Virali Patel is a skin positive content creator who lives in the UK. She shares with us her skin journey.
“Colorism and its beauty standards perpetuate trauma, and women have deeply suffered. Yet, people do not understand the impact that it has on us. A woman is conditioned to maintain a certain image and to be concerned with the opinions of others. You can even see how deeply we’ve been conditioned through social media. I used to post for likes, and similar to many people, I posted my best moments because I didn’t want people to see other aspects. Fortunately, I have grown past this, but there are still times when I post things and subconsciously ponder what people would say.
I grew up with the understanding that image is very important. Anything to do with money and appearance was very important. You’re constantly preoccupied with people’s perceptions of you and with how you measure up. When I went to events as a child, I was bluntly compared to other girls my age.
They would tell me, “Oh, look at her. She has clear skin. Why don’t you look like that?”
That played with my head, and on top of that, my acne had just started. I was only 13. So, I was like - “What do I do?” My mind was being fed all of this negative stuff, and over time, it just inundated me. My lack of self-confidence and self-worth became a battle. I began to think - “Am I not meant to live my life as who I am?” As a result, I actively sought ways to change myself, and that was very detrimental.
I wanted to be fair and light because that’s the path to being considered… to be worthy of anything. When I was young, I used to compare the lightest part of my arm to family members. When we got a suntan, we would compare ourselves to see who remained the lightest. I also remember how we would come up with so many different concoctions to remove our natural color and lighten up.
I wanted to change my skin even more once I got acne. I picked my spots, and to no avail, I made home remedies using turmeric, cinnamon, and yogurt. I tried everything, and that destroyed my skin barrier. I was left with dark spots and hyperpigmentation, and once you’ve got those on your face, you look even darker. After that happened, I would just stare at myself in the mirror and feel sad.
Every time your reflection makes you feel sad, it adds up, especially when you’re bullied for it. Everyone had something to say to me. The school I moved to was predominantly white, and I was the only brown girl school. I was the only brown girl with acne, and I couldn’t get rid of it. So, as I looked around and compared myself, their appearance was perceived as superior. It was very hard not to compare myself to white beauty standards, and this took a massive toll on my self-confidence and willingness to socialize.
No one looked like me, and as for my peers who did have spots, I didn’t look like them either. I felt like no one else had acne or dark hair on their bodies the way that I did. That’s another reason that I hated the color and texture of my skin.
I wanted to wish my brown skin away.
I would look at my body and see darker skin behind my thighs and around other places. I would try to scrub it off. As I mentioned before, I also had dense hair on my body so I would mix chickpea flour with other things, wait for it to dry, and scrub it off so the hair and some of my skin’s top layer would come off.
As I grew older, I knew that I had to stop fighting myself if I wanted to survive. Every time I scrolled through social media, I would compare myself and spiral into negative thoughts. But, one night I thought to myself - “Why am I doing this to myself? How many more years of feeling unworthy do I want to go through?”
From there, I started looking inwards and thinking of things that I could do to express myself. Creating a skin account was one of those things, and I started using my Instagram to talk about my relationship with my skin and its color.
Today, I’ve come to realize that self-image and the belief that you’re capable of great things is a journey. There is no quick fix. It's been a long road, and as I look back at the 16-year-old me, I see a girl who is crying and doesn’t want to live because of how she looks. But today, I am more appreciative of my brown skin and culture. Now, I happily post natural photos that don’t meet beauty standards on Instagram. I’m a completely different person than who I was before, and I want to help other people attain this transformation. While there is a lot of content that shows skin positivity, it doesn’t always translate into real-life for people. So, rather than just posting content, I want to help people do the work to unlearn beauty standards.
Ultimately, I want people to know - there’s so much beauty in being who you are."