April 22, 2015

Beauty is Not Skin Deep

My relationship with my skin has not been a healthy one. Due to a sudden and chronic struggle with acne that arose when I was thirteen-years old, I have spent the last 7 years applying makeup most mornings, and have expanded my skin care routine to include a whopping 11 products. 

The first time my boyfriend saw me without makeup (which coincidentally was also during the worst acne flareup Id experienced since the chaos of my preteen years), I hid my face with a vengeance. I remember looking at my feet as he walked me to the bus stop, and burying my face in his neck as I waited for a bus to get me the hell out of there. 

Throughout our relationship, I have nourished an inner dialogue consisting of hatred for my own skin, admiration for my boyfriends skin, and an attempt to consolidate these with his reassurances that my skin is not as bad as I think it is. 

Realizing that I was able to find skin flaws in most of the women I observed, I found myself evaluating men I passed in my daily travels, judging their acne, wondering if they were all as perfect looking as my boyfriend. They either have perfect skin, or very severe acne – there doesnt seem to be any of the awkward in-between stuff like I have, I told my boyfriend. He politely disagreed, but I was convinced that the majority of men looked pretty damn great. 

It was only a few weeks ago, when I found myself making faces at him in the mirror as we brushed our teeth together, that I really questioned myself on the mystery of the perfect male skin. I scanned the details of both our faces, and I asked myself, how exactly is his skin different from mine? Do I have the most blackheads? Is his skintone more even than mine? To my surprise, other than a zit or two that had it in for me, we werent that different. 

Had I been blinded by love, and entirely wrong about his appearance? Would I have found most men to have terrible skin upon a closer look? Or was I being too harsh on myself – holding my skin to more vigorous and rejective standards than I held men to? It is not as though Id never looked closely at him before, but to make the same evaluations in front of a mirror, with us both there, made it very clear that the expectations I had for myself were far too high. 

I let myself become so hateful towards my own appearance, using words like disgusting’, and embarrassing. I regularly find myself evaluating the skin of other girls, making imaginary recommendations of a little concealer here and a little powder there. It is a sad reality that I become stuck viewing the exact same thing as perfect on men, and wrong on women. 

I know that not all women share this perception and I cannot with certainty blame the beauty industries or photoshop, because makeup has been present in our societies for centuries. I can only be sure that the standards that have been set for female beauty throughout our history not only attack self esteem, but literally have the ability to change perception of womens skin compared to mens skin. I used to think that I had been trained to notice more imperfection than my boyfriend had, but the reality is that we were only seeing a difference in me. 

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