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BEAUTY, CONFIDENCE AND THE FUTILE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION

I’ve recently come to an enlightened conclusion: beauty as a concept is truly messed up. That it changes by season and culture, geography and social media fad makes attaining it a full-time, exhausting job.

As I write this, I’m thinking about my upcoming nail appointment and what simple yet creative design to do next, my laser appointment – which I’ve been putting off for two months now – and how much weight I “need” to lose before I can feel like the best version of myself.

The pursuit of effortless beauty is anything but effortless these days. And because of my personality type, I’m given to obsessing over things endlessly until they die a natural death, are somehow resolved or superseded by something else that carries more weight. I’ve been doing this for many, many years, and here are some things I’ve learned about beauty, confidence, perfection and the illusion of all of it:

  1. When Kanye West rapped “the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem” in All Falls Down, he knew what he was talking about. So don’t compare yourself to your faves on Instagram, or those you look up to for whatever reason. They probably don’t even look like that in real life, because *cough* filters and angles *cough*. People are out here dealing with a lot and hiding serious challenges with their self-esteem. They just hide it well – me included.
  1. You owe nobody a flat tummy or toned arms. Wear them out loud and proud. Let them hang, let them jiggle, let them breathe for as long as you want to. Should you decide to wear a body shaper, do it for you, not because of what people will say if you don’t. Let it smoothen those bumps, accentuate those curves, hold you in where you want it to – but do it all for you babe, not society.
  1. Confidence can be learned. That’s why I have certain songs on replay, because they make me feel confident and beautiful and sexy even on those days when the mirror says something else. Here are a few of my favourite jams at the moment:
  1. Choose your beauty battle, you can’t do it all at once – unless you have the budget. And whatever improvement you choose to make, repeat after me: Do. It. For. You. Do it because you want to become the best version of you, not because you’re trying to conform to unrealistic standards.
  1. Take pictures of yourself. Take pictures when you wake up, randomly throughout the day, before you sleep, when you’re feeling cute, when you’re freshly showered, when exercising; take pictures. It might seem a little vain, but trust me, a little vanity can do wonders for your confidence. And the best part is, they don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to post them. They can be that little thing you do just for yourself – a little diary of your journey to becoming you, at every stage.
  1. Start early and be consistent. Whether it’s staying active, eating what’s right for you (and what makes you happy), or skin care. I only started getting serious with my skin care in 2020 and I wish I had started earlier. I wasted so many years trying to hide acne, scars, hyperpigmentation and pores, when it turns out all I had to do was see a dermatologist to understand my skin issues and start using the right the right products for me. I’ve finally figured it out, and I love it! Here’s my current skin care routine:

Morning

– Cleanse with a gentle exfoliating cleaning gel for oily and acne-prone skin
– Exfoliate with a liquid exfoliant containing beta hydroxi acid (BHA) and salicylic acid to unclog my pores, remove dead skin and brighten (3x a week)
– Tone with brightening niacinamide toner to even out my skin tone
– Hydrate with snail mucin gel to lock in moisture
– Moisturize with NIVEA Luminous 630 Anti Dark Mark serum and day cream with SPF 50 (#ad)

Night

– Cleanse
– Retinol to smoothen and brighten my oily skin – I do this 2x a week and alternate with an adapalene gel to minimize acne breakouts and promote faster healing of pimples when they develop
– Hydrate with snail mucin gel again (hydration is really important especially when using retinol, which tends to dry out my skin)
– Moisturize again, starting with the NIVEA Luminous 630 Anti Dark Mark serum and layering on a night cream (#ad)

In the words of Lizzo in Water Me, “I don’t get dehydrated, I moisturize it daily / I am my inspiration, I am my inspiration.”

To the uninitiated, it might look a little complicated, but I promise you it’s not. I’ve been learning what works for me through trial and error and came up with this routine with the help of an aesthetician (Beauty Square). I’ve been using this regimen for the last 7-8 weeks now and I can see the results, which I’m loving.

I scar easily after each breakout and I’m constantly dealing with hyperpigmentation, so I’m super stoked that the NIVEA combo is complementing what I had already started doing with the help of the esthetician and dermatologist, and is doing exactly what it promises to do: lighten dark marks and reduce their appearance, and balance the production of new pigmentation to prevent the appearance of new spots.

This is especially critical to me because my period likes to announce itself with a few random spots each month and I don’t need the reminder on my face. And the SPF50 sunscreen in the day cream is a major, major plus because it cuts my routine by one step, which is great when you’re committed to keeping things as simple as possible.

  1. Last, and perhaps the most important thing: perfection is a lie and nobody can be perfect, even with technology, medicine and a fat budget. Perfection only exists online, and what we see here is often so heavily edited and curated, it’s not real life. So while we can’t be perfect (and there’s beauty in that), what we can be is healthy and kind to ourselves, which is what I’m learning after years of looking for every fault I have and talking down to myself in the name of self-deprecation. Even the healthiest skin has texture, pores and the occasional breakout, so don’t beat yourself up about not having that glass-like dewy skin. Once in a while I watch videos like this one to remind me.

Got any beauty and confidence tips you’d like to share? Tell me, and I could gift you a NIVEA Luminous 630 Anti Dark Mark serum and day cream from my stash! [UPDATE: GIVEAWAY CLOSED]

And if you liked this post, leave me a comment, share and subscribe for alerts when I post new content!

XO

Shiro

The Cultured Cow

Comments

  • May 28, 2022
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    Wangu Maina

    when I need motivation I come to your page..funny how I think you’re perfect but indeed you have moments of struggle…Confidence and beauty tips be yourself I struggled with eczema for so long and I mean loosing 8yrs of my life not trying because I didn’t feel pretty or even worth it…What changed that thought was a guy who said I’m not even pretty and boy did I snap…I was like who do you think you’re to tell me if I’m pretty or not and that was my Confidence tip I decided on that day no one will tell me how to feel about myself..I will only listen to my voice and over time I made that voice Positive…Beauty tip never sleep with makeup…Had the most smooth face until this year February when suddenly I’m having breakouts…trying to find a routine that works for me…That being Said Shiko YOU ARE ENOUGH!! AND YOU’RE AN INSPIRATION TO SO MANY WOMEN BEAR THAT IN MIND EVERYTIME YOU FEEL YOU’RE NOT ENOUGH not to put pressure on you but girl YOU’RE IT

  • May 28, 2022
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    Manoti

    Very true!!!!! Learning to embrace who I am at all stages of this life and being ok with it

  • May 28, 2022
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    Simonis

    Thank you for this post! It was very much needed!

    Take it each day at a time. Some days you’ll feel like the sexiest woman and some days you’ll struggle. On the days thay you struggle do the things that make you feel good about yourself. Which is basically self-care. Self-care doesn’t have to cost you money. And affirmations! Speak positively to yourself. You set your energy. It takes practice, patience and being kind to yourself every single day.

    Cheers!

  • May 28, 2022
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    Fiona

    I am pretty shy but you can hardly tell.. I try stay in my element of confidence through pep talk.. So much of these that I do it everywhere pretty much every minute it has never been my best trait so I try hard to remind myself that I am worthy :mentally, emotionally and physically

  • May 28, 2022
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    Carole Mwangi

    Hey Shiro.
    My postpartum body has been a struggle to accept. The changes were/are overwhelming to asy the least. But each day I wake up and remind myself that this body did all the work and made a perfect little human. It’s going to be a journey to get back to feeling confident but am happy to say am okay with how look now and I’ll get back that confidence over time.
    My daily affirmations are;
    I am beautiful
    I am strong
    And am doing the best for me and my baby.

  • May 28, 2022
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    Rose Kwamboka

    My momma always told me that you can’t expect to look like a million bucks if you eat from the dollar menu, so I always knew to eat clean (although I fail most times, and I’m totally okay with that) for my health and skin.
    Beyond that, she emphasised helping your skin look its best by applying products topically. So every two days, we had to change our pillow cases and always washed our faces with lukewarm water. We had face clothes dedicated to, as the name suggests, the face, which had to be hanged out to dry, because, the sun kills bacteria.
    I have had a robust routine since I was 18, and we spend weekends with my mum and sister pampering our skin.

  • May 28, 2022
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    RUTH MIRICHOH

    First of all, I live for this blog, every new blog brings a fresh perspective on life,self love and confidence.
    About beauty and confidence, I have learnt to work with what I have and what my bank account can finance, it is very easy to break your bank while chasing this façade of perfection.
    When it comes to beauty, almost everything can be fixed with a red matte lipstick and guurrlll let me tell you even a bad hair day can be fixed by this.Secondly,sunscreen is a vital part of self care and having healthy skin,Nivea has a vast array of trusted and affordable sunscreens to choose from.Thirdly,don’t be a boring office babe,thrift some cute office pieces from Gikosh or Toi and walk to that office like you own the ground that you walk on.
    Dressing up is indisputably one of the ways to boost your confidence and feel beautiful while at it.

  • May 28, 2022
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    Wendy

    Take care of your damn self and choose yourself even when it’s kinda hard. Oh also, representation really matters a lot! Teach your Pinterest & Instagram algorithms to show you people who look like you so that you can get used to it and see that you’re perfectly fine as you are.

  • May 28, 2022
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    Gloria Memba

    For me I was overweight during my teens and had hyperpigmentation issues plus acne. I then went on a diet and discovered that my body weight and skin tone issues stemmed from sugar which I then totally cut off from my tea and reduced my intake of junk food. Well I’m now very healthy and getting there with an even tone. In regards to acne I am recently using fenugreek tea to treat it and it is a slow process but I am getting there. Yes I had trauma from my childhood over being fat and teenage years but I am everyday gaining back my power for I now love myself.

  • May 28, 2022
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    Ruth

    I noticed that I will always feel not confident enough or rather I will always have seasons of not being confident. So I started a 2 minutes of extreme confidence rule. It helps when I am about to do something that I normally would be scared to do. I allow myself to think I am a bad ass for 2 minutes, which is usually the amount of time I need to make a decision (whether that is pressing send on an email, publishing a post or dripping a CV). So 2 minutes is enough to get me to the secretary/ask to see a manager/ make calls I need to. Then I can have panics later after I have done it. It helped me gat an internship and start my business, so I highly recommend.

  • May 28, 2022
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    Njoki

    Taking outfit pictures before I leave the house is definitely my favourite confidence boost

  • May 28, 2022
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    Miriam wanjiru Maina

    Thank you for the inspiration,being a dark person I have doubts at times and it makes me very councious.I started applying vaseline on my face overnight to help with my dark spots.I see as a way of appreciating myself even when it’s not just it

  • May 28, 2022
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    Meidi

    Hello The Cultured Cow,
    A confident tip I have learnt is that, I know when to say NO – I don’t have to say yes to things that I am not comfortable with just to please other people. I know that constantly saying yes just to please other people can be so exhausting and bad for my mental health and well-being. I remind myself that no matter what I do, I can’t please everyone and that’s perfectly okay.

  • May 29, 2022
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    NAKIMULI MAJOURINE

    I really enjoy your blogs.

  • May 30, 2022
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    Lydia Omari

    It doesn’t have to be expensive for it to work. There are tonnes of products that would fall within your budget and that can give you the results you need.

  • May 30, 2022
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    Lydia Omari

    It doesn’t have to be expensive for it to work. There are tonnes of products within your budget and that will give you the results you need. Do your research and be patient and consistent.

  • May 30, 2022
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    Deborah

    I was diagnosed with hormonal acne and eczema right at the beginning of my 20s. This was nerve-wracking for a babe in Uni as you can imagine. Especially considering that I had always had “complimentable” skin, dark, supple and blemish-free.
    This was the ghettaux for me.
    A decade and change in,the biggest lesson I have learnt is to separate my sense of self-worth and self-importance from my appearance.
    I will have amazing days where I am glowing and radiant thanks to the routine I have now created and my dermatologist’s prescriptions. I will also have horrible days (sometimes months) where I really cannot stand my face in the mirror but even in those days I still know I who I am, I am that bitch!!!
    I am getting better at ignoring unsolicited advise (skincare, weightless etc), stares sometimes and beating myself up about things I really cannot change (I suppose a limitless budget would help).
    I am loving me and showing up for me because nobody else can even when I feel and sometimes look like shit.

  • May 30, 2022
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    Whitney

    I have learnt to accept compliments on those days I feel like a fraud. Don’t poke your body or face as it generally translates to even more self hate.. Talk kindky to yourself. Love the badass human that you are!

  • May 30, 2022
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    Mulanda Aluvale

    The confidence tip that I have is this. You see when you’re walking in the mall or wherever really and you think that everyone’s paying attention to you? No one actually is. Everyone is busy worrying about themselves so there’s no need to be self conscious. That’s how I’ve gotten to build my confidence over time

  • May 30, 2022
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    Nellie Oliloh

    Recently just had baby number 2 and the snapback has been a struggle since, I’ve really struggled and felt my lowest almost got into depression not until my husband changed my thinking one night with a simple statement, “there can only be one Nellie(that’s me) , don’t expect Nellie’s body to resemble any other out there!”
    Let me tell you,this statement has had me embrace my new found curves with so much love and compassion, won’t lie other days are Meh but I definitely don’t compare or criticize my body so harshly.

  • May 30, 2022
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    Anne Kemunto Osero

    Such encouraging progress,I hope to get there too someday!
    You’re beautiful mama!

  • May 30, 2022
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    Anne Kemunto Osero

    Don’t issue good/bad/pretty/ugly judgments when you look in the mirror. “If you have a scar, you can decide to see it as a flaw or simply as a memory of an injury,something which I’ve learnt overtime and helped me make peace with my acne journey.

  • May 30, 2022
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    Lil

    It’s important to know that flawless skin doesn’t necessarily mean healthy skin and the vice versa is also true…this keeps me confident when my skin is not at my best.

  • May 30, 2022
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    Shikoh

    Loved the routine and would love a recommendation of the dermatologist as well. A beauty tip – don’t stress about the small things. If you can alter the situation do it and if not don’t stress about it

  • May 30, 2022
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    Mitchel

    We all have insecurities. I noticed that, sometimes what we think are flaws, everybody is looking at me weird because of one particular thing, no one actually cares UNTIL you mention it…then it becomes the only thing they notice. So I tell myself to not give a hoot about it, because no one else does. It’s part of me, and I refuse to believe that I’m anything less than beautiful!

  • May 30, 2022
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    Sharon

    @mulaikibaara here, I always try to get out of my comfort zone of baggy clothes and sweats, it makes me feel subconscious for a few minutes then I get back in my element of confidence

  • May 30, 2022
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    Natasha

    I have really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this because being in my 30’s and wanting to look a certain way has been stressful. One thing I can share about skin care is just start and take it one day at a time and take the time to understand what works for you and what doesn’t and the products Don’t have to be expensive for them to work this is a lie!!! Consistency will get you results and talking to yourself nicely and gassing yourself up works!

  • May 31, 2022
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    Nuru munyu

    I have a skirt that is written beauty is no accident. So really how you feel about yourself is how people feel about you!!.. So don’t be the one to criticise or look down upon yourself i don’t have the greatest skin but i try as much as possible to be comfortable in my own skin
    I have uneven skin tone my face too dark rest of my body i could have sworn comes from europe.. So i cover my body as much as possible my sis told don’t spend your time covering the good your body in its youthfulness i felt that

  • May 31, 2022
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    Hellen

    A skin care routine doesn’t have to be complex.It may be as simple as using a cleanser,moisturizer and sunscreen during the day and during the night, a cleanser and moisturizer as long as the products are working for someone and one is consistent in their routine, eats right and stays hydrated.. that’s it.The goal is a healthy skin,not a perfect skin.

  • May 31, 2022
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    Hellen

    A skin care routine doesn’t have to be complex.It may be as simple as using a cleanser,moisturizer and sunscreen during the day and during the night, a cleanser and moisturizer as long as the products are working for someone and one is consistent in their routine, eats right and drinks lots of water.. that’s it.The goal is a healthy skin,not a perfect skin.

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