Beauty Blogger Kadeeja Sel Khan with acne

With more of us experiencing acne well into adulthood, beauty blogger Kadeeja Sel Khan (@emeraldxbeauty), 23, opens up about her own skin struggles

Beauty Blogger Kadeeja Sel Khan with acne

With more of us experiencing acne well into adulthood, beauty blogger Kadeeja Sel Khan (@emeraldxbeauty), 23, opens up about her own skin struggles.

I’ve never had clear skin; for as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with acne. It started when I hit puberty, probably around the age of 11, and my skin became oily, blemished and eventually, scarred. On top of having spot-prone skin, I also have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a condition that can leave sufferers with irregular periods, weight gain and thinning hair, thought to be caused by abnormal hormone levels. For me, it means that my skin becomes really oily around my period and I get breakouts of angry red spots and pustules along my jaw and the bottom half of my face.


It’s not just spots that affect my skin. Because I’m Afghan and have an olive skin tone, I’m also prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation – those pesky post-spot dark marks that take months to fade – as well as redness around my cheeks and scarring. I feel that if I’d been more patient with my skin as a teenager, it wouldn’t be as scarred as it is now – but back then, if I saw a spot, I was so desperate for it to go, I’d squeeze and pick at it.


I have spent, and I’m not even exaggerating here, thousands of pounds on skincare. I’ve felt so desperate to fix my complexion and get rid of the scars in the past that I bought every product and tried every remedy – and nothing would work. I’ve improved my diet – I think with anything, when you start eating better, you start to feel better, too – and I’ve cut out dairy, but it’s not made that much of a difference to my skin, to be honest. I’ve just learned to accept it and myself a little bit more – it’s so important to stay positive.


I’ve been on medication for my skin in the past. I tried taking the contraceptive pill, which some people find helps with skin conditions, but I found it made me gain weight. As that’s already a symptom of PCOS, I just didn’t want to exacerbate it. A few years ago, I took Roaccutane – an anti-inflammatory that comes from vitamin A and is used to treat severe cases of acne – but I had to stop after a couple of months. I found the entire process really tough. My skin became very dry and itchy no matter how much moisturiser I applied; it just felt constantly irritated and sore. I also suffered from really bad mood swings and felt super sensitive all of the time. I realised I was taking my mood out on people and I just didn’t want to do that. I know Roaccutane works really well for some people with acne, but the side-effects just weren’t worth it for me. That was the last medication I had for my skin.


A lot of people come to me and ask how I cope when my skin is super clear one day and then breaks out the next, and I say, ‘You know what, I’m so used to it, it’s normal for me.’ When my skin is clear, I’m like, ‘Oh, this is great, my skin looks amazing,’ but I know it’ll break out soon after. So, in my head, I’m just prepared for it. I’m also at that age where it’s like, why should I torture myself? Why would I make myself feel bad for something I’ve already spent years feeling down about?


If I can’t change my skin, I’m not going to make myself feel low and I’m not going to let it take over my life. That’s why I decided to turn it into something positive and start showing my skin without makeup, filters or Photoshop. I used to always edit my pictures before uploading them but then, one day, I just realised it wasn’t honest and I felt bad about doing it. So, I posted a video of my skin, with absolutely nothing on.


Some people reacted badly, but most of the responses were really positive. Girls were saying, ‘Thank you so much! You’ve made me feel so much better about my own skin. I thought I was the only one!’ I used to be like that. I was the girl who was growing up and thought, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I want people to understand that there’s nothing wrong with them. I want to help people realise that they’re not the only ones with acne or scarring.I think it’s so important that we show that all kinds of skin are ‘normal’, especially in the age of social media where everything can be edited or perfected. OK, so a little part of me is like ‘Why is this happening to me?’ Why do I have to have this?’ But then I’m just like, ‘It’s cool, I still love my face regardless, so whatever – it’s going to go away again soon.’


I do make an effort to really look after my skin, though – I drink loads of water and I always double cleanse – even if you think it’s clean from one cleanse, it’s really not, especially if you wear makeup. Wipes are not the one! I also use a toner, an antioxidant serum and an SPF every day; sun protection is so important to help with scars and pigmentation if you have acne-prone skin. I also love a bit of self-care, too, the Garnier Fresh-Mix Face Sheet Shot Mask with Hyaluronic Acid, £3.99, is a dream!

As told to: Natalie Ticehurst. Photos: Thea Baddiley. Hair and makeup: Dina @ Frank Agency. Visit for more info.