Skin, Deep: "In the Philippines, You're Basically Taught to Hate Your Warm, Brown skin"

Skin, Deep is a series that explores the ways in which our heritage, culture, upbringing, and life experiences impact the relationship we have with our skin.

I'm Janelle Mayo and I'm Filipino. Filipino skin tones are quite variable, but I am more warm/golden on the skin tone spectrum.

Filipinos have this obsession over having pale skin. As a baby, I was very white, and as I got older I developed more color on my skin. I remember growing up, my mom would buy this papaya soap for my siblings and me to use, and apparently, papaya has been known to be a leading ingredient in skin whitening products. It's never worked of course. I always found it quite silly. In the Philippines, you're basically taught to hate your warm, brown skin. I grew up watching Filipino soap operas with my parents and a majority of the actors have a very pale complexion. This did, however, make me ashamed of my skin tone at a very young age.

Learning to Love My Skin

As I got older I gradually started to appreciate the color of my skin. I think that there should be more endorsement of diversity in Filipino media entertainment. Aside from faces like mine, I'd like to see much darker skinned Filipinos on TV.


Practically like everyone else, I have a love-hate relationship with my skin. I have a few skin issues that I deal with. Throughout my pre-teens to my first two years of college, I've dealt with moderate acne on the face and back. I've gotten it almost under control though. I went on Accutane for a month last year but had to discontinue it because the medication was impairing my vision. It definitely did help clear my skin, but since I got off the medication so early–as expected–I got the acne back. Since then, I've been on an antibiotic (Minocycline) while using a topical gel (Aczone) to keep my acne at bay. Now the acne on my face is almost non-existent.

I do, however, have oily skin and have developed seborrheic dermatitis this year, meaning that I get scaly red patches on the oiliest parts of my face (sides of nose, eyebrows, forehead, cheeks, and around the mouth). I only ever flare up with the rashes when I am stressed or dehydrated. Since my first “seb derm” flare up, I’ve made a drastic change to my skincare routine. I avoid products with parabens and anything that produces more oil on my face as much as possible, and I try to drink a gallon of water a day to prevent my skin from flaring up.

Discovering I Have Sensitive Skin

My earliest memory of skincare would have to be around middle school. During that time, Proactiv and the Neutrogena Grapefruit Cleanser were the whole talk of the talk. Those two products were the start of my skincare journey. They did irritate my skin rather than treat it, but since everyone was using them at the time, I continued to switch from one or the other and hoped that it would potentially treat my acne. I learned a lot from all of these "experiments" and now know to steer away from irritable ingredients, like products with potent fragrance.

My skin is a little sensitive, so most beauty products don't work for me. I feel like the beauty industry doesn't think too much about the type of ingredients they put into their products.


My Skincare Routine

My morning ritual is quite simple, same as my nighttime ritual. I think that's another reason why my skin has been so good lately. I've been keeping my skincare as minimal as possible. I get up and cleanse my face with the Cerave Foaming Facial Wash for normal to oily skin. Then I use the Lancome Bienfait Aqua Vital Lotion Continuous Infusing Moisturizer. Lastly, I put on the Lancome Bienfait UV SPF 50+ Super Fluid Facial Sunscreen.

At night, I use the same cleanser, then I follow up with the Glossier Solution only on places where I need it the most. After that, I use the Lancome Advanced Genifique Sensitive Antioxidant Serum, the same Lancome moisturizer from the morning, and my topical acne gel.

I'm from Salinas, California and I am currently living in Washington State. The weather here is often cold, wet, and cloudy so I have to deal with chapped lips and dry patches on my face every now and then. Since I live in the northern part of the U.S., there is rarely any sun exposure here during the fall and winter seasons, so it's difficult for me to get the Vitamin D I need. I take Vitamin D supplements for that reason.

I think that it's quite obvious that I love Lancome skincare, so I would have to say that my go-to products are all from that line. If anything, I can't live without my Advanced Genifique Sensitive Antioxidant Serum (as mentioned before.) This product basically treated my first seborrheic dermatitis flare up within three days. My dermatologist prescribed me a couple of topical creams to calm my skin down, but I dealt with the rashes for a month while using the medications. Out of frustration, I went to the Lancome beauty counter and asked for any recommendations. They had a look at my skin and recommended the serum to me, and since then I haven't stopped using it. My skin has never looked so radiant. They also recommended the Bienfait Aqua Vital Lotion along with it, I love how lightweight it is, so it does an incredible job at controlling the oil on my skin while keeping it moisturized all day. Both of these products have a tiny bit of fragrance, but it isn't overpowering enough to irritate my skin.


I love how my skin is easy to react. If I'm breaking out into pimples and rashes, I know that I'm either not getting enough sleep or staying hydrated. If I put on a product with an irritable ingredient, my skin reacts right away. Since my skin is so reactive, I'm always aware of where my skin triggers are coming from and what I need to do to prevent odd flare ups from happening again.

As told to ILLUUM.
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Images via Instagram.