My name is Aanchal, and I'm from New Delhi, India, but I’ve been living in Singapore for 5 years. I'm a skin positivity content creator, and I first started posting in 2020 during the pandemic. I was beginning to get hormonal breakouts, and I had acne all over my chin and my cheeks. It was very out of the blue and my first time ever having acne. So, I went to the dermatologist, and she gave me a retinoid gel. But, she didn't give me any instructions on how to use it. She just said, “Here's your gel to use.”
I was also told to avoid sugar, carbs, and a list of foods as well. I thought to myself, “If you want me to stop eating all of these things, how am I supposed to live?” Nevertheless, I just decided to trust the doctor and her recommendations.
When I first started using the prescription, my skin became very inflamed. My skin started peeling and purging. I was very shocked at what happened. No one told me that you're only supposed to use it once or twice a week when you first start. I thought, “Well, maybe this is a phase your skin has to go through to get clearer.” But instead, the breakouts became more cystic, especially around my period.
I was very discouraged and upset. I just wanted to stay home. I didn't want to go out with my friends anymore. But, it got to the point where I had to go out because of my mental health. I needed to go outside so I just decided that I would keep my guard up. If someone asked me about my skin, I just said, “If something is happening with my body, it's none of your business. I don't need unsolicited advice.” And when I was confronted with negativity from people around me, I told them, “If you continue to do this, I will block you from my life.”
Of course though, I couldn't block everyone. I did have loved ones who I wanted to preserve a relationship with – even though they were asking about my skin. They'd ask me, “Why do you have scars on your face? What do you do for them to get better?” They would continuously ask, “What are you doing to heal faster?”
Yes, it did annoy me when my loved one asked me this, but I just tried to keep calm, and I just answered the questions with a straight voice in a very matter-of-fact tone. My body language made it clear that they were pushing my boundaries as well. Sometimes I seemed agitated, but I had to work very hard to prevent acne from harming my mental health.
But surprisingly, the comments from people around were not the main challenge. Truthfully, the main challenge was exposure to social media and models, especially when they used filters. It used to trigger me. My first thought was –wow, perfect skin seems to be a requirement for perfection and worthiness. But, as time went on, my thoughts deepened and escalated. I began thinking to myself, “What if some have skin like mine? And if so, why can't they show their real skin? Would they be seen as less beautiful or lose their fans? Do you have to hide because of acne, and can you lose things or people because of it?”
These thoughts deeply triggered me, and for the most part, I had to find a way to manage my thoughts on my own. I thought back to when I was 14. That's when I first started getting into makeup, but I wasn't wearing it to hide. I wore makeup for the colors I could paint on myself. I saw my face as a canvas for holding beauty, not something for covering up. During that time of my life, my mind was never met with the challenge of comparing myself to other girls. I had to figure out how to get back to that place. I was determined.
Part of my healing journey was not only managing my thoughts but learning how to manage my own skin. But in order to choose the right products and routines, I had to calm down and focus on what worked best for me. I couldn't let others set the standard for my progress. After I accepted my skin type, I was able to do what was best for it. I still have a lot of scars, and I'm still working on finding the right ingredients. But the difference is – I now know that I'm enough. I'm trying to heal my skin, not make it perfect. I don't challenge myself to look like anyone else; I discover the experience of being myself.