Imanya: Making My Way to Self-love


My name is Imanya James. I’m 26, and I live in Baltimore, Maryland. I graduated college with an arts and design degree. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be an artist, no matter the form. 


As a creator, my platform centers around beauty, fashion, and lifestyle. I also like to deep dive into skincare. I was already interested in creating content, but when I was diagnosed with PCOS, it made me even more of an advocate for skincare. 

About 2 and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with PCOS. I didn’t know what to do. 

I was in a lot of pain. So, I went to the hospital, and the OBGYN told me that I had PCOS. But, after the appointment, I was still left feeling like, “What is PCOS?” I was in despair because I was diagnosed with something I didn’t receive much information about. Even when she talked about managing it, she was just like, “We’ll put you on medication, and it will clear up.” It was basically like being told that the medication would solve everything. However, PCOS is more complicated than being given a prescription, and that was not conveyed to me. 

So, I was really depressed. I just kept going back to different doctors. I kept trying to visit with a nutritionist to see where I could adjust and make changes, but the nutritionist was only giving me a certain amount of information as well. It was simply a handful. And increasingly, it seemed like diagnosing me was all the doctor did. I did not get a full breakdown. So, it made me lean on my own understanding, and that’s a scary place. And at the time, no one could give me what I needed even though they were able to give me what I wanted. Because at the end of the day, everyone wants comfort. Yes, I  wanted to be soothed, but to move forward, I needed knowledge. Knowledge is power so I had to seek it out on my own. 

But again, I did not have any sort of foundation nor did I have a clear opportunity to make actual improvements. And in turn, my mental health took a great decline. Before I even began to manage my PCOS, I had to figure out how to get myself out of this decline. And to make matters worse with my mental health, my face was still really in pain.

With PCOS, you get flares. I had clusters of red bumps or hormonal acne along my jawline. I also was dealing with facial hair and ingrown hairs too. At first, I started to get one little hair, and it kept popping up on my chin. When I first saw it, I had a panic attack. I really did. You read about these things, but until it happens to you, you truly don’t understand. So, when I saw it, I freaked out.

But, I realized that I needed to breathe, and just say, “Okay I have a chin hair. Pluck it, and keep your regular routine." I had to remember to breathe. That’s the most important part. Sometimes breathing through a situation makes it easier to get through a stressful situation. 

But even with trying to stay calm, I was still on a mental decline. So, I had to find a support group to help me reason. 

I deeply needed support because after I was diagnosed, they just brushed me off. It was very heartbreaking. I was really scared and trying to figure out everything. I had loved ones looking out for me at the time, but it seemed mostly up to me to work through this diagnosis.

I began to do research, and I followed black estheticians who were making an impact within the skincare community. But, I wasn’t sure about everything they were recommending. That’s the problem with skincare sometimes. Like, it could work for the person who’s recommending it to you, but it might not work for you. Unfortunately, skincare is very much trial and error. There is no easy fix. So, I had to start tracking how I ate, how I took care of my mental health, how my environment affected me, and even the water I used to wash my face. 

There are certain areas in the United States where the water is not good for you, and sometimes it doesn’t help your face. So, to keep track of it all, I began to write things down. 

I began documenting everything, and this is when I truly embarked on my skincare and health journey. This was not a journey to have perfect skin but to find and maintain what was normal for me. All of us have textured skin. Some of us even have prominent texture, and that is okay. A skin journey is really about finding your norm, not society’s normal. My normal looks like having a few bumps here and there no matter how well I do my skincare or cleanse. Skin isn’t perfect, so why would I expect mine to be? I had to change my thinking

So, to empower and educate myself even more, I decided to go to esthetics school to learn more about the skin, richly melanated skin, and skincare products. And over time, I've noticed that a lot of brands today make you feel like you need a bunch of products to be successful. But, in reality, you don’t. You just need your core products to get you through a flare-up. 

That's why I really love K-beauty. I use CosRx and Hero cosmetics, and their pimple patches work extremely well. K-beauty products focus on hydration, not on making a one size fits all product. Instead, you should have core things you gravitate towards so you don’t feel in distress or panic. Go to what you know because if you use too many products, it’s going to lead to a breakout.

Don't think to yourself, “None of this is working!” None of it is working because you haven’t given your body and yourself time to adjust. For example, when I was living in Hawaii with my sister, my face was breaking out so much that it even hurt to touch my face!

I had huge clusters, and I was using everything I could think of. I was taking advice from everywhere. I was stressed out of my mind because I had just come out of college. I was so overwhelmed, and I didn’t even know that your mind plays a great deal in impacting your whole body. And when your mind is not well, your body is not well. They are so linked together not just in skincare, but overall health. I didn’t know any of these things at the time though. All I could focus on was how painful my face felt. But nevertheless, I finally decided to stop using all of those products and find the basics. 

So, when I left Hawaii and went back to Maryland, I started forming a basic skincare routine. I learned that when you keep switching products, and you don’t give your skin time to adjust, it just leads to a full-blown breakout.

As I mentioned before, I also had to learn about my nutrition upon being diagnosed with PCOS. With PCOS, I learned that my body doesn’t react well to gluten, enriched flour, and dairy. I can have whole wheat and multigrain wheat. If I want pasta, I look to see if the pasta has durum wheat because that’s digestible for me.  

I had to figure all of this out independently, and even though this journey for knowledge was a difficult one, it ultimately led me to the path I am on today. I've learned that skincare is not just surface level, there's also a whole self-care and self-love journey you have to embark on in order to reach your goal. 

I can still remember those days I had breakouts, and I would just stay inside. I still remember working around kids and being asked, “What’s wrong with your face?” And so, I picked up the habit of taking a corner of my shirt and covering my jawline. When I get really anxious, I still do it sometimes, or I pick my face. I still get thoughts that someone is looking at my face, but a lot has definitely changed. I have transformed my perspective in many ways.

Upon going to aesthetic school, I realized that there is nothing wrong with me. There’s nothing wrong with my face. I am still working on getting my license, and I’ve been filming for my YouTube channel. I want my community to be educated about what’s really worth their money and to understand ingredients as opposed to promoting mass consumption.

And now that I have more knowledge, there’s less hysteria and panic when I get a breakout. My anxiety has gone down so much. Before, I couldn’t calm down, and thinking back to it makes me wish I could have a conversation with my past self. 

I would tell her, "Everything is going to be okay. You just need to be patient. You will gain knowledge to help you feel safe again." I would just lift her up with positivity. Because when I think about positivity, I think about joy. I should be joyful about living my life. I know that there are still people out there who are nervous and scared. But, I'd like to let them know that you can’t look at people who, in your mind, have perfect skin and say, "I need to get there." No, you just need to figure out what works best for you. The key word is “you.” Because society likes to see us as a group when in reality, we are very much individuals. 

Also, you are not alone. And remember that regardless of where you are on your journey, take the time to appreciate that you are on a journey many others are taking as well. You’re not at your destination yet, and it's okay for the path not to be linear. How you feel about yourself is always going to change. You not wanting to go outside because you’re having a breakout is okay. Be in that moment – feel those feelings. But, don’t stay in those feelings. Feeling less than because society said you should have done X, Y, and Z is not worth it.

Society’s perception does not have to be the perception you have of yourself. So, have a conversation with yourself, take time, and process. It’s good to be logical, but remember to process the emotional aspect of who you are. That is truly self-love and self-care.