Why I Stopped Believing That “Good Skin” and “Bad Skin” Exist
With Allure‘s brand-new series See Yourself, See Each Other, we partnered with Ulta Beauty to share stories on representation, skin, hair, and identity to help create a more inclusive space and encourage others to fully embrace themselves without judgment. My story, in particular, falls under the skin-acceptance umbrella and it began just three months ago.
I had an epiphany: My oily, acne-prone skin isn’t bad; it’s not good, either. My skin is just my skin, and I don’t want to hate it anymore.
My realization came while I was getting a facial. After analyzing my skin, the aesthetician told me that I have “good skin.” Convinced she was lying to me, I exclaimed, “Really? No, I don’t.” She went on to list how my complexion checked the boxes for “good.” It’s bouncy, dewy, bright. My cystic acne made me completely ignore the positive attributes of my skin.
Suddenly, everything I thought I knew about “good skin” and “bad skin” made zero sense to me. I grew up thinking “good skin” equated to a smooth, clear complexion. In my mind, cystic acne and “good skin” have always been mutually exclusive. I never imagined that they could coexist, let alone on my own face. So when I got home, I looked in the bathroom mirror and told myself that just because I have painful, red bumps on my cheeks, my skin wasn’t necessarily bad. But I still didn’t believe it.
For most of my life, I’ve looked for reasons to hate my skin, and acne topped the list. A word for the gray area between “good skin” and “bad skin” doesn’t exist, so I believed mine was automatically bad the second I noticed something problematic: redness, a pimple, a dry patch. When whatever it was that bothered me cleared up, my skin could be considered good. However, my cystic acne has lingered for nearly a year, so bad has become its default setting. I got so used to presuming my skin was bad that it became another label attached to my identity, alongside sister, writer, K-pop fan, and makeup lover.
As soon as I realized that my criteria for “good skin” and “bad skin” was purely subjective and didn’t align with others’ criteria, including an aesthetician’s, I forced myself to disregard the labels entirely. I removed them from my vocabulary, not only in my thoughts but also in conversations with others. Instead of saying my skin is bad, I now prefer to say it’s “going through some things.” With this turn of phrase, I started accepting my skin — acne and all.
Skin acceptance has become a part of the lives of many people lately. On social media, people have been stepping away from blurring their skin to an unrealistic version of perfection and started posting unfiltered moments that are not often shared on social media. Dozens are even opening up about skin conditions of all types, no matter how common they may be, as well as aging, and in the process helping to take down stigmas.
Take public speaker and model Aiesha Robinson, for example. After being diagnosed with vitiligo, she had to redefine what “good skin” and “bad skin” meant to her. She later realized that overcoming stereotypes connected to each one — and toward her skin condition, in general — comes from our own mindsets. “I think we underestimate how much power we have within ourselves,” she shared with me. “Everything starts with you. I mean, we like to think that it’s all from society and, of course, that’s an influence, but nothing can be done without you.” She went on to talk about practicing the law of attraction and positive affirmations, and I now think of that every time I look in the mirror and choose not to be defeated by my skin.
My skin is just as much a work in progress as I am. Once I considered this, I started having a more symbiotic, sympathetic relationship with it. Disappointment didn’t strike me every time another spot treatment didn’t magically clear my complexion. Instead, I pushed myself to make an appointment with my dermatologist to seek out more effective options. I also started wearing pimple patches in public and caring less if my complexion looked “too bumpy” in the selfies I posted on Instagram.
Because I’ve had acne since I was a teen, it has become so entrenched in my self-image that it’s weird to think that one day I won’t have it. Something will always keep me from having what society considers perfect, good skin, though. One day, fine lines and wrinkles will start replacing breakouts. I might want to treat those, too, and just as 54-year-old model Caroline Labouchere points out, that’s totally fine.
Skin acceptance is similar to self-confidence. Gaining both is an ongoing process. Neither are permanent. As we go through life, our skin changes and our relationship with it evolves, too. No matter what my skin goes through in the future, though, “good” or “bad” will not be how I define it.
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