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Zinhle: We Hold the Power, Not Our Skin.

Zinhle is an agricultural scientist, a skin positivity influencer, and a travel influencer from South Africa.

I started breaking out in 2017 when I was 24. I have had so many opinions on my skin from professionals, and I still don’t really know what causes my acne. I’ve had people tell me that it’s because of my gut lining, and I’ve had them tell me it’s because of PCOS. In the beginning, having acne was really hard for me because a big part of my job as an agricultural scientist was making presentations. There would be scientists from all over the country, and it was really hard to get onto that stage. Where I work though, nobody really cares what you look like. You can wear whatever you want as long as you do your work. While my colleagues never made me feel less than, I just felt as if I couldn’t do certain things because I had acne.

The acne began to get worse and worse, and I felt so small. I always felt like people could see it. Even strangers that I did not know, would walk up to me and ask - “What’s on your face?” And I really felt terrible because I was not confident anymore. Confidence had always been apart of me, and suddenly, I did not know how to be. That loss broke my spirit. I couldn’t hide my acne, and it was right there for everyone to see. Every time someone was looking at me, it didn’t feel as if they actually saw me. It was like all they saw was my acne. It felt terrible, and I was receiving comments from everywhere and everyone. I remember how one day I was in a taxi, and we were waiting for more passengers to come before departing. I was sitting next to a lady. She was sitting on the right side of me. I didn’t notice her much because she was a complete stranger. But then, she started tapping me on the shoulder. I looked at her like “...what?” She continued to tap my shoulder. I look at her again with confusion, disturbed a little. She had my attention, but she didn’t say anything. She was deaf. She just starts trying to speak to me in sign language about my face. I didn’t understand so she starts pointing at my face. I tell her - “Sorry, I don’t speak sign language...” And then, she literally takes out a pen from her bag, and she writes on her hand –

DOCTOR.

And then, she points again at my skin. This woman felt so compelled to tell me about my acne that she took the time to write it on her hand.

I swear… I was so heartbroken.

I was defeated in that moment, and it just kept coming. I have had the most crazy and ridiculous experiences, and it's taken a lot of prayer to get past them. I’ve had acne for a long time now, but eventually, when enough people tell you how disgusting your face looks, you get to a place where it no longer concerns you. I decided that I didn’t want to live my life in a shell.

I woke up one day and thought to myself - “This is your face. You have acne, you have scars, and sometimes you break out. You have to find a way to make peace with it and live around it.” I would have small talks with myself, and say - “You know what, Zinhle? It is what is. People are going to comment.” I even had one person yesterday comment. And even on Instagram when people comment and say, “this is disgusting” - I laugh. Acne is something that I’ve had to get over very quickly because acne will consume your life if you let it. You see, when you really get comfortable with yourself, and you’re able to see acne from an objective point of view, you become less vulnerable.

So, I’ve learned to care a lot less about what people think not because I wanted to but because it was necessary. People will really try to tell you about yourself and what to do if you let them. Overcoming this has made me more secure in myself. My experiences with acne have made me more confident, and it has humbled me at the same time. I don’t really see looks and appearances the way that I used to. I will always take care of myself, but if I feel like I don’t look good on camera or have a pimple, I won’t have a bad day. My experiences with skin have also changed the way that I see people. Everyone has their own struggles, and I’ve learned from personal experience that appearances say little about who we are. It’s about the power and determination to live life that we hold within ourselves.