Chelsea: Real Skin = Real Life

When I was 21, I started suffering from cystic acne. I had never had any acne before then. When I started experiencing acne myself, I started feeling very self-conscious. At the time, I was working a job that required me to wear at least 7 pieces of makeup every day. I was a makeup artist for years. From the time I was 16 to 25, I was in the cosmetics industry, but I left at 25 because it wasn’t a good environment for me. When I would show up to work or for a client, I would just feel so judged when I wasn’t wearing makeup. Leaving the industry really changed me a lot. I started leaving the house without makeup, and then I started posting my acne online to open up a dialogue. I felt so much more free. I still have bad days where I don’t feel good about my skin, but I feel a lot more empowered. I don’t hate or punish myself anymore for what I can’t control about my skin.

I used to wonder what I did to deserve acne, but now I know it’s not something that you can control. I just try to control how I treat myself. Before, I would spend hours every night picking at my face in a magnifying mirror, and that created so many scars. I also used to take shots of apple cider vinegar falsely thinking that it would detox my skin. It did not help me at all, and I was punishing myself without having done anything wrong. In reality, those things were a form of self-harm. I was having a meltdown, and on top of that, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at 22. Fibromyalgia is when you have bad aches and pains because your nerves are overactive, and it’s heavily linked to my acne because of inflammation. The more pain I’m in, the more that my acne flares up.

Also, the more I fixated on my acne and hated it, the worse it got. But now, I accept that my acne is out of my control. I accept that it’s not a result of something I’ve done. While sometimes I’m a perfectionist who is harsh on herself and overthinks, I’m a lot kinder and compassionate to myself. Likewise, as I stopped sabotaging myself and as I stopped being mean to myself, my acne got better.

About 3 years ago, I started being really transparent on social media about everything that I was going through. Holding things in makes me feel heavy so doing this really helped me. At first, I would write my thoughts out as notes on my phone, but then I was like - “why am I writing this on my phone when I could write the same thing as a caption on social media? I began to think about expressing myself publicly in order to liberate myself and to help others out there who were struggling. At that moment, I remembered how I felt in my early 20s. Back then, transparency and reality were something that I searched for but couldn’t find. So, when I first starting posting, I posted on mental health. I was nervous to post my skin, but then I became shameless and unapologetic. I started making stories about my skin, and then I was open about my fibromyalgia.

Because I can do my makeup so well, people were shocked that I had acne. People also had no idea that I had chronic pain, but that was a part of my mission the entire time. I wanted to show how disabilities, mental health, and even acne can be invisible sometimes. There are a lot of people are living with acne, chronic illnesses, and situations that they’ve learned to cover up extremely well. However, when you’re constantly having to live up to an image that you feel obligated to portray, this can make a person feel very sad and insecure.

And then when you feel the need to be open and honest, sometimes people are just like - “but you look so healthy. You look so happy!” With my chronic pain and acne, I have definitely felt invalidated and dismissed. People think that just because they can’t see something, it’s not there. It’s all so misunderstood. So, you really have to advocate for yourself, be firm, and set boundaries with people. For example, I don’t like to bring attention make my chronic pain, but sometimes I have to just for people to be aware of what I’m feeling.

This goes back to what I was saying about why I started my Instagram. My Instagram platform is like a diary, and my sole purpose is sharing. I don’t just make a highlight reel for the good parts of my life. I share when I have a bad day, and I share when my skin is really inflamed because that is real life.