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There's No Such Thing as "Bad Skin"

Trust us, Soapwalla has been disrupting the skincare industry for 10 years and counting.

Wake up. Examine skin in a 10x ultra magnifying mirror. Scroll through Instagram and double tap every photo of a person with poreless, “good skin”. Feel ashamed for ever having a single pimple, much less severe acne and “bad skin” for over a decade. Sound familiar? 

The sting of comparison to flawless-faced models stays with us long after we close our apps and get on with the day. The way we think and talk about our skin matters. Rachel Winard, our founder and formulator, advocates for acceptance and appreciation for the skin we are in, no matter what issues we face. This is no easy task, especially when your skin is flaring up. Rachel knows just how difficult this can be: “When my skin was at its worst, I couldn't even use water on it without intensifying the pain I felt on a 24-hour basis. The thing about skin - it's everywhere. We can mask kidney or joint pain. Skin issues are out there for all to see - and comment on. My least favorite moments in NYC have involved unsolicited advice from subway riders on my ‘heinous' skin conditions.” Loving your skin is at the heart of Soapwalla’s ethos, and that's one of the principles that sets us apart in the ever-growing wellness industry.

After being diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus for short), Rachel had the added battle of finding products on the market that wouldn’t irritate her already sensitized skin. In the early 2000’s, truly natural personal care products were few and far between. If you thought that Rachel would accept these slim pickings that aggravated her skin, then you haven’t met Rachel. She turned her frustration into determination and started making her own products out of sheer necessity. The Soapwalla brand was born in Rachel’s tiny NYC kitchen, and her vision was simple: Skin is our largest organ and we need to nourish it, no matter our particular skin needs or how we identify.

Growing up, I always labeled my skin "bad" and assumed there would be a magical age when my skin would be free of acne, scars, and redness and move into the coveted "good" skin camp. For about ten years, I attacked my acne like an invader, using an arsenal of benzoyl peroxide, oil absorbing sheets, and a harsh facial scrubbing (read: scouring) pad. My blemishes put up a fight, and my face was left a red, irritated battlefield. 

I couldn't understand why none of my tactics worked, and I blamed myself. Acne is sometimes referred to as a lazy person's affliction; if you simply took the time to use a cleanser, your face would be bright and gleaming. I washed my face twice - sometimes thrice! - a day, and used every astringent, cream, and exfoliator I could get my hands on. My dedication to purging my face of every impurity bordered on becoming an after-school job. I was skilled at berating and assaulting each and every last pimple, well past my 10,000 hours of practice. All throughout middle school, high school, and even the beginning of college, I carried the shame of my acne like a backpack I could never put down. For me, putting my best face forward meant hiding mine by using heavy foundation to cover up my scars and cystic pimples as best I could, which only meant that these painful and flaking blemishes were even more prominent. These habits hurt not only my skin but my self-esteem.

“Because we put so much stock into what we look like and how we present ourselves, skin issues can feel like a personal failure. I'm a pretty even-kiltered person and am not fazed by much, but when my lupus malar rash is at its most extreme, it feels heroic simply to leave the house” says Rachel. “I also made the decision to go bare-faced every day. I don't wear makeup, I don't wear cover up, I don't do anything that could irritate my already sensitized skin to make it more palatable for others, or to look more conventionally femme or ‘pretty.’” Rachel: 1. Patriarchy: 0.

It wasn't until I met Rachel that I began to think of acne as a medical condition and not a result of my own shortcomings. Rachel helped me not only re-think my scars and acne, but she flipped my whole approach to skincare on its head. When it comes to health, Rachel says, “I don't belittle or demean myself when my liver enzymes malfunction or when I get hemolytic anemia. I made a conscious decision to do the same about my skin.” With that, the switch finally flipped in my brain. I don’t blame myself for other medical issues that crop up inside my body, so why should I assume some sort of moral responsibility for my clogged pores? Moreover, why have I always been at war with my face? Instead of retaliating against pimples in this face-off (pun entirely intended), why couldn't I treat my skin with the same love and care I would for any other inflamed organ? Rachel's radical approach to skincare was just the change I needed. “This is the one body I get in this lifetime, and years ago I made the decision to make peace with it.” Count me in, Rachel!

In the summer of 2017, I did a full sweep of my facial and body care products and tossed out all my old acne attack weapons. Out with the harsh cleansers and fruity-smelling trendy products that promised to rid my face of any signs of life. In went Soapwalla, 100% natural products meant to "feed your skin." Now, I'm not going to stand on a soapbox and claim that the second I started using Soapwalla, my skin miraculously became not only "good" but "great," and I haven't seen a pimple in two years and counting. That's simply not the truth, nor should flawless, photoshop-filtered pores be the intended outcome of a switch to new personal care products. I'm still a normal person with hormones, stress, and a soft spot for gummy bears, and my face is never going to be entirely free from a breakout. I can say, however, that my skin has never been happier, in part due to the efficacy of natural, ethically sourced, pure ingredients, and the sheer fact that I started loving my skin again. It sounds cheesy, but always referring to your skin as "bad," "problematic," and "horrible" isn't very nice and definitely doesn't create a loving environment for your physical or mental health. Enlarged pores are normal, acne scars are nothing to be ashamed of, and a few blackheads aren't going to make my life come to a screeching stop. With Soapwalla's help, I started to rewrite my narrative of imperfect skin, and I've learned to accept my skin for exactly what it is: skin, full stop. 

On days when it is hard to feel thrilled about blotchy skin, Rachel reminds me to stay thankful for my largest organ. She offers up her own gratitude practice: “Each day, I say thanks to my skin for keeping my insides protected and for doing everything in its power to keep me healthy and happy. I pamper my skin with the highest quality ingredients I can, and (attempt to) treat it the same way I do any other vital system.” When we recognize our skin as one organ in a body of many, the focus on scars and blemishes starts to fade. 

As for the Mean Girls-esque ritual of staring in the mirror and pointing out the features you can’t stand, Rachel says kicking the habit was one of the single greatest positive changes she has made. “I don't really look in mirrors. I glance at myself in the morning while I'm applying our Restorative Face Serum and Concentrated Repair Balm. Then? I glance at myself once or twice throughout the day. This little change made me feel SO MUCH BETTER ABOUT MYSELF. If I have a meeting, I'll make sure there's nothing in my teeth and that my hair isn't sticking straight out of my head. Otherwise, there's really no need to check myself out. If I've got something on my face, someone will tell me. Out of sight, out of mind. Literally.” Avoiding mirrors is easier said than done. Rachel isn’t minimizing the impulse we all feel to look at the spots that cause us anguish and anxiety. But stepping away from the magnifying mirror allows us to step back into our lives beyond our appearance.

In a world teeming with airbrushed models and influencers, this idea of accepting and honoring the skin we're in is indeed radical. One of the best parts about Soapwalla is that we don't use models anywhere on our website. This isn't because our products don't help give you that lit-from-within glow (believe me, they do) but, rather, Rachel's goal is for you to imagine yourself using these handmade creations. You don't need to compare yourself to the unattainable images blown up on billboards and splashed all over social media. Our line is neither gendered nor exclusive. If you have skin, you can use our products. Our "target" audience is you, our wonderful customers, all humans from all walks of life and ages. We do our best to talk about our skin in positive terms, and we encourage you to do the same. Our words affect our thoughts, actions, and yes, even our skin.