Like every other teenage girl, I wanted to be pretty. Society associates prettiness and girliness with wearing makeup. If you want to embrace your femininity, it’s like you’re required to wear makeup. It also seems like people consider fair skin more feminine. I have brown skin, and people would be like - “You should wear makeup.” I didn’t have any makeup of my own so my sister, who is like 4 or 5 shades lighter than me, let me wear her foundations. And let me tell you - I would look like a clown, and I would go out like that. Of course, I didn’t feel great about it, but I wore it because I was told to. But then, I started seeing people online create art out of makeup.
Soon after, I started buying makeup in my shade, concealer in my shade, and I started playing with eye makeup. Applying it was so therapeutic for me. What really got me into makeup was when my friends saw my makeup, and they would tell me - “I want you to do my makeup too!” Before every party, I had my girlfriends come over, and I would spend like 3 or 4 hours doing their makeup. It was so much fun. When I saw them appreciating my work, makeup became a form of art for me rather than a mask I put on to hide behind. I was finally doing it because I enjoyed it, not because of external pressures.
We live in a very patriarchal society, so guys want you to look like you’re wearing makeup even if when you’re not. They want your makeup to be subtle and not easily noticed. In Bangladesh, if you’re wearing a lot of makeup, people will ask you - “Are you going to a big event or something?” And by a big event, they don’t mean like a date or a family dinner, they mean like your own wedding. Like, If I wear a lot of makeup or a really colorful eye look because I feel creative, everyone will turn their heads and give me a look. In Bangladesh, a lot of makeup is usually looked down upon, but I like makeup because it allows me to express how I feel on that day or at the moment.
If I’m not feeling the best about myself, it helps me change my mood. Makeup has also been a form of rebellion for me. People have always told me that I can’t wear makeup simply because I have textured skin. They say there’s no point because I don’t take care of my skin. But, makeup doesn’t always cause acne, and people usually say this because they’re uneducated. I actually take really good care of my skin.
I got into skincare right when I hit puberty because that’s when I started getting acne. Initially, though, I didn’t get into the right kind of skincare. In South Asia, herbal and DIY skincare is very big. So, I started putting papaya juice, tomato juice, and potato juice on my face to brighten my scars and to minimize acne. But, it only got worse. Around 14, I started searching online about what could help me. However, skincare wasn’t big during that time so I didn’t have many resources. I started using the harshest chemicals I could find to put on my face. I would saturate my skin with salicylic acid, alcohol, and witch hazel. I used apricot scrubs as well. Of course, it got worse, but things started to turn around when I truly started to understand skincare. 2 to 3 years ago, I ditched everything I used to do, and I got new skincare. My skincare journey has been intense, and I’m very fortunate to have a supportive family.
Back when I first started getting acne, I wasn’t so conscious about my face because my family didn’t point it out, but strangers would be like - “What’s on your face??? Don’t you wash your face???” They would tell me to try this or that. Then, I started thinking - “Do I look that bad? I thought it was just a little thing on my face…” Before it didn’t bother me, but everything changed when people started planting seeds in my head of something being wrong with me. That was the moment I became self-conscious. It didn’t get to the point where it damaged my personality though because I had such a supportive family. When you have backup from the closest people in your life, it’s easier to block out what outsiders have to say.
Eventually, I resolved in my mind that acne was something that I could not control. I decided that it didn’t make sense for people to pester or put me down over something I couldn’t control. Sometimes, I would ask people - “if you have so much of a problem with my skin, why don’t you pay for my dermatologist?” Sometimes, elder people would point it out, and I would be at such a loss of words. It always caught me off guard when someone so much older would put me down or publicly humiliate me over something that I couldn’t control. With elders, I would back away and be sad, but with my peers, I would tell them off.
It seems like people with clear skin feel more entitled to criticize others. The majority of people have acne, and since it’s such a common thing, why should we have to hide ourselves? We go through so much self-doubt based on how our skin looks, and we shouldn’t. We are normal, and it’s okay to have acne. I want to convey that for others as well as myself. When I put my natural skin out there, it helps people see that it’s okay to have normal skin. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it doesn’t mean you’re dirty.
Before I understood this, there were days that I absolutely hated wearing makeup because it emphasized my skin’s texture, and my skin was very sensitive sometimes. I truly liked makeup though, and I didn’t want acne to stop me. So, there were days where I would just do my eyes, and people would ask me - “why is your makeup incomplete?” And I’d be like - “no, that’s just how I did it today. Makeup is a form of self-expression, and I use it to describe how I’m feeling.”
For example, I have a look on my Instagram where I’ve painted a skull on one side of my face, and then on the other side, I’ve painted a glam face. This skull represents our dark side or perhaps traits considered undesirable by society. However, these aspects don’t take away any of our beauty, and that’s what the glam side represents. We still have that beauty within us, and we can choose who we want to be. Our identity is completely in our hands.