Tanya Akim is a Los Angeles-based beauty and culture writer. For our “Real Talk” series, we asked Tanya about her experience with hormonal acne and endometriosis.
We get a lot of readers who are struggling with endometriosis and share how difficult it is to find medical help and guidance. Do you have any advice or tips from your own experience?
Knowledge is power. Get as informed and educated as you possibly can about endo. All of the information is on the internet these days. My friends used to joke that I was the best doctor they ever had, and I’m not a doctor. Anyone can become an authority on a subject when they’ve experienced it and have been educated on it. You don’t need the right to become an authority from anyone; just take the right. Read every medical journal, interview doctors, study epidemiology. Literally google “Endometriosis Medical Journal,” and start going through all of the “.gov” listings.
I read everything from the US National Library of Medicine. My best friend is an art historian and taught me the value of quality research; I’m a huge researcher of everything—including tons of useless things like the origins of voodoo and the trials and tribulations of the Russian Royal Family.
For someone struggling with hormonal acne, it can be completely overwhelming to know where to start. What’s your advice, especially for someone who has been struggling with dermatologist recommendations?
The waters of dermatology have an incredibly strong undertow: it feels really easy to drown. Do as much independent research as you can on the links between hormones and skin, types of breakouts, fungus, etc. Research is a crucial step in taking your power back from a situation that you feel powerless over.
Also, take the time to find out about and understand holistic treatment options. For me, a natural estrogen balancer called DIM really helped to get my skin under control. It comes from broccoli and cruciferous vegetables. I try to be as holistic as I can be and I really tritely believe in the medicinal quality of natural foods and low sugar. When my body and skin were really freaking out, I ate steamed broccoli every day no matter where I was. Nothing gets in the way of me and my skincare; I can steam broccoli in a stiletto over a campfire if I have to.
When you were struggling with acne, did it impact your self esteem? Do you have any advice for others going through this experience?
Don’t compare yourself to anyone today, compare yourself to how you were yesterday. Nothing is what it seems, and no one would know it thanks to good makeup and the wonders of modern photoshop. I just met a woman in-person who’s considered to be one of the most beautiful people in the world, and her skin was completely broken out from hormones and stress. We were bonding over treatments and the struggle.
I’ve never had social media and I’m almost 30. It’s helped me to avoid serious dents to my self-esteem. I consciously have to stop comparing myself to others on a daily basis; it’s sensible self-preservation. I do kundalini yoga, meditate, and play piano every single day—whatever I can to chill the fuck out and not get warped by noise when I start to get in my head about myself. My best advice: delete social media. Especially if you’re going through a tough time.
There are some crazy good marketers out there for some very meh brands. Are there any skincare products out there you wish people would just stop buying?
The marketing is like set-dressing at a bad Halloween store, isn’t it? More than anything, I hope consumers stop blindly buying skincare products that they see on influencers’ Instagram pages. Luckily, influencer marketing is now a pretty dead medium. Consumers are realizing that, for the most part, influencers’ online “lives” are hollow and a complete self-aggrandizing machination. It’s like a bizarre, set-up fantasy of fuzzy modern furniture and unnatural poses for someone’s personal validation, even though their real life may be in complete shambles. I can’t think of a worse way to make money. Even many verified accounts buy followers; they’re all Russian bots. I’m Russian, and I don’t even know that many Marinas and Olgas.
My stomach hurts for the young girls that email me and compare themselves to a fake and unattainable ideal; it makes them feel that their own lives aren’t good enough.
Did endometriosis or hormonal acne change any of your perceptions around femininity or beauty?
You know, beauty is a really wild concept. The commodification of it will swallow you every single time like a giant, lipstick-wearing Venus fly trap. All cultures and classes pick different standards of beauty every ten years or so, and in every instance, those standards are either somehow rewarded or they’re punished. In a lot of cases, beauty is seen as a goal and not a feature. It can be an instrument of fear and conspicuous consumption, and I’m fully cognizant of my role in that orchestra. The crazy part about all of that is, it’s a really ugly mindset. Feelings of loathing, jealousy, inadequacy; they’re all the things that fuel the modern goal of “beauty”. Traveling and interviewing women from different cultures and socioeconomic classes helped me to frame and define what beauty actually means to me, and it has nothing to do with skin or endo.
Of course, when I was writhing in endometriosis pain on the floor of San Vicente Bungalows’ bathroom, I didn’t feel cute, but neither endo nor acne has ever affected my views on beauty and being a woman. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.