Skin, Deep: I Love My Hmong-American Skin (Even When I Get a Pimple)

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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.

My name is Paxyshia Yang and I am Hmong-American. My parents immigrated here from Thailand and Laos and have been here since the 1970s. I am born and raised in Minnesota, and still live here while attending school.

In Thailand and Laos, there's a very minimal amount of food choices—so a lot of veggies, herbs, and fresh meat were used and mostly boiled. That had a lot to do with my clear skin and still does. I think food, along with genetics, is how the older generation experienced skincare.

There wasn't big talk on sunscreen either, so that was also a huge thing as I grew up. I think culturally, since the older generation didn't go through it, they think that it's started with us as some karma we (the younger people) have done while growing up. Truth is, they just didn't have time to look at it as a problem and it wasn't put under a magnifying glass until beauty was introduced to them and highly praised in the Western world.

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My earliest memory of skincare is when I was about 12 or 13. I had gone to the store with my family and my dad walked with me to the skincare/acne part of the aisle. He read product labels and told me which ones would help me, and that I had to use them everyday. When I was going through puberty, my skin was always commented on because I was breaking out a lot on my forehead. I had these bright white pimples and was popping them like crazy. I just assumed that they would go away as I got older.

DEALING WITH ACNE

My acne did start to clear up my junior year of high school, but I started breaking out here and there my senior year. I was so tired of people commenting on my skin and saying that my makeup would look better if I was able to take care of my skin. It even got to the point where people would just start giving me unsolicited advice about products that would "help me.”

It wasn't until about three years ago when people started sharing more skincare information that I started thinking, “I should really start investing in this stuff." I started watching skincare videos, reading forums, and talking to friends who knew their stuff and started noting the things that affected me, so that I could better know my skin and understand how to care for her.

Right now, I have a friendly relationship with my skin. I'm still getting to know her and figuring out what causes what. I know different foods and small amounts of sleep or large amount of stress or anxiety can set her off, so I try to stay conscience of that. She still surprises me every now and then though.

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SKINCARE “LABELS”

In a broad way, I do feel that beauty and skincare brands understand my skin. Skin and skincare is so different, down to the person; the most companies can do is offer something for dry, sensitive, normal, oily, or acne-prone skin types. I think they so heavily rely on that, that we get forced into only those labels.

I think brands could talk more scientifically about the products and the ingredients that they put into them, so that we know what exactly we are using and how to use it correctly. It's really big for me when I can watch videos on YouTube and they explain it. "This product has this in it. Here's how it'll help your skin and here's how to apply it." I appreciate those YouTubers big time for sharing their knowledge with us.

I used to pile things onto my face and it wasn't working, mostly because I was introducing so many new items to my skin. I started taking it back a couple of steps with waiting a couple minutes between each product and just relaxing, and it's helped so much more when doing my skincare. I think it's so great to have a meditative moment where you can feel calm and comfortable, especially when you're taking the day off of your face. I feel so good after, ready to relax and sleep.

MY GO-TO ROUTINE

I love a good toner. I currently am using Thayers Witch Hazel that is scented like rose petals. I've transferred it into a little spray bottle and spray whenever I need it. It instantly just wakes me up and is so soothing. I also love to massage my face as I cleanse and moisturize–it's so soothing. Lastly, I love hydrating my lips. I use Glossier's Balm Dotcom and it's nice and thick and applies smoothly. I never have to use too much, so it lasts me a long time. When I wake up in the morning, I can still feel it on my lips and the smell is so refreshing, too. I use the rose scented one!

I love that I'm finally able to feel comfortable in my skin. I used to feel like it was a chore to take care of it, but now I want to feel good and happy in every way possible. It can still be upsetting when I get a pimple or start getting more redness in certain areas, but it's nothing that stops me now because I love my skin.

As told to ILLUUM.
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Images via Instagram.