr. Tevya Zukor, a practicing clinical psychologist for over 13 years. Zukor is experienced in group therapy, trauma recovery, issues with grief and loss and crisis management.
“I personally believe that having a roommate is one of the most important and greatest developmental milestones of the college experience,” said Zukor. “For many of our students, this is going to be the first time they’ve had a roommate, and the first time they’re having to learn to navigate and share space and resources.”
As everyone quickly finds out, that learning curve can be a challenge. Not only are you having to share space, you’re now having to share in someone else’s life. Not just their possessions, but all their mannerisms and little habits too, not to mention their schedules.
“Many people benefit from the continuity of routine,” said Zukor. “It makes things easier to do; if you’re the kind of person who gets breakfast every morning, or wakes up at the same time each day, you have that thing you know you’re going to do, day in and day out. And for a lot of people, it can be a really helpful thing to start your day with that productivity. However, having a roommate has the potential to disrupt that.”
“All of a sudden,” Zukor continued, “you’re sharing one bathroom with a person and sometimes, they’re using it when you need it. Sometimes, they’re not. Sometimes, they have a class that they’re trying to get to and you’re taking up their time. I have seen so many roommate conflicts over the simple reason that people have class at the same time.”
Whether your schedules and habits are too similar or too different, Zukor recommends communication as the best solution.
“Roommates can be really disruptive to routine, whether their sleep cycle is different to yours, or there’s too much clutter in the bathroom,” said Zukor. “However, it’s always better to try and anticipate that stuff and have a conversation beforehand. If you have it in the moment, you run the risk of the other person feeling attacked or criticized, and then people get defensive and nothing gets done. Make a plan with your roommate ahead of time.”
Molly Adelsbach, a sophomore English and music double major, offered her perspective on how roommates affect her personal hygiene routine.
“I’ve always had bad skin,” said Adelsbach, “lots of acne scars. It’s better the more often I shower, but when you have all girls living in an apartment, the shower gets really, really cluttered. It can be annoying to reach up to get something and have everything fall over. And hair clogs are ridiculous.”
Adelsbach shared her method of managing schedules with her roommate and suite-mate.
“We all settled into routine fairly easily,” said Adelsbach. “It’s lucky that Angela [my roommate] and I are so well matched, because we’re generally so easy going about a lot of it. It helps that for the most part, our schedules don’t line up because everyone can get in when they need to. However, I do believe that communication is key. The only really tricky thing for me can be Tuesdays and Thursdays because Angela and I both have 9:30 classes. Since she usually does make-up, a lot of times I’ll usually try and get in before her. I don’t want to have to try and rush through my general care routine and I don’t want to rush her through her make-up either.”
Adelsbach noted that she and her roommate were able to work out their system early in the year and achieved a great deal of success with the way they managed their shared routine and schedule. So, is your roommate bad for your skin? The answer is, only if you let them be. Discussinging major issues and planning out your schedules before problems can arise can ensure a smooth transition to sharing space and preserving your well-established routines.
Zukor gave some final words of wisdom. “My biggest take-home from all this: the thing we see most commonly in roommate conflicts is, most of the time, the conflict has escalated to the point it has because both sides have let it build, and neither are wanting to confront the other about it,” said Zukor. “‘I don’t know what to say, I don’t know how to say it, it’s no big deal, I don’t want to bring it up to them first,’ and I get it, of course. But learning to work past and fight that resentment early, to start the conversation usually reveals that your roommate’s as frustrated as you are, and doing so can avoid so many issues in the future.”