Joanna: Abolishing Beauty Standards from My Mind

At the age of 15, I developed acne. It started with forehead pimples. After topical treatments failed, I was prescribed a course of oral antibiotics which lasted a year. With little progress I terminated the treatment after developing irritable bowel syndrome, at which time my spots became cystic. For a long period of time, my bowel issues debilitated me. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I was actually able to identify my dietary triggers and link emotional stress to my flair-ups.


Throughout this time, my skin began to influence my relationships. It was both emotionally and physically exhausting trying to conceal it from everyone all of the time. If someone wanted to touch my face, I’d be like - “Don’t touch my face!” All the while, I didn’t want them to know the real reason for my behavior. So, I let them believe I was being precious about my makeup out of vanity. 

Again over a decade later, I noticed myself doing the same thing with my husband. He was my boyfriend at the time, and yet again my skin insecurities started affecting my behavior. I would get hysterical if he turned the lights on in the middle of the night. It was so important to me that he didn’t see my face without makeup. We’d both go to bed, but I’d wait for him to fall asleep before returning to the bathroom to do my skincare routine. 

Every night, I’d do this big, orchestrated thing just to get around him seeing my acne. And unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. I was even prevented from doing basic things. There were so many times that the doorbell would ring I wouldn’t answer the door if I wasn’t wearing makeup. Looking back now, it seems obvious I was struggling with more than just a skin condition. It was psychological.

My acne even affected my professional life. I was a beauty therapist, but I was going through imposter syndrome. I presented a perfect version of myself to my clients, and they would compare themselves to me without knowing what was beneath my makeup. If they saw me without makeup, I knew they wouldn’t compare themselves to me. Without makeup, I imagined clients looking at me and thinking - 

“Should I trust her to do this treatment on my face? I don’t want to end up like that… I’m not taking advice from her. “ Those thoughts broke me in a new way.

I felt very alone, and when someone would try and relate to me and say - “I know how you feel. I got a spot the other day! - I did not feel comforted because meanwhile I was just sitting there with this beard of angry, red, and painful skin. It’s so hard to explain to someone how something makes you feel. And oftentimes, you don’t want to talk about what it’s really like because it just opens you up to having a really unwanted conversation and hearing people’s opinions.

Fortunately though, my husband offered me the right kind of support. Once I started tracking my skin journey on social media, my husband said - “Although you’re doing this skin journey on social media, you’re still concealing around me.” In the three years that we’d been together, I hadn’t ever shown him my real skin because I didn’t know how. 

I was taught that you're supposed to look good for a man. I grew up in an environment where image was very important.  As a little girl, I understood that being pretty was the goal. I was always told as a child - “That’s a pretty dress! Your hair looks pretty! You look pretty today!” And when people no longer said this to me, I realized that I no longer fulfilled people’s expectations. At that point, I began to question my worth.

However, going through this inspired me to start creating content around a hashtag called “pores not flaws.” People who have acne do very well at just pushing through and trying to compensate, but it shouldn’t have to be like that. Likewise, I create acne positivity and body positivity content so people don’t have to feel afraid of showing up as they are. 

People should understand, their attractiveness is not measured by the amount of spots on their face. 

I had to stop waiting on others to embrace my skin. I had to do it myself. That’s why it was important to accept my skin before it cleared. I remember thinking to myself - “Maybe I’m always going to have adult acne. Maybe my face will always look like this…” Coming to terms with that allowed me to look objectively at my skin as an organ rather than something that needed to be pretty. 

In 2021, my acne cleared a few short months after I had truly accepted it as part of me. I realised I could tackle any insecurity. If I couldn’t love my insecurities, I wanted to at least be in a situation where my insecurities could not dictate my actions. Through all of this, I realized the power of self-belief.  I know now that there is no singular thing, product, or hero that can make me believe in myself. For me, self-belief is an accumulation of doing my own thing and making decisions for myself.