Illustrations by Hannah Robinson

For as long as I have paid attention to adverts and articles on beauty—those promoting acne ‘fixes’ and fad treatments for disappearing blemishes overnight—I have never seen a single poster-woman with anything short of flawless skin. In the same way that adverts for shaving razors never even show just one hair on a woman’s leg, the imagery used in the mainstream advertisements and discussions of beauty refuse to show any of the ‘issues’ that products are flogged to fix.

For someone with a long history of skin issues like me—acne, eczema, rashes, you get the gist—this is permanently frustrating, to say the least. Not only do we have to watch as ‘perfect’ looking people are given every opportunity in modelling, even when their porcelain skin is clearly the wrong fit for the task at hand, but we also have to listen to the rich and famous touting water as their one true beauty secret when we all know that this isn’t a true reflection of what’s keeping their skin in such good condition.

Source: article by British Vogue

Let’s not kid ourselves, privilege is what gives you ‘perfect’ skin. Yes, some incredibly lucky people are born with clear skin and never have more than a few spots throughout their lives, but for most people with skin issues, it takes a lot of time and a lot of money to achieve these results, and whilst most of the models in these adverts can afford to visit a dermatologist every week and spend vast sums on skincare, most people simply cannot.

Given that these facts are rarely (if ever) acknowledged in beauty articles recommending £55 masks and £77 serums, I found it particularly refreshing to read Jameela Jamil’s admission a couple of weeks ago that her “perfect” skin (as defined by a commenter on an Instagram post of hers) comes as a result of her wealth and privileged lifestyle.

Source: Jameela Jamil’s Instagram

“My skin is currently clear because… [p]rivileged people have more access to good quality nutrition and also our lives are significantly less stressful than the lives of those with less privilege,” she wrote. Though liked by over 17,500 at the time of my writing this article, Jamil faced significant backlash against her comment, with Twitter and Instagram users accusing her of bragging and being out-of-touch.

I, however, couldn’t disagree more. Jamil’s honesty was one of the more down-to-earth comments from a celebrity I’ve seen in a while, as, just like she herself states in a later Instagram story, the issue of ‘perfect’ skin being the province of the privilege is just not talked about enough. Instead of shying away from this truth as most seem to, Jamil hit on a number of over-looked reasons—aside from the expensive facials, treatments and products privileged people can afford while others cannot—why clear skin is by-and-large a rich person’s game.

Firstly, her comment about good quality nutrition raises the important point that people living on lower incomes find it much harder to afford fresh fruit and vegetables and therefore often have to supplement their diets with processed, sugary foods which exacerbate inflammatory skin conditions like acne and dermatitis. Secondly, her mention of stress points to the fact that the body’s reaction to stress and the hormones it produces have been widely linked to skin issues. 

Jameela Jamil is financially privileged, yes, but I found her comments to be a welcome moment of honesty about her privilege, the type we don’t see often in discussions around beauty. Ultimately, the greater transparency there is around this issue the better, and I for one would like to see more people like Jamil starting these conversations in the future.