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8 Real Women Show Us What #Unfiltered Skin Looks Like

Cosmo India brings together 8 women who are unafraid to show their natural skin, inspiring many others to partake in the #SkinPositivity movement.

According to reports, an increasing number of women are battling self-esteem issues, largely because they compare themselves and their seemingly ‘imperfect’ skin to the highly Airbrushed faces they see online. Cosmo brings together eight women who are unafraid to show their natural skin, inspiring many others to partake in the #SkinPositivity movement.

Aisha Ahmed, Actor

Aisha Ahmed

“My relationship with my skin has gone through many ups and downs. I remember feeling insecure about it during my teenage years. But, of late, I have been more accepting of it. At the moment, I don’t think my skin looks as great as it could, because it seems dehydrated, and that makes me conscious. It’s a constant battle, I’d say. But I also believe that we should take each day as it comes, and remind ourselves that we are beautiful just as we are. Looking at ‘flawless’ faces on social media, I did get pulled into the vortex of using beauty filters. I’d turn to the ones that would conceal my under-eye area as much as possible as I am quite conscious about it. And being in the profession that I am in, I have actively thought about getting fillers to achieve a certain standard of beauty. But I feel blessed that I have some wonderful friends who have prevented me from giving into my insecurities. Today, my idea of ‘perfection’ is rooted in health. I truly believe that if one has a healthy body and skin, the shape, size, and colour don’t matter. It is very important to normalise the fact that ‘real’ skin has texture. And the best tool to spread the word is social media. We need to talk about this a lot more, post more bare-faced selfies, and gradually, we’ll get there. Isn’t it ironic, media is responsible for creating these insecurities, and yet, that’s the platform we are turning to bring about change?”

Guneet Monga, Film Director

Guneet Monga

“I absolutely love the sunspots on my face. They are a testament to the journey I have been on and give me the confidence to own and honour my reality. There is no one kind of ‘perfect’ skin. I truly believe that happiness (with a big smile) and inner confidence radiate on the outside, and that inner peace is the secret to glowing skin.Given that I have such clear views on what I think and feel is beautiful, I have never felt the pressure to use beauty filters. And I believe that editorials like this one can help empower many women. I know the industry thrives on Airbrushed faces, but we need to be honest about publishing heavily touched-up photos of models—maybe add a disclaimer that the photograph has been edited. Social media is defining pop culture as well as normalising a lot of age-old conditioning and deep-rooted insecurities. One can easily get lost in the expanse of social media, so being aware of when you are being sold something through ads or feeds is important. This would help many, especially women, let go of unreal standards of beauty. It’s very important to be transparent about such things.”

Shruti Seth, Actor

Shruti Seth

“My definition of good skin is tied to skin that feels ‘real’, and glows from within. I have noticed that when I look after my skin, it looks after me as well. I also advocate this notion on social media, even though social media is a double-edged sword—it perpetuates false notions while also helping break them. But as people with influence, we should feel free to show our natural skin...because we have the power to steer the conversation in the right direction. I am very wary of magazines overly Airbrushing photos and influencers using filters on social media... It stems from the cancel culture that is so prevalent on the Internet today. I have accepted that my skin is not going to look the same forever, and I am okay with showing my natural skin. The more we speak about texture, marks, spots, fine lines, and wrinkles, the faster we’ll reach our goal of normalising different kinds of skin. I feel blessed to be surrounded by an army of amazing, strong, confident women, and their strength has always empowered me. I aspire to stand with the truth—in this case, ‘real’ skin—to generate a positive change.”

Sonam Nair, Film Director and Writer

Sonam Nair

“Thankfully, I have always had a stress-free relationship with my skin. The only real issue I had was facial hair, because I have PCOS. But getting laser hair removal treatment has helped me overcome that as well. A good skin day, for me, is when I look at myself and don’t even think about my skin...that must mean it’s good enough to not think about it, right? To be honest, I hate filters that smoothen the skin out so much that you begin to resemble an anime character. They’re so obviously fake that I wonder how people can even try to pass it off as their real skin? Whenever I use filters, it’s only to make the image look cooler, not to hide my ‘flaws’. I think the pressure to look a certain way comes from the skincare and beauty industry, that benefits from pointing out your ‘flaws’ and taking your money to fix them. I’d rather let nature do its thing... I strongly believe that if an image has been Photoshopped, it should be clearly specified to prevent setting unrealistic expectations, especially for young women and men. Having said that, it’s about time we showed ‘real’ skin in mainstream media. For Masaba Masaba, I ensured we didn’t clean up [designer and actor] Masaba Gupta’s acne scars, because I wanted people to see that she’s a normal girl, not some ‘perfect’ celebrity. That made so many people reach out to us and thank us for showing an authentic representation, and that too in a glamorous way. It’s really inspiring and empowering to see how beautifully actresses from the ’60s and ’70s have aged. Rekhaji, Neena Gupta, Helen, Sharmila Tagore, Waheeda Rehman...they were beautiful and natural in their films, and continue to be like that. The current generation needs to take a page out of 
their book.”

Tarini Sethi, Artist

Tarini Seth

“I have a best-friend-worst-enemy kind of relationship with my skin. I love my dark skin, but when I treat it badly sometimes, it takes its revenge on me. Even so, I never feel like using beauty filters to make it look a certain way... Social media can be so harmful to one’s self-worth, though it can be seen both as a boon and bane. While it can make you feel awful about yourself, the access to people from around the world can also make you realise that all types of skin are sexy. I, too, have thought about getting expensive procedures done, but I never followed through because I realised it’s important to love and accept myself as I am. To amplify this truth, we need to talk about ‘real’ skin as much as possible...truly shine a light on how sexy and beautiful our skin can be! That being said, it’s not like I never feel insecure. It’s completely natural to have days where you don’t feel good about your skin, but it’s important to not let that get you down. To me, skin that you’re proud of defines perfection. It’s vital to let people know that there is no such thing as ‘perfect’ or ‘flawless’ skin. And to change the landscape, educating people is the first step, followed by creating a space for healthy dialogue.”


Nauheed Cyrusi, Actor

Nauheed Cyrusi

“I have an amazing relationship with my skin because I have studied it over a long period of time and understood it. I started taking care of it at a very young age because of the industry I am in. The key is not to fall for beauty trends, but to understand and communicate with your skin. Beauty filters are a big no-no in my world. I have never used them because I just don’t see the point of it. Everyone’s skin has similar elements, be it pimples, acne scars, or pores...we all have a bit of those. I mean, our skin is meant to breathe, that is why we have pores. It’s meant to have bumps that remind us of our adolescence...that is what normal skin is. There’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ skin. My views are a by-product of my conditioning: I have seen everyone in my family age gracefully, and that had a truly positive impact on how I perceive the notions of beauty. I believe scars are a reminder of all the experiences we have had in life. I, for one, am a very clumsy person, so I often have cuts, scars, wounds, and bruises all over my legs... I just own them. However, I do understand that many don’t feel the same way and would want to change the way they look. That’s where magazines and social media can help change the conversation. And while the revolution to ‘own our real skin’ has begun, we still have a long way to go. We need to put all our efforts into breaking the cycle and normalising all kinds of skin.”

Eina Ahluwalia, Jewellery Designer

Eina Ahluwalia

“Much as I am aware that it is straight out of society’s conditioning playbook, when I think about the term ‘perfect skin’, the idea of pore-less, porcelain skin with an even tone and a dewy complexion comes to mind. However, I work towards redefining perfect skin as skin that simply ‘exists’. Skin, just like the rest of the human body, is a miracle, and I try to focus on the magic of it rather than the different skin types that exist.My relationship with my skin, today, is comfortable, with the occasional chance of criticism. I am finally (well, mostly) comfortable with the way it is—open pores, pigmentation, lines, and a bit of a sag. However, there are days I feel like kicking myself for not having worn sunscreen for far too many years than I’d like to count, which resulted in pigmentation. And I know that somewhere deep within, the critic isn’t happy about the patchiness. Thankfully, I don’t care about my large pores any more, as I spent too many youthful years trying to minimise the poor things. That said, I never felt like opting for a professional treatment to achieve a certain skin never seemed worth the effort. Society’s idea of beauty is ever-shifting, and no matter how much we chase that ideal of perfection, we will never be able to achieve it. The only way we can normalise ‘real’ skin is by respecting and owning our skin... Perhaps, being joyful about life, focusing on more meaningful things, and skipping on the concealer will encourage more people to feel more comfortable with their skin. We need to collectively make an effort to normalise all skin types, textures, colours, and conditions in our social interactions and in the media... Along with that, we need to actively communicate our acceptance of others. I like to follow women [on social media] who are advocates for their skin conditions. It’s time we start seeing each other in our natural states, as well as place worth on who the person is instead of what they look like. I am inspired by women who show up as they are, who have worked hard to undo the conditioning, are brave enough to shine with all their light, and who spend their time meaningfully and joyfully rather than shrink because of the texture of their skin.”


Shilo Shiv Suleman, Visual Artist

Shilo Shiv Suleman

“I grew up in a school with 140 acres of wild trees and sunshine. I spent my childhood barefoot, wild-haired, and tanned. In that wilderness, there was no benchmark for the way we looked. And back then, my definition of perfect skin was an Earth-coloured, sun-kissed complexion. What felt like a devil-may-care attitude in my 20s now seems like a lack of care in my 30s. And for everything I didn’t do growing up, I now give my skin the tender, loving care it deserves. I would be lying if I said that I don’t ever think about using beauty filters on social media, to give an illusion of smoother skin. But Cleopatra, too, used crushed rubies as blush, and women in ancient India enhanced their eyes with kohl... We modify our bodies, physically, to suit the beauty standards of the times we live in. Except now, we are also living in a virtually-augmented world. I feel no judgment in using beauty filters; all beauty is part-fantasy, part-reality. That being said, ‘real’ skin does have texture. And it is absolutely normal! But we also have the ability to morph and shape-shift... I’d like to think my skin is like the Earth—a hundred stories, landscapes, maps ready to be traversed. As long as we’re comfortable in ourselves and in all our avatars, it’s all good.”

Photographs and Creative Direction: Roshini Kumar; Styling: Samar Rajput, Fashion Assistants: Yashima Babbar and Romi Choudhary; Make-Up: Bhagyashree Vaid; Hair: Suraj Tiwari; Hair Assistant: Sameeral Ghadigaonkar