Real Talk: Blake Newby on Racial Justice, Hyperpigmentation, & Adult Acne

Blake Newby is a freelance writer whose work has been featured in HelloGiggles, Allure, Glamour, and more. For our Real Talk series, we spoke with Blake about being a Black woman in 2020, hyperpigmentation, and her experience with adult acne.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve witnessed horrific acts of racism and hate and also seen glimmers of hope that things actually seem to be changing. As a Black woman and also someone who writes about race and health, how are you feeling right now? 

To be honest, I’m feeling a bit numb. Someone recently asked me how I’m doing and I said I think I’ve learned to just operate in the pain. This isn’t new, contrary to what many people think. The burden of being Black has always been heavy, this is just the first time that it’s been publicly amplified like this. So I’m hanging in there, but I’m tired. My people deserve better and it makes me so angry to see that we’re still being treated like this.

You’re very open in your writing about your experience with adult acne and hyperpigmentation. For someone struggling with hormonal acne, it can be completely overwhelming to know where to start. What’s your advice, especially for someone who has been struggling with dermatologist recommendations? 

Whew, hormonal acne. The best advice I can give with dealing with it is to invest in some great topical treatments. If there’s anything I’ve learned after years and years of incorrectly picking at my skin in an effort to get rid of the breakouts, which ultimately caused more damage, is to leave the breakout site alone. I know it sounds easier said than done, but treating my hormonal acne topically and topically alone, and just having patience has helped tremendously. So many times I’d try to “pop” the breakout and it’s resulted in scarring and of course pain. Now, when I feel a breakout coming, I’ll apply a topical solution to the area and just let it run its course. 

The burden of being Black has always been heavy, this is just the first time that it’s been publicly amplified like this.

Blake Newby

When you were struggling with acne, did it impact your self esteem? Do you have any advice for others going through this experience?

To be honest, sometimes it still affects my self-esteem but I’ve definitely come a long way. When I was a teenager and the breakouts began, I used to legitimately lock myself in the house making excuses not to go in public. Compounded with me improperly caring for my skin and ultimately making it worse, I remember a time when I actually lied about being sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school and being around people. Now, however, I don’t let the acne affect me the way I used to. I’ve come to simply understand and embrace that we’re all human, we all have or will be affected by acne. So rather than being ashamed of it, my thoughts toward my breakouts are a lot more solution-oriented. It’s like, “Okay, the breakout is here, how can I move forward and get rid of it?” Not, “It’s the end of the world.”

There are some great marketers out there for some very meh skincare brands. Are there any skincare products—either for acne, hyperpigmentation, or both—out there you wish people would just stop buying? 

Those sticker acne patches. Lol. I hate being that person but I just feel like most of the time they don’t work. They’re packaged up all pretty in these fun shapes, but are they actually helping the acne? Not so sure. That’s not to say that all of them are a fluke, but they seem a whole lot more gimmicky than anything else. 

Black women deserve grace, we deserve to feel free to be vulnerable without judgment, and we don’t do it enough. 

Blake Newby

What’s one thing about women’s health—be it related to race, sexuality, body image, disease, etc.—you wish you had learned or been aware of earlier in your life?

I wish that I would have taken mental health more seriously. From birth, we’re groomed to be these “strong Black women,” supporting everyone else while our mental health suffers. For years I was terrified of vulnerability and addressing my emotions because I felt that if I did, I wouldn’t be considered “strong” anymore. Mental health in general is terribly stigmatized in the Black community and I fell victim to that for the longest time. I haven’t mastered my mental health, but I’m making a conscious effort to allow myself to feel, I seek out therapy, I don’t negate my emotions to maintain appearances, I lean on my friends and family when I need someone to vent to. To be honest, quarantine is what really made me get serious about making sure that I prioritized what’s going on on the inside just as much as I do the outside. Between life as we know it doing a 180, compounded with the daily injustices against Black people, I could no longer go on acting like I was okay, because I wasn’t. Black women deserve grace, we deserve to feel free to be vulnerable without judgment, and we don’t do it enough. 

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