Let Women Have Imperfect Skin
An argument for increased skin positivity
Should I pick up a new BB cream?
This was one thought I had while getting ready to go away for the weekend. I’d run out and was making do with my “nice” foundation for when I really needed to cover up. When I didn’t need full coverage, I use colour-correctors and concealer. BB cream is something I use on a daily basis for just enough coverage that makes me feel comfortable.
But why do I feel the need to cover up, even a little bit?
Because I feel unworthy of even going outside unless my skin looks perfect.
Society, helped by the makeup industry, has worked for centuries to make women feel inadequate unless they used makeup to look a certain way. In areas all over the world, women would use makeup (and other similar products) to lighten their faces to look wealthy and upper class. Makeup was also used to hide scars from pox and other skin problems (see: Queen Elizabeth I).
This trend has continued and flourished in the twenty-first century. With beauty bloggers and their Instagram accounts, and stores like Sephora, it’s easy to get swept away in the magic that is makeup. It’s also easy to fall into the trap of believing that it’s only for creative expression. While creative expression is one part of using makeup, it’s important to remember that the industry wouldn’t make any money if they didn’t make women (and sometimes men) feel that they aren’t attractive unless they’re wearing makeup.
Even without makeup, women are expected to have flawless skin at all times. Media, especially skincare commercials, show women who have no acne or blemishes — not to mention they’re probably wearing some makeup. In movies, when women are seen in casual situations, they are almost always wearing natural-looking makeup. Since this is how media portrays women, they are expected to look like that all the time, no matter how unrealistic it is.
Now while I’ll never be able to do the perfect cat-eye, and I have yet to wake up with perfect dewy skin, I am all too familiar with the desire to cover up as much as possible.
My skin has always been a minor issue. It’s not bad compared to some, but since I was 13 until now, at almost 26, I still deal with acne, scarring, uneven skin tone, redness, and GIGANTIC pores (a small village could live in my pores). I’ve spent all that time trying to get my skin to look like the perfectly airbrushed/made-up celebrities I saw everywhere.
As a young teen, I saw acne as something you’d get if your skin wasn’t clean. So seeing myself with acne and clogged pores (which I found out later are called sebaceous filaments), I couldn’t shake the feeling that my skin was just dirty. What didn’t help was developing chest and back acne. It made me feel basically like a swamp person. I do have oily skin in general and it’s pretty sensitive, so I get breakouts if I look at it the wrong way. Since I wash my face twice a day (mostly) and I shower regularly, the argument that my skin has acne because it’s unclean is irrational. But it took me a long time to realize it.
What made it worse was that society had it ingrained in me that I wasn’t worthy of love and attention (especially from boys) if my skin wasn’t perfect. But as a teenager, I wasn’t confident enough to wear makeup (it made me break out anyway), so I spent a lot of time hiding away.
I tried basically everything to get my skin to cooperate. On top of all the washing I did as a teenager, I developed a neurotic habit of picking at my skin (a behaviour I’m still trying to break from even now), which didn’t help one bit. I tried a bunch of Proactive™products and everything that wasn’t great for my skin; drying it out and irritating it. Everything I did was aggressively trying rid of the acne. My skin needed a gentler touch.
My journey into “skin acceptance” didn’t start until I was in university. I started treating my skin better, with gentler products. In my early 20s, I discovered the 10-step Korean Skincare routine. Using products that focused on moisture and gentle cleansing, my skin transformed. The redness went down and the acne (while it hasn’t gone away completely), has improved a lot. I was killing my skin problems with kindness.
This made me realize that maybe a kinder approach to skin was necessary for actual change. Through this new method of kindness, I started to work with my skin instead of against it. It’s not perfect — sometimes I still feel like my skin hates me — but every day I make progress.
Embracing my skin, acne and all, made me think that skin positivity needed to be more of a Thing. Body positivity has been a great and wonderful movement that’s gained a lot of traction in the last few years, but I think there’s room to include skin in there.
The beauty industry is so trendy, and it feels as if everyone on social media is on a quest for perfection. But perfection isn’t real, the skin under the makeup is real. And it’s beautiful.
The skin is the largest organ on your body, it protects you and you know… holds you together. In return, people spend so much time plucking, stabbing, scrubbing, microblading, contouring, all to get a look that isn’t natural. It’s time to show our skin some respect and be kinder to it and ourselves.
A couple of years ago, I shared a selfie on Instagram sans makeup. It was a big step for me because, even if I wasn’t wearing makeup in all my photos, I’d always edit away the acne. This was just me, acne and all.
“Au naturel today. It’s been a very long time since I’ve gone barefaced — I’m usually wearing some form of BB cream or tinted moisturizer. My face gets red so easily and that’s something I’m so self-conscious about. But this week, while communing with nature in one of my favourite places in the world, I wanted to embrace my own natural beauty. There’s so much amazing body positivity on Instagram, I’d love for there to be more skin positivity. Just because your skin isn’t flawless, doesn’t mean you’re not beautiful!”
I’m not the only one who’s done this (obviously)! #Skinpositivity is a Thing, but I think it needs more attention.
Taking care of your skin is important, but to keep it healthy instead of just for appearances. Wear sunscreen, use a gentle cleanser to remove dirt and pollutants. It’s like taking care of yourself, it’ll show. But kindness creates a glow where makeup doesn’t.
Happiness shouldn’t be based on appearance, no matter how much you weigh or how your skin looks. Acne doesn’t just happen when you’re a teenager, and it certainly doesn’t remove your worth. Natural beauty is just as beautiful as the perfectly contoured Instabeauty face. Be kind to your skin, as if it was your best friend.
The conversation needs to start in a more productive way, so that future teens don’t feel the need to hide or cake themselves with makeup.