Kadeeja Khan has cystic acne, but she embraces her beauty both with makeup and without—and she's on a mission to inspire others to do the same.

By Julia Guerra
August 30, 2019
Instagram/@emeraldxbeauty

Sometimes it's nearly impossible to separate what's real from what's filtered on Instagram—especially when you're scrolling through beauty content. But if there's one influencer who keeps things unapologetically transparent with her followers, it's Kadeeja Khan.

You might recognize the UK beauty blogger for her viral makeup videos on the 'Gram, but anyone who follows Khan knows her posts are about much more than bold lips and miracle foundations. She uses her platform to spread skin positivity and encourage people to genuinely love their complexion—lumps, bumps, acne scars, and all.

Khan launched her IG beauty account back in 2016. At the time, she was uploading standard photos of makeup looks and listing the products she used to achieve them in the captions. It wasn't until 2017 that Khan gave her followers a glimpse at her struggle with cystic acne. (Related: This Blogger Makes a Bold Point About Why Makeup-Shaming Is So Hypocritical)

Unfortunately, instead of commending Khan for being so honest about her skin issues, some people chose to focus on Khan's complexion and criticize her for wearing makeup.

"Why would you highlight your acne just bringing more attention to it...yikes!!!" one commenter wrote. "Beautifully done but if I had acne this strong I wouldn't use highlight on the cheekbones it shows it off even more," said another. (Related: Busy Philipps Called Out a Troll Who Said Her Skin Is "Terrible")

Though Khan didn't respond to these criticisms directly, she quietly defied the haters by continuing to upload photos and videos that showed her acne. Then, in 2018, the beauty guru addressed the hateful comments with a more candid post, accompanied by three photos of herself. The first pic showed Khan's makeup-free face completely unfiltered. The second and third photos showed "perfect skin, hair, and everything," she wrote—all achieved with not just makeup, but "major Photoshop," she explained. "Looking at those pictures you would never guess for a second that I suffer with skin issues (acne) you would never think it."

Khan went on to say that despite getting attacked for her makeup tutorial in 2017, she simply "didn't care" about the hate.

"I was soo happy with myself for being who I am that it didn't bother me one bit (still doesn't)," she wrote. "I love myself & I literally go everywhere on my days off with no makeup & feel great!"

Khan later revealed that her cystic acne developed in response to a hormonal imbalance caused by PCOS, a disorder in which a person's ovaries don't produce all of the hormones necessary for reproduction. And though Khan admits that she experiences times of insecurity and sadness, she ultimately chooses to embrace the skin she's in. (Related: This Woman's Acne Transformation Will Have You Hopping On the Drunk Elephant Bandwagon)

"Having acne-prone skin isn't the easiest skin condition to get rid of.. especially if it's internal," she explained in a recent post. However, she continued, "the world's already got enough negativity without you drowning yourself in it."

These days, Khan still uses her platform to share makeup tutorials and shout-out her favorite products. And she doesn't avoid sharing unfiltered selfies of her acne flare-ups. "Although I LOVE to accept myself and embrace who I am, I also LOVE playing around with makeup and glamming up!" she wrote in a recent post.

Khan is one of the few beauty bloggers who truly gets what skin positivity means. It isn't just about sharing #nomakeup photos and calling out acne-shaming trolls. It's about embracing the freedom to show the world exactly what you want to show it. Maybe that includes makeup, filters, Photoshop, or all of the above. Maybe it includes none of the above; the point is that it's your choice. (Related: This Reddit Post About a Skin-Shaming Esthetician Is Wild—and Sadly Relatable)

But Khan is also keen to highlight the differences between reality and social media. Earlier this week, she uploaded a side-by-side photo to give followers a raw example of how easy it is to be fooled by filters:

"This is what we face when coming online every day," Khan captioned the post. "Without realizing we are idolizing images and harming ourselves mentally," she explained. (Related: Chloë Grace Moretz Opens Up About Being Acne-Shamed As a Teen)

Khan says her truth is that her skin "suffers from cystic acne and scarring," but it only takes a few seconds to airbrush it all away. The message she hopes to communicate to her followers? It's easy to cover up who you are, but it's so much more valuable in the long run to embrace who you are.

"Next time you go online and look at a 'perfect picture,' STOP and realize YOU ARE ENOUGH," she says. "YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL."

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