The inciting photo of my evening routine.

Recently in my Instagram stories I shared a photo of part of my nightly routine (washing my face with Baba Yaga soap and using Selkie facial toner and Anoint facial oil), which sparked an interesting conversation with a few friends about skincare and makeup.

I want to preface this by saying that I love the looks created by my friends like James and Caitlin, both of whom are complete sorcerers with a makeup brush, and I think my makeup-free friends are radiant beauties as well. For me personally, I don’t enjoy the feeling of makeup on my skin, and most days I stick to just mascara and brow gel. This confession was met by a friend with a dismissal, “You can afford to skip foundation, you have good skin.

Acknowledging first and foremost the the deeply damaging gendered expectations that women and femme presenting individuals require cosmetic intervention to be socially acceptable, there is something else that I want to address here. I appreciate the sentiment behind the compliment, but I have some qualms with the phrase “good skin.”

My relationship with my skin has evolved over the years, and in fact, one might say that the seed of Hedge Witch Botanicals was a false belief in “bad skin,” as I spent many years developing products for my own skincare prior to launching HWB.

Like many adolescents, I developed acne when I started puberty, and like many young women I was subject to an onslaught of anti-acne marketing—from an industry that made an estimated $2 billion in 2018—equating acne with dirtiness and highlighting the subsequent social shame. Studies have confirmed that bias against those with acne is rampant, impacting one’s hiring prospects, and with a majority viewing folks with acne and/or scarring as less successful, healthy, and happy. [1, 2]

There are many factors that play into the condition of one’s skin. Personally, I’ve seen changes as a result of where I am in my hormonal cycle, my stress levels, what I eat and drink—basically, you know, being alive. Moreover, there are factors that one obviously can’t control, like genetics, but even some of the factors that one control, like diet and skincare, are so directly linked to income that control is in fact inaccessible to many.

Many nutritional professionals believe that all Americans, regardless of income, have access to a nutritious diet of whole grains, lean meats, and fresh vegetables and fruit. In reality, food prices pose a significant barrier for many consumers who are trying to balance good nutrition with affordability.

“Can Low-Income Americans Afford a Healthy Diet?” by Adam Drewnowski, PhD and Petra Eichelsdoerfer, ND, RPh

I think any talk about “good skin” also needs to address the elephant in the room—white supremacism. It’s undeniable that what is widely promoted as “beautiful” is the appearance of conforming with Eurocentric standards. (While recent criticisms of companies like Unilever and L’Oreal, who make billions from skin whitening and lightening products, have led them to simply change the wording of their marketing materials, they have yet to discontinue these abjectly racist and harmful products.) [3]

Even my sharing this post is an act of privilege—I generally conform to these standards, and though I occasionally have had people (invariably all men) tell me I look sick or tired when I go without makeup, I have not been punished for my skin.

It is my ardent hope, though, that in sharing this it might inspire even one person to pause and reflect before judging skin as either good or bad based on such absurd criteria, and instead reflect on the fact that our skin is absolutely incredible: the largest organ of our body is responding to stimuli and experiencing sensations, all while protecting us against the elements and filtering environmental toxins. Even scars—something I hear customers complain about a lot—are actually totally fucking miraculous. Really, think about it—your skin knit itself back together and you have a badge showing you’ve healed.

For all that I appreciate and benefit from my skin feeling good, I believe that the only thing we need to do to have “good skin” is to embrace the skin we are in.

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