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I Spent Years Using Make-Up to Hide My South Asian Heritage – Here’s How I Have Finally Accepted Myself

I Spent Years Using Make-Up to Hide My South Asian Heritage – Here’s How I Have Finally Accepted Myself

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I have written about this before, but I will say it again. I have spent years using make-up to hide not only my acne, but my Indian American heritage as a whole.

Let me start with a product that has become oh-so-popular nowadays. Coconut oil.

In India, hair oiling is a cherished tradition that has been passed down through generations. The rich embrace of coconut oil symbolizes our love for the long, luscious looks we proudly wear. It is about so much more than just nourishing our strands; coconut oil is a deep connection to our heritage.

Yet, as an Indian American, I, like so many others in my community, have weathered taunts and teasing, enduring hurtful comments about my “greasy” hair and unibrows. Upon so many occasions, I have  grappled with the feeling of not being “white enough” to fit in.

It took me years to embrace my South Asian heritage | Rutvi Shah

Enter the recent “clean girl aesthetic.” A simple TikTok scroll demonstrates my point: so many of those who once ridiculed us Indian Americans now use processed hair oils to achieve a sleek and polished look. Techniques like soap brows have become popular among white influencers to enhance their brows, all while big companies profit from products deeply rooted in Indian culture.

These very individuals, who once looked down on our skin tones, even frequent tanning salons to mimic our natural beauty. This stark contrast reveals the glaring double standards and unquestioning acceptance of societal norms.

It’s not just limited to the Indian community, as Latino and Black women have also faced ridicule and discrimination for their cultural features. They’ve been told their “big lips” or natural hair are undesirable, only to see these very features embraced by mainstream culture, often without credit or acknowledgment.

Embracing my South Asian heritage | Rutvi Shah

For young girls watching influencers on platforms like TikTok, it can be disheartening. They see these influencers promoting makeup brands and displaying flawless, filtered appearances, leading them to compare themselves and suffer blows to their self-esteem. I, too, have grappled with my self-image, battling acne and yearning for a foundation that would make me look as perfect as those filtered images on social media, even resorting to apps like FaceTune.

After so many years, I learned a powerful lesson: true beauty emanates from within. It is TikTokers like @makeupbymonicaa (@glow_bymonica on Instagram) that have helped me embrace my South Asian roots and helped me feel more comfortable with hair oiling – her bio, “your filter free #browngirlmakeup bestie” is exactly that to me.

Each of us possesses a unique, innate charm that transcends the superficial standards imposed by society. In embracing our cultural heritage and recognizing the beauty in our diversity, we forge a profound connection that transcends appearances.

Embracing my South Asian heritage | Rutvi Shah

This journey toward self-acceptance and appreciation for our cultural roots is what truly makes us beautiful, inside and out. It’s a message that resonates not just with the Indian community but with all those who’ve been marginalized and made to feel less than for their cultural identity.

So please, the next time you come across coconut oil in your local drugstore, think of me, think of so many others who are going through self-doubts for not meeting society’s standards. Together, we can challenge the status quo and celebrate the richness of our diverse tapestry. But it takes all of us to do so.

Get Rutvi’s look

  • I recommend coconut oil and blends of rosemary oil for hair growth. 
  • I use the Chi straightener to straighten my hair and the Bondi Boost heat protectant to protect my hair from the extreme heat. 
  • Shop Rutvi’s beauty and fashion picks below!
Chi Hair StraightenerBondi Boost Heat ProtectantOlaplex Bond Oil
ASOS Paisley DressH&M White Draped DressASOS Lime Dress

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