There is a movement happening in beauty right now. Platforms such as Instagram, YouTube and TikTok are allowing women the world over to speak candidly about issues that even five years ago were still considered taboo. Acne and skin blemishes, the fatigue of new motherhood and loving the richness and deepness of your complexion in a colorist society are just some of the new lines of conversation that are taking place in these virtual communities now. And they’re helping to power change in real life.
We talk to six inspiring women who are using their platforms to change the beauty narrative for the better – from what they’ve learned from their communities to what they love about their body and skin and their biggest beauty tip.
Deja Foxx, political strategist and founder of GenZ Girl Gang
While working on Vice President Kamala Harris’s Presidential campaign, one of the things that surprised me – about the woman who might one day run for President of the United States of America – was the way her day was scheduled out. And as I reflect on what I learned about both inner and outer beauty while working with her, I realized that, so often, our rituals and routines are about much more than how we look – often they are about hanging onto pieces of normalcy when our schedules get wild. My skincare was so important to me on the campaign because I was stressed, so I needed time to reset in the morning and at night. As a woman of color in a public-facing role, beauty is something to be considered. It’s often frowned upon or treated as something trivial, but it has a real impact.
The times when I feel most beautiful are the times when I feel seen and uplifted by my community, GenZ Girl Gang. I feel most beautiful through the eyes of the people who look up to me”
I’ve struggled with housing insecurity. In high school, I was homeless – I lived with my partner and their family, and I used to bounce around between my friends’ homes. But my body is my forever home. Through that lens, I’m able to ground myself. Grounding practices are really important to me because my world has changed really quickly. This is the same body that was working in a gas station three years ago, grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and is now living in New York City and going to an Ivy League school.
The times when I feel most beautiful are the times when I feel seen and uplifted by my community, GenZ Girl Gang. I feel most beautiful through the eyes of the people who look up to me. I’ve definitely curated an image online and I like to look good. But my image is about so much more than how I look – it’s also about what I’ve done, what I stand for and what I’ve shown others is possible. The beauty tip I always follow is doing whatever makes me feel comfortable and confident. That may be graphic eyeliner one day, or no makeup at all on another, or wearing whatever outfit I want. When I need to feel confident, I put on my red lipstick. @dejafoxx
DEJA’S PRODUCT PICKS
The beauty tip I always follow is doing whatever makes me feel comfortable and confident”Deja Foxx
SWANTJE’S PRODUCT PICKS
Swantje Paulina, model and Bulls Talent Management co-founder
Sadly, I have received a lot of pushbacks in my career. “Oh no, we can’t book her – she has too many freckles,” some have said. Or, “It’s going to be too much for consumers.” I remember going to a job for a tattoo cover-up stick when I was 16. They wanted to show that you can also cover up pimples, moles and freckles, as if they’re bad things. It really hurt my feelings. The industry has changed since then, in a way, but I feel like there’s still a long way to go.
I love my curves and I feel very confident about them now: sometimes even wishing they were bigger! I still remember when I felt the opposite – and that’s the same with my skin. I think these small brown freckles make me look special, so I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. It’s taken me some time to get there though – and it’s definitely been more of an ongoing process, rather than hitting a moment when I suddenly felt my most confident. I’ve just accepted that I am who I am, I look how I look – and why not make the best of it instead of asking myself, “Why do I not look like her?”
I don’t really have a set beauty routine and I have very sensitive skin, so I don’t want to overwhelm it. I have been using a very rich cream on my face for years and I sometimes use eye pads to pamper myself a little. My biggest beauty tip is the belief that a good beauty routine also comes from within. I drink lots of water and fresh, pressed juices – and give myself as many breaks and days off as I need. @swalina
I’ve just accepted that I am who I am, I look how I look – and why not make the best of it?”Swantje Paulina
Kadeeja Sel Khan, acne model and skin activist
Having had acne since I was 11 has taught me the hardest lessons. I almost had to mold into an adult, and think like an adult, from a very young age. I had to be my own voice of confidence and positivity. I felt as if no one understood me and that no one got why I felt alone. It was hard being insulted over something I had no control over. I’ve always had love for myself though and I always knew I was different from others – but in a good way. The world sometimes made me question myself but, deep down, I knew I was a beautiful person who would some day share her story with the world.
My [professional] presence is proof that the beauty industry has changed – and that it’s evolving in a positive way. I’ve been in magazines, on campaigns, in advertisements and on billboards. Growing up, I would have never have thought that someone like me, who suffers from acne, would ever get these opportunities. Personally, I’m now well-versed in most beauty-product ingredients and will make sure I read them over and over again, so that I know what I’m putting on my face.
My biggest beauty tip is investing in cooled face rollers. They are amazing for soothing the skin, depuffing the face and boosting blood circulation. My face is super-sensitive so they give it the relaxation it needs. @emeraldxbeauty
KADEEJA’S PRODUCT PICKS
The world sometimes made me question myself but, deep down, I knew I was a beautiful person who would some day share her story with the world”Kadeeja Sel Khan
Chanel Tyler, beauty influencer and beauty strategy & partnerships creator lead at YouTube
I’ve learned how deeply Black women are being ignored by the skincare market from my community. It was something I had a hypothesis about, but I didn’t realize how disengaged they actually were. So it’s been a journey to actually see what kind of things are helping them with their skin concerns and what they’re responding to. Over-exfoliation is super-prominent in my community and most women don’t realize how much they are over-stripping their skin. So many are overusing acids, so I’ve always stuck to moisture and hydration as keys to having healthy, glowing skin. It’s been so incredible to see so many women in my community go makeup-free and feel like they only need makeup to help enhance their beauty. So many are not playing the cover-up game anymore.
As a new mother, I don’t have the same kind of time I had before. I was one of those people who always had a really long, multi-step routine – and I loved it because it was time to be by myself and really get intimate with my skin. I really looked forward to that every morning and evening. Now that I have an infant, my routine is condensed and I focus on using more potent products that are going to deliver, instead of testing and trying out a whole bunch of products, like I used to do. And my daughter, Madison, has her own skincare and body-care routine, too, so I’ve had to spend a lot of time learning about what’s safe for babies and what brands out there cater to them. You have to be so careful with what you apply to their skin, so I’ve become hyper-conscious about ingredients. Every single morning, when she wakes up, I wipe her down with these water wipes and give her body a full massage with rich, nourishing cream, and moisturize her face.
I always appreciate my skin’s resilience – and that appreciation is my biggest beauty tip. Before I was pregnant, I spent about three years working to get my skin to be stable and healthy. I suffer from acne, so being at a point where I barely have any breakouts was the best thing ever for me. It really enhanced my confidence. I had horrible acne throughout my entire pregnancy, but since having Madison, I’ve really worked on building my skincare routine back up. It’s the same with my body, too. I’ve been reading a lot of articles that are really helping to shift postpartum women away from the idea of snapping back. I know my body will find its way back, so I’m just being patient. @buymechanel
CHANEL’S PRODUCT PICKS
It’s been so incredible to see so many women in my community go makeup-free and feel like they only need makeup to help enhance their beauty”Chanel Tyler
Korina Emmerich, founder and designer of EMME Studio
Beauty plays an important role in fashion. It becomes a part of the complete look and helps set the mood to tell the full story of the collection. I’ve been lucky to work with amazing Indigenous artists like Deyah Cassadore and Iona Moura, whose visions in hair and makeup help pull looks together to create impactful images. It can become a way for us as a team to express ourselves in a more artistic way. And the rise of all these Indigenous-owned beauty brands – which include Cheekbone Beauty, Ah-shí Beauty and Prados Beauty have been so cool to watch. A subtle, but avant-garde beauty look is my favorite, with a pop of color here and there.
I’ve had eczema my whole life, which has made for a complicated relationship with my skin. When I was young, playing games, other children would refuse to hold my hand and they would make fun of me because of my skin issues. As an adult, I finally have the condition under control but it is stress-triggered, so I have to remember to be mindful, and breathe, or I can start feeling my eczema flaring back up. Now, as a 36-year-old woman, I’m grateful for the care I’ve had to take of my skin over the years – being conscientious of what I’m putting in and on my body.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I quit wearing makeup for the first few months. But now, it’s become a part of my morning routine again and has helped me find some semblance of normalcy in my day-to-day life. I like to get fully ready for the day: even if the only person I interact with is my mail carrier. It helps me feel confident and ready for anything. I also prefer shopping from small, sustainably focused brands, so I can feel good about myself and my impact. My number-one beauty tip is to stay hydrated because, after all, water is life. @korinaemmerich
KORINA’S PRODUCT PICKS
MONIKH’S PRODUCT PICKS
Monikh Dale, fashion stylist and beauty influencer
Becoming a mom has simply boosted my lockdown 2020 promise to myself – to only use products to enhance my features, not cover them up. I have spent a really long time figuring out what my skin type is, understanding my skin concerns and working out how to tackle them, instead of simply concealing them. I feel a lot more confident now with no makeup on, besides a little eyebrow gel and lip balm. I want my baby to grow up knowing I’m proud of how I look. I’m grateful to my parents for my skin tone and features and I embrace them. I want my daughter to love herself and be confident, so I must lead by example. It’s time to embrace our individual beauty and celebrate ourselves.
I work hard to lead a well-balanced life of pizza and pasta, combined with mornings of LED face masks and sweaty boxing sessions. I also find the constant change in my body shape so amazing because my body has changed drastically since I was in my twenties. Now, postpartum, I have a new level of respect for my 5ft1 body, which has carried an average-sized baby.
My biggest beauty tip is to make sure you get to the bottom of why a particular pattern is happening, no matter what your skin concerns. Then start a routine to tackle those issues. It may be daunting to get back to basics with your skin but, in a few weeks, and definitely in a few months, you’ll be so happy you did. @monikh
I want my daughter to love herself and be confident, so I must lead by example. It’s time to embrace our individual beauty and celebrate ourselves”