“In the past year, I got hormonal acne up to my neck and jawline. And although it was uncontrollable, it put me in a really depressed place. I didn’t love who I saw when I looked in the mirror. So, I took to social media so I could find out if anyone looked like me and felt the way I did. I found a lot of solace in the acne positive community. I found people including Cassandra who made me feel like it was okay to look like me.”
“That was very impactful for me because I’ve had cystic, hormonal adult acne my whole adult life. I’ve had it since I was 18, and I’m 30 now. In high school, I struggled a bit with acne, and it was always there. When I was 23, I got stage 4 cystic acne all over my cheeks. I was able to calm that down, but then it came back. It was on and off, and that was quite tumultuous. I wasn’t emotionally equipped to handle it. And this past June of 2020 - I had one of the intense breakouts I’ve ever had.”
“Because of that, I’ve spent the last year learning about skincare and diving into the skin-positive movement. When I got into skincare, I equipped myself with knowledge on how to be okay with myself regardless of the phase I’m in. Then, in January, I started my skin story on Instagram, and the acceptance was so gratifying. It gave me strength and courage to show up for myself exactly how I am in the moment and be okay with it.”
“I also think I gained wisdom on how to accept myself with age. In my 20s, I didn’t have as much patience. I had to gain patience which is necessary for loving myself. I’ve learned to love myself when I’m confident, but I’ve also learned to treat myself with kindness on days that I don’t like what I see in the mirror. That’s something that I had to learn as I grew up. When I was younger, I used to meticulously look in the mirror and scrutinize each individual spot on my face and doing that was so damaging and detrimental to my psyche. I used to cancel plans all of the time because of my acne, but once I learned to stop being so present with my outer appearance and focus on who I am emotionally, I discovered a really big shift. “
However, Sabrina describes how this was not always the case.
“There are some days where I would look at myself in the mirror and ask - how could I ever be worthy? Well, that’s the thing - we determine our worthiness. And while it’s still up to us, media does play a huge part in forming our perception. That’s why I say there needs to be more acneic representation in the media. There needs to be a greater normalization of skin conditions throughout all phases of life. Anyway, skin conditions are not permanent. They are just an amalgamation of our lifestyle and genetics that sometimes we can’t really control. But still, people with acneic skin are treated like a before photo or something that’s incredibly flawed. They’re treated like something that needs to be fixed. That’s how it is in general though. There is rarely an emphasis put on the worth and the value that we hold as people, no matter the moment or place that we’re in.”
Sabrina explains how she believes many people have internalized this to their own detriment.
“On Instagram, I do get hate comments. When I get hate comments, sometimes it’s even people with acne. It makes me so sad. I’ve gone through what they’ve gone through, and I’m sorry that they aren’t in a place where they feel okay. At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel okay, and I understand that. Sometimes if someone threatens our perceptions of how we’re supposed to act, feel, or look, we lash out because we all just want to feel okay.”
“And when it comes to how I cope, I’ve just decided to shift my perspective from “why are these things happening to me?” to “how can I take what life has dealt me and flip it into something that works for me?” When I started getting acne, I began to google skincare, and I developed a keen interest in becoming an esthetician. Going through acne helped me to decide what I want to do with my life. I’m actually in esthetician school right now.”
Sabrina explains how studying to be an esthetician is helping her learn more about skin neutrality.
She says, ”skin neutrality is important as well. While we can decorate our skin with ornate jewelry and makeup in terms of self-expression, which is I love, I think sometimes we forget that skin is just an organ. Its health is so much more important than its appearance. If we took a step back and were present with all of the involuntary processes that our skin undergoes, and what it does to protect us - I think we would all start appreciating our skin more.”
“Before I was able to be objective about my skin, I was really present with how my skin looked. This mentality had a huge impact on my everyday life for a long time. I thought I was the only person who looked like this. I thought people with acne had to hide until they’ve done enough skincare to where it’s clear. I would always think - “I don’t look the way I’m supposed to so what do I do? I can’t go out in public like this. My face is the first thing that people do when they look at me.”
Sabrina continues to speak on how people simply look at others through the lens of beauty standards.
“I definitely feel like beauty standards had a huge part in not feeling great about myself. To combat this, I figure the best thing I can do for myself is to equip myself with two things: knowledge and self-love. “
“As for knowledge, I can educate myself about what acne is at its core, my individual triggers, how to mitigate skin irritation, and how to learn to live with acne since it’s chronic for me. The second tool self-love. The days where I don’t feel my greatest or hate what I see in the mirror are the days that I treat myself with the most patience. On those days, I’m present with the fact that I’m not feeling great. When I’m in an unfavorable mental place, I know that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be always positive. I just remember to treat myself with patience. Moreover, self-care doesn’t even have to be a huge or specific thing. Self-care doesn’t look always look like a facial and a glass of wine although that’s incredibly fun to do. Sometimes self-care just looks like nuturing myself on a day that I don’t want to get out of bed.”
“If others are in a place mentally where they are not feeling the best about themselves, and they’re struggling with self-care, I would gently remind the person of how we’re conditioned. We’re conditioned to feel as if we need to be someone else. But if society didn’t tell me that I was flawed, weird, or gross because I had acne - I would just be living my life. I would have no idea that there’s something wrong with me.”
“Society has these ideas of how we are supposed to look, and when we can’t acquiesce to these beauty standards or look the way someone else wants us to look, we can feel bad about ourselves. I think this cycle is constantly perpetuated because it’s profitable. They sell us products to make us look more how we’re “supposed to look.” But what’s truly important is that you show up and present yourself to the world exactly how you like it. When your self-expression is exactly how you like it, you facilitate an environment in which others feel safe to do the same. Self-expression can look like putting on your favorite pair of jeans, putting on make you enjoy, or even wearing makeup with no acne. While to you, it may seem simple, the impact that it makes on the entire world is huge. Although beauty is subjective, we can create spaces for ourselves and embody our own version of beauty. Finding these spaces is an important part of getting into the mental space of skin neutrality.”
Sabrina explains the significance and power of skin neutrality.
“I think skin neutrality is different from most ideologies regarding beauty. It’s polarizing. I think sometimes when we say - “you use filters so you have fake skin” can also be harmful because we’re telling someone how to present themselves to the world. So, you have one side saying - “don’t cover your acne, and don’t cover your perceived imperfections,” but then, you have the other side is saying - ” your acne is flawed, and you’re imperfect so you need to use filters.” But with skin neutrality, it’s not telling anyone present a certain way. It’s just a state of mind.”
“However, I will say that it’s a state of mind that won’t come easily. And like I said - try to be the most patient with yourself on the days that you’re struggling. I personally care about health over appearance, and I try to focus on gentle reminders like:
-Skin is an organ.
-Skin needs to be treated with patience and kindness.
-Skin needs to be nurtured and given what it needs.
“This gives me solace, and I think calming yourself down can be really helpful when it comes to skin. Did you know there is direct link between your brain and your gut health, and that affects acne? Scientifically, there is also a link between acne and depression. You’re much more likely to have depression if you have acne, and I think society has a lot to do with that.”
Likewise, this social issue has largely inspired Sabrina to become an esthetician.
“I’m going to get my esthetician license and use my platform to educate others about skin health, particularly acne. I want to validate and facilitate a safe space where people feel empowered in any phase of their skin. I want to feature models with acne online who are queer folks or of all ethnicities. I want it to be really inclusive because we all experience acne, and we all have different skincare needs. I would love to facilitate a space that celebrates people exactly how they are in this moment instead of treating people like a before photo or something that needs to be fixed. Let’s celebrate who we are now. Like - if I looked conventionally normal, I don’t think I would have discovered or learned to love who I am as much.”