If you told me as a teenager that someday in the not too distant future I would make a living writing and reporting on the beauty industry, I would probably call you a fucking liar. At 14, I discovered my love for all things beauty—mainly through YouTube “gurus” and pages in glossy magazines—and saved every dollar from a tutoring job to buy myself an Urban Decay eyeshadow. (My signature color back then was a sparkling Kelly Green — I was really ahead of my time.) It was also around 14 when my skin started breaking out all over and worse breakouts. I’m 28 now, but I still get chronic flare-ups centered on my jaw and chin—typical hormonal stuff, but honestly, growing up, I never thought beauty editors with their glamor jobs would even care about pimples would care. After all, the word “beauty” was literally in her job title.
I’ll break the fourth wall for a second; In my current role on the site you’re reading, I write a lot of beauty reviews. The way these come together is usually when a brand sends me a product to test prior to its release. It’s a huge privilege that I don’t take for granted, but all of that means it’s also created an environment where I’m constantly examining the condition of my own (very imperfect) skin as a by-product of testing a new product launch. Growing up, I slowly worked my way through every brand of acne, from drugstore to Sephora, to quell my severe acne. Now I’ve had unlimited access to virtually every beauty product money can buy — not to mention the opportunity to interview the industry’s top experts — and I still had a chin full of breakouts. It didn’t take long for me to start seriously questioning whether I belonged in the beauty industry or not: if I couldn’t even figure out what was wrong with my own acne, how could a reader trust me to talk about skincare write ?
“I had unlimited access to virtually every beauty product, let alone industry experts — and I had a pimple on my chin.”
Let me take you back to the first fancy facial I went to as a member of the beauty press, meaning it was free on behalf of the brand or spa to get editors to consider the service and/or Trying out the products used for consideration. Well, I’ve been to dermatologists since I was a teenager when I took prescription topicals like Differin and later Accutane, but I’d never had a true spa facial before. I remember leaving this facial in tears because I walked in with a few breakouts on my cheeks and left with a red and swollen face from the extractions. What I thought was a calming, self-indulging moment made me hate my reflection. That radiant post-facial glow! Selfies I’ve seen my co-workers post? Yes, couldn’t understand it exactly.
However, it’s been over a decade since I first started having acne and my relationship with my skin has changed – a lot. I’m fortunate in that my job involves constant trial and error when testing products, and I’ve had the luxury of testing countless brands to find out what works for my skin. I often wonder if without my dream job, would I have discovered that my oily face just loves niacinamide and that a mild exfoliation (as opposed to an intense exfoliation) helps me stay clear? Maybe, maybe not.
As I reflect on my career to date – I started writing full-time in 2015 – I can’t help but reflect on how an early love and personal relationship with skincare influences my work to this day. Even though most of what I use today is free, I know what it’s like, one a lot of on products that ultimately don’t do much. It sucks, it’s frustrating as hell and it’s expensive. Everyone’s skin is different, but all there is to say is that when I’m reviewing a product, it’s because I genuinely think it sucks. And I hope that if you try something based on my recommendation, you will too.
There was a time in my life when I would have given anything to have “perfect skin” in the world. But now that I’ve experienced acne first hand for most years of my life, I have to say – it has empowered me with a great deal of knowledge and empathy that I draw on when I speak about acne in the context of my work. And I think that’s a beautiful thing.
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