For decades, the beauty standards set forth for us have rarely given us the opportunity to lean into and embrace our imperfections. Like the women front and center in this story, I’ve had to rewire my relationship with how I see myself through the lens of beauty. As the darkest person in my immediate family, I often heard comments about my skin tone from family and outsiders, which made me avoid the sun to prevent my skin from getting darker.
However, my parents always reminded me how beautiful my brown skin was. My mom affectionately calls me her chocolate drop, and my dad and I often have long talks about colorism. I’m happy to report that with time (and therapy) has come acceptance (most of the time). Each of the women I talk to here shares their unique journey to self-acceptance.
In partnership with e.l.f. Cosmetics, five women share how they’ve learned to love their skin with the help of their best-selling Camo CC Cream. The 20 shade multitasking color correcting cream will leave you feeling confident and fresh thanks to key skin-care ingredients (peptides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide) that plump, hydrate, and brighten all at the same time. Keep scrolling to learn more about this coveted foundation and each woman’s journey to loving their skin.
Shyema Azam is a beauty guru (and industry vet) many look to for lipstick, foundation, and skin-care mini-reviews on Instagram. Even as a beauty expert, she has had to reroute how she views herself through the lens of beauty. “Skin color and skin tone is a deep-rooted issue within the Indian culture,” she tells Bustle. “I have distinct memories growing up where other people would comment that my brothers or sister were so beautiful and “fair” compared to me. I think I had a bit of a complex growing up because of it but didn’t understand why.”
And her teenage years didn’t yield any self-esteem relief. “When I turned about 15, I was blessed with a bout of acne that made me extremely self-conscious. I would buy anything that was advertised to me, and it just made it worse.” Azam now realizes outer appearance doesn’t determine worth. “Once you realize your skin doesn’t determine your worth, you start to feel much more comfortable in it,” she shares.
As someone who once used makeup to cover up, she tells us she now uses it as a way to enhance her tan skin tone. “I’ve streamlined my makeup routine a LOT over the year,” Azam tells us. Among her new favorites is e.l.f.’s Camo CC cream. “I love that e.l.f.’s Camo CC cream has buildable coverage with SPF protection.” In addition to buffing out unevenness without the cakey feeling complexion products can leave behind, Azam loves the shade range of the hyaluronic acid-infused CC cream. “Unlike a lot of CC creams available right now, this comes in a range of shades, so I’m easily able to find my own.”
Harvee White, an Augusta-based museum educator, enjoyed taking a moment to reflect on her relationship with her skin. “It’s interesting to sit down and really reflect on how I’ve felt about my body and skin over the years,” she tells Bustle. “My sister and I were one of a handful of Black children at our elementary school, so it was near impossible to blend in.” White’s complexion also stood out amongst the maternal side of her family. “My sister and I also have the darkest complexions in our family (maternal side, which I’m closer with).”
However, in this case, White’s mom made sure that she never felt othered even if she carried some insecurities. “I always liked the color of my skin, thankfully, but I did have some insecurities about not looking like my mom, cousins, and aunts,” she tells us. “Now, looking back, I think I felt too normal — like I wasn’t dark enough to stand out and be modelesque like Alek Wek, but I also didn’t look like the people I was around every day.”
She credits her mother with nurturing her self-esteem with a seemingly small but significant gesture: buying Black dolls. “I’m glad that my mother always made sure to buy me dolls that looked like me,” White tells Bustle. “She was good at making sure I had healthy self-esteem when it came to skin tone.” But White says acne cropping up during her early adult years that left hyperpigmentation behind made her self-conscious.
“I still have so many dark spots, [but] they don’t bother me as much now,” she tells us. Like all of us, she is a work in progress and has days when her insecurities grow, but she makes an effort to redirect those feelings. “I’m very gentle with myself. My internal voice knows how to soothe those insecurities.” Now, White who once gave up wearing foundation for an entire year doesn’t wear foundation to cover up. Instead, she wears it because as she puts it, “It’s not something that I need, it’s something that I enjoy. Now I’m confident enough to be barefaced when I want and to wear foundation with no self-judgment when I want.”
When dealing with hyperpigmentation, sunscreen is non-negotiable. e.l.f.’s multitasking Camo CC Cream offers up SPF 30 alongside skin brightener niacinamide giving medium to full coverage with skin care at the center of the formula.
Lexi Novak was one of the lucky ones who had smooth, even skin for most of her life. But a skin condition changed that. “A few years ago, I developed perioral dermatitis (POD), which made me extremely self-conscious,” she tells Bustle. The journey to finding products that didn’t cause adverse reactions to balance her skin, she says, was slow. “I’ve been dealing with bumps and dry patches and red splotches for about a year and a half and have finally figured out a gentle, nourishing routine that keeps it mostly calm,” she tells us. “But it’s been a lot of ups and downs.”
With self-described raspberry-hued skin, she says, “I basically had to figure out a way to deal with it psychologically, or I was going to be miserable all the time. She found that friends and family were a great help. “The most effective strategy was being around friends and family who didn’t act any differently or treat me any different because of my skin. It made me realize that the people who love you don’t care about stuff like that.”
But there was one more person that had to get on board, and that was the person looking back in the mirror. “The next step in the healing process was to realize that I should love myself, too, and similarly not let my skin affect that self-love. Even just letting go of that stress and insecurity helps with skin because inflammation is tied to so many symptoms. I’m by no means fully healed or adjusted, but I have learned to let go of the idea of “perfect skin,” which has been a huge weight lifted.”
For Novak learning to love her skin flaws and all hasn’t meant giving up makeup. She notes it’s played a key role in helping her build a healthier relationship with her skin. “Even if I’m having a flare-up, a colorful lip or nice winged liner still makes me feel like myself,” she tells Bustle. When it comes to complexion products, she says finding a good one is like having a good wingman by your side, and e.l.f.’s Camo CC Cream stacks up.
“If my skin is balanced and calm, I’ll only use a little bit of the e.l.f. Camo CC Cream just to even things out while still taking care with SPF and ingredients like niacinamide (which brightens). And if I’m having more pronounced splotches, I can layer it for fuller coverage. That way, I’m still reinforcing a positive experience with my skin instead of wanting to hide it from the world and feeling bad about it. It’s like a multitasking security blanket for my face.”
Sequoia Holmes recalls a moment during her childhood —the fifth grade—when she felt uncomfortable with her skin: “When I realized the skin beneath the base of my nose and above my upper lip was darker than the rest of my face, making it appear that I had a mustache. I now know this condition to be hyperpigmentation or melasma.” Both are skin conditions she now understands many Black women experience. Though she says, “Being a preteen at a predominantly white middle school, it felt isolating and insecure.”
Fortunately for Holmes, she has found a community online via YouTube that helps break down skin care and beauty experiences unique to her. “Thanks to Black beauty gurus on YouTube who have openly talked about their experiences with hyperpigmentation, much of that insecurity has melted away,” she tells Bustle. When she finds herself feeling insecure, she gets creative with makeup.
“Makeup and more specifically foundation is a means of self-expression for me,” Holmes tells Bustle. “Creating art using my face as a canvas allows me to expel pent up creative energy. Although I do embrace my flaws with and without foundation, the art and technique of applying foundation to myself make me feel good.” Even with moments of insecurity, Holmes loves her deep brown skin. “I love the color, radiance, and clarity of my skin,” she tells us.
e.l.f.’s Camo CC Cream strikes the perfect balance between full-coverage yet natural-looking finish. The formula enhances your skin (think: “my skin, but better”) and is buildable so you can add as little or as much as you’d like. Talk about a win-win.
Similar to a thriving, growing plant, there are two things Alexis Garcia knows her skin needs: moisture and sunlight. “Any time I’ve been deprived of those two things, I find myself most uncomfortable and least accepting of my skin,” she tells Bustle. A move from sunny Miami, Florida to Middlebury, Vermont for college was the first time Garcia had this revelation. During the harsh Vermont winter’s she’d see the deep golden brown hues of her skin fade to a pale, ashen brown.
The change in Garcia’s skin tone and along with practicing what many would call a skin-care don’t —picking blemishes— her ashen brown skin tone developed with bruises, scabs, and scars that left her struggling with self-love. Though that time in her life is in her rearview mirror, she still catches herself judging her skin, and she puts it, “still pushing and purging not just physically but also metaphorically.”
However, she now asks herself, “Why was my default to seeing myself changing self-hate instead of self-love?” Learning to ask why has helped change her inner dialogue. “In those days, I was s
triving towards an impossible ideal of having perfect skin, which meant no flaws, no blemishes,” she tells us. However, as she’s gotten older, she gives herself grace. “I will never live up to society’s beauty standards as an Afro Latinx woman, but I can look in the mirror now and see past any imperfection and tell myself I am beautiful.”
On days when Garcia does wear makeup, she has a low-maintenance routine with foundation at the core. “The pandemic definitely re-calibrated how I see my bare face,” she tells Bustle. “I’ve definitely learned to love my skin makeup-free but I love any opportunity I get to create that smooth finish, and foundation is my go-to when I’m ready to impress the world with my appearance IRL.”
To achieve a more even and fresh complexion, apply e.l.f.’s Camo CC Cream, which helps camouflage blemishes and redness. The unique collagen-infused formula will give tired skin a more refreshed look.