For many, the meaning of beauty is intrinsically tied to the way we outwardly appear to others. It is almost as if the other’s perception of our own self is what validates or invalidates our sense of self-worth.
Often, skin–the largest organ in the human body and perhaps one of the first, if not, the first thing you notice upon meeting someone–can be what dictates the way we appear to the external world.
So what happens when the skin you live in doesn’t fit the criteria of beauty that has been imposed onto you since the moment you were born? How does one break free from the shackles of the fashion and beauty industries that have perpetuated this idea of what you should look like?
Up until recently, popular culture has been less than flexible with their standards of beauty, but in the last couple of years, counter movements, such as thebody positivity and skin positivity movements, have been catalysts in destabilizing these rigid and unrealistic trends. Warriors of such movements have made a huge dent on those trends through the use of their voices and stories on social media platforms.
Oh! My Mag was lucky enough to have the opportunity of chatting with Constanza Concha, @skinnoshame on Instagram, a skin positivity influencer on a mission to make the world a more inclusive place.
Who is Constanza Concha?
I am an 18-year-old girl from Caracas, Venezuela with a strange skin condition called Acne Conglobata; the rarest form of acne out there. It causes nodules and abscesses to form which lead to scars and a whole lot of physical and emotional pain as a result. I also suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Is the OCD related to the form of acne you have?
Yes. In my case, they are genetically related. My family has a history of anxiety, stress and OCD. And as the form of acne I have generates a lot of stress in me this triggers my OCD. So I find myself battling a vicious cycle wherein the two go hand in hand.
When did you first notice your acne appearing? And what was your initial reaction?
My acne first started when I was six years old but turned into Conglobata when I was nine years old. In my case, it was very extreme as usually, Conglobata appears at the onset of puberty and mostly affects men as it is linked to testosterone levels.
My diagnosis came a little later actually as, at first, I thought it was just a severe case of acne and since this form of acne is rather rare not that many people know that this condition even exists. When a lot of people first see me they mistake my condition for some skin infection and think it’s contagious which hurt me a lot when I was younger.
In elementary and high school in particular, kids were cruel. This form of acne is something that has impacted all spheres of my life and it was really hard for me at the time to explain what it was that I had on my face because I, myself, didn’t even know.
How has your relationship with acne affected your idea of beauty?
I think that countries in Latin America focus a lot on beauty. I truly think that where you come from in the world has an impact on the way you see yourself. But for me, it’s been different. I was always the girl that focused on her studies–I was super nerdy–and never really thought of beauty as a component of my personality.
But I think that beauty comes from within. If I am at peace with the person that I am then no one else’s perception of me should matter. People should know that they are beautiful and feel that way for themselves and not for someone else. And so acne should not impede anyone from feeling beautiful
The process of self-acceptance isn’t one that just happens easily for anyone. What was your journey like with self acceptance, and what is your advice for people who are going through it at the moment?
Self-acceptance starts with focusing on yourself and eliminating the negative thoughts that surround you. That includes having to cut toxic relationships that, in one way or another, only deviate you from achieving happiness. I’ve had to cut friendships that were founded on micro aggressions because I realized those were not helping me in any way.
So the one piece of advice I could give anyone on the journey of self-acceptance is to focus on yourself and prioritize yourself.
How do you feel about the current state of affairs of the fashion/beauty industry? And how would you like to see it evolve?
I believe that the fashion industry will never be what we want it to be. But I truly believe that the people in power who are trying to make a change for the better will have a greater impact than those who are purely greedy and self-interested.
I don’t think the industry will ever truly get to a point where they are completely inclusive because unfortunately money changes people. But we have seen many brands that have been problematic and as a result were called out for it. People are waking up and they are noticing this negativity.
How do you go about dealing with bad days? And how do you bring yourself back up from those moments?
I believe that when there are bad days the sun comes out afterwards. I truly stand behind the fact that if you are able to get through those dark days you will see the results of that resilience and I think it’s worth it to wait for that to happen. There will always be bad moments in our lives but we should always focus on the fact that we know that good ones will come afterwards or even from them.
How do you reveal yourself on social media without the fear of being judged so harshly?
At first I started my account to track my progress with my skin. And then I discovered a community called #FreeThePimple which was created by a British model. After spending some time observing how that community interacted, I decided that I wanted to be a part of that.
I thought to myself ‘if these people can share their stories, so can I.’ And I decided to jump in and contribute and noticed that other people were responding well to it. I spent about a year posting content and talking about my feelings. People were thanking me and I liked how people were getting something positive out of my personal story.
And I just decided to keep going and I never really had bad comments or people trying to put me down. I felt rather confident after posting the first picture. I was extremely scared at the beginning.
The people who started following me and interacting with me online were the reason why I decided to keep doing this.
As the community has evolved and become bigger it has inevitably attracted malicious people but it doesn’t deter from the main message of this community. It has become a movement that has had an impact on the media at large.