"BARING IT ALL" | by Rachel Fox
Hidden throughout the many Instagram posts on social media, a new movement is coming to light. The movement, normalizing natural skin. Advocates are popping up all over the globe to speak out and empower others to feel beautiful in their skin.
For decades we have been conditioned to conceal every spot, cover every blemish, and hide every scar. NOW is the perfect time (pandemic time) that we get to know our skin AND feel more comfortable in it! Within our own NWA Girl Gang community, we found two women that have been vocal about their own skin journey, Noelia and Avery.
Coincidentally, Avery is professional hair and makeup artist. While we certainly don't want to put our hair and makeup professionals (like Avery) out of business, we do want to encourage others to break out of their comfort zone and "free their skin". So, we did a photo shoot sans make up and hair styling to encourage others to share their skin journey and skin positive messages. What we found from doing this shoot, is that these ladies are just as beautiful and fabulous without the glam treatment! - Rachel
"MY SKIN JOURNEY" | by Noelia Cerna
I never dealt with the acne issues that so many people told me I would when I was a teenager. In Junior High, while my classmates were starting to deal with the growing amount of pimples and trying to figure out what products worked best for them, I was walking into school clear and smooth skinned. By High School all of my friends had perfected their skin routines and were able to confidently recommend products with absolute confidence to anyone that had those last minute before prom zits. My skin was still clear, smooth and firm. I often wondered if my clear skin was due to the amounts of chlorine from years of competitive swimming but then I went to college, started wearing makeup (of course avoiding sleeping in that makeup) and stopped swimming for four years. My skin remained clear and smooth.
Looking back at old photos I wonder if the smiling girl in the photos would have gotten to this point had she started moisturizing and washing her face then. I have scoured hundreds of my old photos trying to find the moment when my skin started to turn against me.
I finally found the picture that hinted at the struggle on the horizon. It was taken during one of the most painful years of my life. The girl in the photograph was neck deep in one of the most emotionally abusive relationships she had ever been in (and there had been several). For almost two months after that picture was taken the pictures suddenly stopped. The cystic acne was how it started. My skin suddenly erupted into chaos and the clear, smooth skin that I had always been used to was gone. Anyone that has dealt with severe acne for any length of time understands what this does to someone's self esteem. Already being an introvert I stopped going anywhere for fear of someone gawking at the condition of my skin. At the height of the cystic acne issue I landed a job working as a corporate proofreader. My first day I spent an hour in front of my mirror carefully attempting to conceal the swollen and painful redness splashed across my cheeks and forehead. At home after seeing a building full of perfectly put together corporate women walk past my work area for hours I locked myself into the bathroom of my apartment and cried for several hours.
In college I wore makeup to accentuate my features. I never learned how to use makeup to hide because I never had to hide until my 30s. For weeks I struggled to figure out the right balance of foundation to cover the redness and hide the swelling. It never looked quite right. I continued struggling for that entire year until I quit that job for reasons not pertaining to my skin. The added stress of the corporate world had, however, taken its toll on my skin and my skin was constantly in pain and I couldn’t even touch it anymore.
A friend of mine suggested I call a friend of hers that was an esthetician. Her name was Amber and she owned the Belle Journée Spa in Bentonville. I waited a few weeks before nervously texting the number I had been given. We set up an initial appointment for a facial and consultation and when the day arrived she spent an hour taking care of my skin and examining it and asking me questions to figure out what could be the issue. We started scheduling monthly appointments and she would send me home with samples every time and instructions on at home care to try and figure out what combination of products worked best. At that time the emotionally abusive relationship came to a tumultuous end. I started drinking more water and speaking kindly to myself. I started doing the head and heart work to start learning how to love myself. Amber and I had discovered the right combination of at home products. I purchased the products she recommended for my daily skin routine and we continued our monthly facials. She helped me work out the relationship between the things I ate and drank and my stress levels and my skin and I began the habit of keeping a food, drink, sleep and stress journal in my daily planner. This practice helped me spot patterns between what I was putting into my body and the skin flare ups. By this point I had stopped wearing makeup for almost two years.
And then I matched with someone I was interested in on a dating app. I had not dated since the explosion of the previous relationship. We agreed to meet for drinks after several very good and sustained conversations. The day arrived and I woke up nervous. I had purchased a new outfit but spent most of the morning wondering what to do about my face. My skin was not as bad as it had been before I started working with Amber but there was still work to do. As our meeting time started to get closer I made a decision that would stick. I put on the outfit and left the makeup in my vanity drawer. I made the decision that if he was going to meet me he was going to meet me exactly as I was. I texted a selfie to my friend, told her where I was going, with who, sent her a screenshot of his profile and the address of the restaurant and headed out. We hit it off and had a great time laughing and talking about life. As I continued dating I followed the same philosophy until I met my current partner. It has now been three years since I wore makeup. I have performed and gone to interviews and worked and dated with my skin exactly as it is.
I am writing this after having completed my skincare routine for the morning. It is Sunday. My skin is no longer painful to the touch. It is no longer swollen. Is it perfect? No. But there has been progress. I understand now that healing in any form is a journey and journeys take time and they take work and commitment. More importantly than anything else is this- I love myself. Exactly as I am. I don’t cancel plans anymore (although things are different in the COVID world- but there are still Zoom plans). I don’t stand in front of the mirror crying at my reflection. I don’t hide anymore. I smile at my reflection and begin the morning saying “good morning beautiful.”
There is no wrong way to approach your skin. Some people wear makeup. That’s ok. Some people go to dermatologists. That’s ok. Some people go to estheticians. That’s ok. For me my choice for my skin has been to handle the issues slowly and naturally. I have worked hard to try and understand and to love my skin. Regardless of how you choose to wear the skin you’re in the thing that matters more than anything else is that at the end of the day you are able to stand in front of the mirror, look at your reflection and love the person reflected there exactly as they are. Self love and acceptance are the most beautiful looks of the day any day of the week.
"SKIN DEEP" | by Avery Shaw
I’m very confident without makeup, even being a makeup artist and sometimes having to wear makeup for certain things...I LOVE my skin. It’s always been a challenge for me, growing up with acne, scarring, and lots of redness. I feel like I’m definitely still healing and weekly taking care of new areas that arise. But over the past two years my skin has looked better than it ever has, because now I care very much about what goes into my body and what goes on my skin. I'm taking care of myself. FEELING good about myself has always been important to me, and I have found that through the process of finding a skin care routine that has helped me feel my best.
FOLLOW Noelia HERE.
FOLLOW Avery HERE.
PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rachel Fox, Founder of NWA Girl Gang . STYLED | by Tiffiany Hogan of @styledbymeshamantra .