the price of beauty: A self love journey
Updated: Jan 11
We all want to be beautiful...but at what cost? Social media and the world that we live in will constantly bombard us with images of its idea of what 'beautiful' should be. So how do we respond to that? Do we allow ourselves to feel inferior or use it as an opportunity to prove otherwise?
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it" - Confucius
On one hand, writing about fashion and beauty posts, whether it's just giving advice or reviewing products, it all comes so easily to me. But on the other hand, it's more difficult to put "pen to paper" when it comes to matters that personally have affected me. I try to be as much of an open book as possible when it comes to my blog and brand. But at times there are issues I prefer to keep privately. In this current climate of social media, where almost everyone is so transparent online; it's OKAY to not post about everything as it happens. But I always think "what if my situation can help someone else?".
For those that know me personally or have come across my blog, Facebook page or Instagram, you may have noticed my absolute love for skin care and skin health. Like, this is NO secret. If you get me started on talking about my go-to products, let's just say you're in for a long convo #haha. I figured I'd mention this experience I've had just about a year ago, specifically because through it, it helped to change the narrative about how I perceive myself and I've developed confidence and self love on a greater scale.
I've always known that my skin was very sensitive and with that, I was always very particular about the products I would try. After having a dermatitis around my eyes from an 'all natural' Vitamin C serum years ago, let's just say it took me many months before I even laid hands on another Vitamin C product. With trial and error, in 2019, I basically had perfected my skin care routine with very simple yet effective products. My skin was tremendously smooth and radiant. I had reached "no makeup" status which was my goal.
For some reason, I wasn't satisfied; part of it being a constant struggle with self love and self acceptance and knowing that what I'd achieved for my skin was enough. So scrolling through social media and seeing persons with what seemed to be incredibly flawless skin, I wanted that. I still had some oiliness and large pores which were the least of my worries, but I wanted more...and that was my downfall.
In mid June 2019, I decided to try a retinol product of a higher percentage. At this time I was already using Differin (an over the counter FDA approved product) and that transformed my skin so beautifully. But my desire to have this airbrushed look was so profound. So I went to a skin clinic and was given a sample of a retinol which was probably 10x more potent than I'm accustomed to. This in itself should not have happened because medical grade skincare must be prescribed by a doctor and not simple handed over the counter! But I kid you not when I say that I tried this product only once, and on June 17th 2019, I woke up with a chemical burn on the right side of my face.
Imagine my horror. Just thinking about it again as I type this, it brings tears to my eyes because I knew I had messed up. I was so consumed by the thought of having "perfect" skin that I put my skin's health at major risk. From that day, I was scrambling to be seen as an emergency case at dermatologists and cosmetic doctors because I needed to know the extent of the damage and what my management plan would be. On a side note, in retrospect, if God forbid something like this ever happens to any of you reading this, please see a dermatologist. You would save your skin permanent damage because a burn is an emergency! It isn't something that you can"watch and see what happens in a couple weeks".
I think for the first time in my life, I truly understood what it was like to feel depressed. This is not to be mistaken with sadness because they are completely different entities. I was saying hurtful things to myself, I wasn't eating well and I had lost interest in things that usually brought me joy. The mental effect of my actions definitely took a toll on me. My anxiety was on max, because imagine having a burn that extends from your chin to where a dimple in your cheek would be; and having to go to work with a plaster that size on your face for a couple days. I tried to put on a brave face in the upcoming days but admittedly, it was tough.
I got so many questions that initial week that it became overwhelming just being at work. To be honest at that time, I didn't want to give much details about what happened because what I've noticed is that people don't realize how badly their words can hurt. Instead of giving a sincere "Omg I'm so sorry that happened, hope it heals well", I experienced the opposite with persons condemning me for trying the product in the first place. Thing is, I was already beating myself up about it so much that I didn't need the extra hate and lack of apathy.
So to avoid myself any further negativity, only my immediate family and a handful of friends and few work colleagues actually knew what was going on. I had gone from being able to wear minimal to makeup when I left my house, to wearing makeup every single day; all in an attempt to hide my skin. My skin hit a major bump in the road. Luckily I came across the Dermablend foundation and this was my secret weapon- thank God for full coverage makeup.
I was luckily able to see my now current dermatologist Dr Naomi Dolly of Retouched here in Trinidad, within a week of the burn. Being an expert in her field and actually knowing how to manage a burn, I felt a lot more at ease with her management, honesty and transparency about how my skin may or may not have improved. Truthfully, damage was done so we had to see how things improved with treatment.
The affected area was hypo-pigmented and looked very pink so the fear was that my pigment would never return and my skin would essentially be scarred. I made several visits to her practice, started and stopped certain treatments and luckily, the pigmentation in my skin returned.
Could you imagine my joy? I did personal photo updates and logs (along with Dr Dolly's professional progress photos) on the gradual improvement of my skin. Then, it was time to get to work on fading the residual post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation. This was a day I looked forward to so eagerly; a day to right my wrongs and help my skin back on the path to good health.
So what does this experience all come down to?
This was quite possibly one of the biggest learning lessons in my life. After struggling with self esteem issues for what seemed like most of my life and not fully and wholeheartedly realizing my worth, this entire experience has shown me that I AM ENOUGH and I always have been. It unfortunately took an extreme event such as this to really wake me up and say "hey what the heck are you doing?".
I've grown to learn that while social media has its positive impact, it definitely can have its negative impact. We become so fixated about having perfect skin, the perfect body, the perfect wardrobe and the list goes on. But ultimately, we need to remind ourselves that some of this isn't real. Photoshop is real and this image of "perfection" is indeed a facade. Some of the things we see on social media should be taken with a pinch of salt because not all of it is authentic. It's there to provoke us to want more and more.
This journey to self love has been a lifelong one and I wanted to create something that when I look back on it, I can truly reflect on all that's happened and how I was able to regain my self worth. I was always seen as someone with 'great skin', being called "skin goals" even. People would come to me for tips and of course, I've shared my best tips thus far on my platform. But I wanted to share this experience because it can happen to anyone.
A lot of times we see many different skin treatments being thrown at us on social media and it is enticing. But remember that the skin treatments and products that may work for someone else may not necessarily work for you. Everyone's skin is different, so skincare should be personally tailored.
My black is beautiful
It would be remiss of me to talk about self love and not mention my struggles of being a black woman. I am a black Trinidadian woman. Racism has, for many years particularly haunted the Black community worldwide. It has become so unbearable seeing the unjust treatment or even worse, the loss of life because of the colour of someone's skin.
Society has always made black people feel ashamed for their melanin. As a black woman, it's been hard to truly believe that I'm beautiful. For a black women, the idea of beautiful that is portrayed everywhere we turn is fair skin, light eyes and straight hair. Hearing comments growing up like "You're pretty for a black girl" or "You have a nice complexion, you're not too dark"...this would make any little girl feel insecure and conflicted about her appearance. It ingrains at a young age that a lighter complexion automatically makes you 'better'.
The lack of representation of black female figures in movies and TV shows etc was another major contributor. I was made to dislike my features like my full lips, but yet people pay for lip fillers to have lips like mine. My sisters felt like they had to dislike their wide hips and round derriere, but yet people would pay for augmentations to have those same features. I was made to dislike my melanated skin, but yet people forever "want to get a tan" to "look darker"#mindblown.
It's suffocating to know that the things that make you unique, you somehow have to feel self conscious and even ashamed about. In the Caribbean in particular, we have something I like to call the "thick woman" culture. Basically you're seen as more attractive and "healthy" if you're full figured. For me, being thin-framed, I've received so many skinny-shaming comments, it's unreal. Imagine carrying the weight of all of these insecurities for years and years. How could anyone feel good in their own skin?
But 2020, a year that has been so riveting since it's start, has brought about many positive changes that I'm grateful for. The Black Lives Matter Movement and their work over the past few weeks in garnering solidarity and justice for the Black community has been nothing short of astounding and revolutionary. It has given me an opportunity to speak up when I normally would remain silent. I am able to stand up and say I am a successful, ambitious, confident and beautiful black Caribbean woman - and I know my worth.
I've been empowered through these recent events to stand up and speak out for my local Black community in my homeland of Trinidad and Tobago. Here, however we not only face racism, but colourism and classism are entities that we have yet to work on as a nation. The way I see it is that if I can't love myself and work on making things better for future generations, what am I really saying to young girls and even other women that look to me for inspiration? I want them to see a reflection of themselves in me, so I feel compelled to set make an example of myself.
Check out my recent instagram posts on amplifying melanated voices and supporting black content creators and local businesses in T&T (tap image to view post).
"We must rebuild and rebuild and rebuild until it is rebuilt. Because when the foundation is broken, so are we" - Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.
"Don't take criticism from someone you wouldn't take advice from" - Dakota Meyer
The work has to start somewhere and it must start with ourselves, as individuals. This is not going to happen overnight, but the most important step, is to start. We have to look deep within, educate ourselves, research and do whatever we can to make this world a better place. People project their own insecurities on others so bear that in mind before you take everything that's said to heart. I try to live my life on my terms and do the things that I love, regardless of the stares and negativity that I may be faced with. If I allow myself to give in to every ounce of criticism and hate, I wouldn't be living my life for me.
"Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always"- Unknown
It's not enough to just say we love ourselves. We must work at it and truly mean it. When I realized my worth, I automatically became the most confident I've ever been. It's like a switch had been flipped. Some days can still be tough but I know that it's temporary. God chose to make us in His image and likeness and if you don't think that's awesome, then I don't know what can possibly top that. I always say and I've learned to live by the saying that "God makes no mistakes, darling". Own your uniqueness. The world needs more of your love and light.
Are you on a self love journey? What have you learned from the experience? Feel free to leave a comment and let's chat. I would absolutely appreciate it if you share this post xx
Also, check out my Pinterest for more inspiration xx (tap image below)