I’m from Mazatlán, Mexico, and growing up, I saw women all around me that did their makeup flawlessly, dressed beautifully, and wore heels. Even though my mom never wore much makeup or put pressure on me, this was the standard of femininity that I was most exposed to. Even when I turned on the TV, the newswomen, the TV stars, and the musicians were all perfect looking, and they were also fair-skinned. In Mexican media, you don’t really see any Indigenous women or women who have deeply colored skin. The beauty standard is light skin and clear skin. Even though I don’t really have deeply colored skin, as I developed acne and grew into womanhood, this one-sided definition of beauty still really impacted me. Only recently have I decided to stop wearing makeup.
In high school, my acne started flaring up. During high school, I moved to the United States, and this was a very difficult and stressful change for me. I spoke English well, but I didn’t think that I was so fluent that I could raise my hand or speak in front of my peers. If a teacher called on me, I would answer, but I would go through a minute of panic.
Everything was so different.
I became a very shy person, and my acne was an added layer to that anxiety. So, I didn’t even feel comfortable leaving the house without makeup. Makeup became my security. It was something consistent and familiar. It seemed to help me embrace my femininity as well. At the time, I felt as if acne was challenging my girliness, but my perspective on this has changed a lot now. As I mentioned before, I grew up with the message that clear skin was an inherent part of femininity.
Once I moved to the United States, the school I attended was predominantly white, but I mostly stayed in my circle of immigrant friends, and I did not get very exposed to the U.S’s beauty standards. My life in Mexico was the most formative for me. On the other hand, the beauty standards in Mexico are still greatly influenced by Eurocentric ideas. So, while I did not internalize the U.S’s beauty standards, I still internalized Eurocentrism to some extent.
I think this played a huge part in my attachment to makeup too. As time went on though, I just got extremely tired of doing a full face every time that I went out. I got tired of stressing out over my natural skin. So, last year, I stopped wearing makeup. Today, I think the biggest change for me has been my decrease in anxiety. Being in front of people whilst having acne doesn’t make me anxious. I know now that clear skin doesn’t validate my worth. Clear skin is not something that can give or take away the permission to be seen, to be heard, or to feel pretty and girly.
We all deserve this to feel how we want, no matter what our skin looks like. I’ve come to realize this, and I stand in front of an audience every day to teach the Spanish language at a community college. I’m also able to teach about my culture. I think spreading cultural knowledge is a great way of challenging Eurocentric ideas too.
Overall, I have learned to accept who I am and how my skin looks. Ultimately, it is up to me to define myself. In my everyday life, I am a sister, I am a daughter, I am a friend, I am sensitive, I am creative, and I am Mexican-American.
I am not my acne, my scars, my battles, or my mistakes.