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Let's talk Skin Dysmorphia

by Kanvas Beauty August 23, 2022 5 min read

Let's talk Skin Dysmorphia

Anura gets real and addresses some of the issues that the media creates, and that beauty companies and retailers (including us) can unwittingly perpetuate.

Even before the age of social media, the pressure to look perfect was always there. As a child who attended high school in the 90s, and prior to the popularity of inclusivity and body positivity, the pressure to confirm to a singular, unattainable aesthetic was strong. It was the time of Amazonian supermodels (Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer etc) whose airbrushed perfection would be splashed on every page of the glossy magazines we would faithfully buy. The celebration of Kate Moss’ unique body type to the exclusion of all others dialled up the desire to be skinny. Older millennials will remember the popular slogans back then (“skinny feels better than food tastes”, “heroin-chic” etc) that now seem straight up diabolical. Not surprisingly, several girls in my high school had eating disorders and most of us (myself included) would talk about how much we hated our teenaged, acne-prone skin like a daily mantra. Low self-esteem was even a form of bonding.

 

The double-edged sword of social media

Fast-forward to the present day, where magazines and publications have been replaced by smart phones and the proliferation of social media. Unlike my teenagehood, there is a much bigger counter-culture to contrived perfection. It makes me hopeful and is awesome to see. We see all forms of positivity and representation, which is essential to a healthy self-esteem. I love the acne positivity in particular, which I can personally relate to – and wish something like that was around when I was a kid.

 

That said, there’s also a dark, underbelly of these same platforms that can undo the work of diversity and positivity warriors in a single post – particularly when the reader is a vulnerable young person. Trolls, contrived perfection, targeted algorithms, photoshop and the constant bombardment of heavily edited videos and images can make even the most confident person second guess how they look. And in one very unique way, it’s far worse than what we experienced in the 90s. While we would criticize ourselves just as relentlessly, we wouldn’t often get that criticism reinforced by others unless we had particularly crappy friends and family in our social circle. In today’s world, our pictures and videos are up for the rest of the populace to judge and critique; for better or for worse. And because so many social media accounts can remain hidden behind a keyboard, our content can be subject to unspeakable and unsolicited commentary that would never be uttered in a face-to-face situation. 

 

But first, what is skin dysmorphia?

As a skin-positive and inclusive cosmetics retailer, we’re aware of this and try to include as much diversity in our messaging as possible. Our models are often our own customers, with different skin types and we don’t airbrush or promote damaging messaging (e.g., you won’t see Kanvas Beauty stock skin bleaching products, a staple in Asian beauty brands). However, this policy rarely extends to product photos, which are sourced from our brands where possible, falling outside our creative control. Hence, we think it’s important to talk about the reality of skincare brands and the wider social issues that are tied into the beauty world: skin dysmorphia.

 

Like body dysmorphia, skin dysmorphia is when we become excessively to obsessively concerned with how our skin appears. It can have a deep impact on our mental health, social behaviours and the way we regard ourselves. Ever decided to avoid going out because you have a pimple? Yep, same. While this in and of itself isn’t a huge deal, it can spiral into a repeated and worsening pattern if we aren’t careful. Focusing on perceived flaws is a very human trait, but not one that should always be humoured when it comes to the way we look. Luckily, I have a great support system that enthusiastically remind me each time that no one cares about how I look because they’re more concerned with how they look. Ain’t that the truth! Even though I consider myself a confident person, I sometimes need to know when to put the phone down and get real with myself when I start wondering why my nose isn’t pore-less close up like IG models (seriously, why do they airbrush the pores out completely, it’s unnerving).

 

Perfection should never be the skincare goal

If we received a dollar for all the inbound inquiries Kanvas Beauty has received asking about how to “fix” their perfectly fine skin, we could probably fill a swimming pool with coins. As a reminder (and I’m saying this for myself too): pores are normal, and can get bigger as we age. Sun spots and hyperpigmentation are normal (just not melanomas). A bit of redness is normal. dry skin is normal. acne is normal. Oily skin is normal. It’s all normal. Remember, the goal isn’t perfection, it’s healthy skin and feeling good in the skin you’re in. Not an easy thing to keep in mind at all times in today’s image-obsessed world, so here is your reminder for today.

 

Skin insecurities are common

Even at Kanvas Beauty, with all the access to skincare that we have, our skin is far from perfect. I have pores on my nose that get worse in hot summers, and I will get a huge hormonal zit (usually when I have a big event coming up and I’m stressed, go figure) even though I’m in my late 30s and I really thought I’d be done with acne by now (HAHA psych). I’ve found that pimple patches really reduce the visibility and that with pores, they’re never going to completely disappear and I’m just going to have to deal. I’ve gotten my skin to a good, healthy state at the moment (probably the best condition it’s been in for years), and that’s what matters. Yes, I still sometimes think it’s not enough and that my skin could be better – but I try and shut that voice off or try and redirect my energies into something that might actually beneficial (how about putting that focus and effort towards improving your anxiety levels, hey Anura?).

 

Be kind to yourself, always  

My colleague Kellie has zero pores on her face (damn her) but constantly complains about dry skin, red veins on her nose, and a bunch of stuff that frankly I can’t see. Elle goes on about small bumps on her skin that never go away and sun spots. Honestly, they both look totally fine to me. Better than fine (like, what are they even talking about). Every person I’ve spoken to has their skin insecurity which seems so trivial to me, although they are probably thinking the same thing when I’m stressing about a pimple. There are a couple of lessons here. Firstly, we all see ourselves a little differently when we look in the mirror, usually less favourably than other people see us. The other point is there are certain realities to having skin, that wonderful outer layer that protects our flesh from literally falling off. It will have immune responses, stress responses, environmental responses, hormonal responses and ageing responses. It means our skin is working like a champ, and we are ALL going through it. Don’t punish yourself for it and don’t hold yourself up for comparison with photoshop. Or even with others in real life, for that matter, because everyone’s skin is different. 

 

Want more resources and shared experiences on skin dysmorphia?

As with most topics, Reddit is a goldmine of shared experiences on skin dysmorphia. Check out some very reassuring and relatable threads here:

https://www.reddit.com/r/SkincareAddiction/comments/81mqtu/personal_skin_dysmorphia_anyone_else_dealing_with/

https://www.reddit.com/r/acne/comments/oxyalm/skin_dysmorphia/

 

You can also check out Butterfly, which is an excellent resource for all body image (including skin dysmorphia) issues, and offers a confidential helpline, online chat and other avenues of assistance.

 

And obviously, if you wanna talk or complain or just say hi, you are always welcome to drop us a line: hello@kanvasbeauty.com.au

 

 

 

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