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'Real Beauty' Campaigns Are Missing Scars

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I saw a viral photoset today being boasted for challenging beauty standards. It’s a really nice photoset, showing women of various sizes, body types and skin tones laying amongst a bed of flower petals, almost completely nude. The photographer definitely did highlight a broader spectrum of what beauty and self-confidence mean, however, like pretty much every “real” beauty campaign I’ve seen, it’s still too narrow.

Real beauty campaigns have a variety of issues in my opinion. One of the most glaring issues is they tend to suggest that slender women are neither “real” nor beautiful. Another problem is real beauty campaigns don’t often include men, who also face self-confidence issues and pressures to look a certain way.

My biggest problem with these campaigns personally is that I still don’t see anyone who looks like me. Sure, I see women who are closer to my body type, but I don’t see any women with my skin type.

Real beauty campaigns are missing many marks of what reality actually is and I have yet to see a real beauty advertisement, viral photoset or viral video that shows someone with scars, stretch marks, blemishes and other skin imperfections. There are lesser known ones that circulate through the communities I’m a part of on the internet, typically created by those of us within those communities, but I’ve yet to see one capture the internet by storm.

As someone with both scars from a disorder called excoriation (skin-picking) disorder/dermatillomania and stretch marks, this means I don’t see myself depicted in what people consider beautiful. Focusing on the scars part of it, I don’t see anyone with skin mottled by darker, fresher scars and paler, older scars, all similarly circular in shape.

For me, I’m comfortable enough with the way my skin looks that I’m not particularly damaged by this, however I’m a part of a community of people — other people who pick their skin — who express constantly how unattractive they are, how ugly they are now because of their skin, how no one will ever love them because of it. How they have no worth because of the state of their skin.

This is a massive problem.

The statistics aren’t clear for Canada, but stats for the United States alone say two to five percent of the population — or millions — of people have dermatillomania, a body-focused repetitive behavior. At any given time, there could be that many people feeling ugly because of a mental illness they can’t control.

All people like me tend to see is stigma. We see and hear comments calling us ugly because our skin isn’t perfect. I’ve personally seen comments on my blogs tell me I shouldn’t go outside, I should cover up my skin, I look like I have some awful disease because of the way my skin looks. It’s bad enough many of us have this internal dialogue running in our heads without someone on the outside “confirming” it.

What we need is representation in these real beauty campaigns to show that flaws on our skin don’t detract from our beauty. Whether or not the flaws themselves are beautiful is another argument entirely, but representation is key to normalizing something and showing those struggling there is hope.

What I see as most important is letting people know that even with scars we are worthy of love and we are lovable. We are beautiful and the scars can’t take that away from us.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 30, 2016
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