Monica is a makeup and skincare influencer who advocates for inclusive beauty. She shares with us her journey on acne, confidence, and self-image.
“My name is Monica Ravichandran. I’m 26 years old, and I’m from the Bay Area. I used to live in San Francisco, but I just recently moved to LA.”
Monica describes the first time she had acne.
“I was 12 or 13 when I had my first break out. I wasn't sure what caused the breakout. I didn’t know if it was hormones or makeup. I tried everything. I tried all of the OTC acne systems like Proactiv, but if anything, they made my acne worse. For me, Proactiv was the worst of them all, especially for people with deeper skin tones. I didn’t understand why nothing was working for me.”
“I was very frustrated that I was spending so much money on the products. None of it was cheap, and the products did not work at all. Yet, I didn’t question the brands I was using. I just believed it to be my acne-prone skin. Also, because I had acne, I automatically thought I had oily skin. And based on this misconception, I assumed that I didn’t need a moisturizer.”
“So, I would use all of these insane acne treatments, and then, I would follow it up with a stripping moisturizer. I would use an oil-free, gel moisturizer, but it never worked, and I would ask myself,“What am I doing wrong?”
“Feeling this way just made everything worse. I had always been extroverted, but I became very depressed and anxious. People were making fun of me because I was wearing makeup at such a young age. No one was really wearing makeup, but I always was. My love for makeup was how I found Cassandra. I put in a YouTube search of “How to Cover up Acne.” The first video that popped up was of Cassandra and her acne cover-up routine. This routine was my go-to for many years, but I still didn’t understand how to prep my skin with skincare.”
“Because I didn’t find a proper skincare routine, my skin became worse. At school, I was made fun of for both my skin and makeup. I was bullied a lot, and people would call me “cakeface.” But, when I wasn't wearing makeup, people would say, “Your skin is so bad. You should use Proactiv.”
“Because of comments like this, makeup was more of a coping skill for me. It was therapeutic for me to wake up early in the morning and put it on, but it wasn’t necessarily something I used to express myself. I used it to cover up. Whether it was the gym or the grocery store, I would wear a full face of makeup everywhere. But, I don’t even think I realized it was a coping mechanism.“I just like makeup,” I thought to myself. I liked trying new things as well, but my favorite thing was recommending products to my friends. I would take the small allowance my parents gave me and just use it at a Sephora sale.”
“Because I had tried so many things when homecoming or prom would come around, people would ask me if I had any recommendations. To me, this was ironic because some of these were the same people calling me “cakeface” behind my back.”
Monica continues to describe the challenges she faced with beauty standards and her skin.
“I was not only criticized for my acne but for my skin tone. Even though I’m more medium-toned now, I grew up dark-skinned, and I often wore makeup that was too light. This was before shade ranges had expanded. Plus, I didn’t really understand color theory or undertones. So, I would often choose shades that were much lighter than me, too red, or too orange for my skin. Whether it was makeup or acne, I had a lot of negative experiences with my peers because of how they perceived my skin.”
“Where I grew up, the high school was very competitive. It had a lot of first-generation students, and the expectation to excel was ingrained in most of us. So, at times, the environment was very intense. In addition to academic pressures, I mentally had to deal with my South Asian peers commenting on my skin tone. I was even called racial slurs, and some of the names they called me conveyed that I was not one of them.”
“Outside of school, one of my loved ones with lighter skin told me to stop playing water polo. They would say, “Your skin will lighten up, and you’ll be prettier.” So, I heard that my entire life. Lighter makeup was forced upon me, but none of the shades worked for me which is why I talk so much about makeup and color theory for brown skin.”
“I encourage people to accept their skin the way it is. Because growing up, I never had anyone tell me that. All I had were people who did not look like me. I can remember Tarte releasing only 2 shades for richly melanated skin and 10 shades for less melanated skin.”
“Likewise, beauty standards seemed to echo everything I’d been taught about my skin. I went to intensive therapy for a year and a half and for 2-3 times a week. I had a lot of generational and relationship trauma that I had to sort out. I also had to unlearn all of the stuff people had told me at school. This helped me a lot, but I think what helped me with my confidence the most was realizing that I wasn’t alone – that it wasn’t just me experiencing this. I started posting more on social media, opening up, and sharing these stories and more and more people started relating to me.”
“People would say, “I feel the same way,” or “This happened to me too,” and my platform started to become a community. I realized other people have the same issues, and by making these videos, I’m validating someone else. Growing up, no one ever told me, “Your brown skin is beautiful. It’s okay to swim and play in the sun.”
“So, I’m always telling people that they can do what they want and feel okay about their brown skin tones. All skin tones are beautiful, and I highlight deeper skin tones. Because most people with deeper skin have been told at one point in their life that they’re not beautiful.”
“It’s taken a long time for me to see that I have beauty, and obviously, sometimes days I feel better or worse. One thing that helped me experience growth was not fixating on my appearance. Instead, I started thinking about who I wanted to be. To me, that matters more than appearance. Appearance matters to an extent, but if you’re not kind to others, you’re appearance doesn’t truly matter. So, I stopped putting so much weight on it, and I focused more on who I am, what I want to do, and how I feel. Like, if I don’t want to wear makeup, I’m not going to wear makeup.”
As Monica looks back, she reflects on how her perspective on makeup, beauty, and people’s criticisms have changed.
I would tell my younger self, "What everyone else says is just noise. What matters is how you view and think about yourself. Your brown skin is beautiful. You are beautiful.” Back then, I used to have a lot of self-doubt about my study abilities too. I had a ton of pressure to perform.
So, I would also tell myself, “You are smart. You are enough. You are strong, Don’t worry about what others are saying because most of the time, people are just projecting how they feel about themselves. And in reality, they dislike themselves.” That’s why people like to make comments. Even today, I believe that’s why people make negative comments on my social media, and I don’t entertain it.”
“I still face challenges with people criticizing my skin because I still get acne. Even within the last 6 months, I thought that I’d have to go back on tretinoin which is a prescription.”
“I didn’t start daily use of tretinoin until I was in college. I combined it with a generation 3 spironolactone birth control instead of a birth control with progesterone, and my skin was awesome. But, I still didn’t want to be reliant on birth control. So, I went off of it, and my hormonal acne came back. I have a better handle on my skin, but I still get the occasional, hormonal acne breakout.”
“Nevertheless, I’ve learned to accept my skin and how it goes through its phases. I just keep a simplified skincare routine with a gentle hyperpigmentation serum, and sometimes I’ll use tretinoin. Everything else provides barrier support.”
“Skincare routines don’t need to be complicated. Just find one active that works for you. Simplicity is key, and honestly, it’s the same thing when it comes to definitions of beauty and confidence. Feeling beautiful doesn’t have to be arduous or unmanageable. You just have to find what works for you, makes you feel good, and resonates with you.”