An aspiring model who was the victim of an acid attack shared a makeup-free selfie to call out unrealistic portrayals on social media.
Resham Khan was attacked with sulfuric acid in June while celebrating her 21st birthday with her cousin in London. Khan has been chronicling her recovery on her personal blog, where she recently shared makeup-free and unedited selfies to highlight the reality behind what she shares on Instagram.
“I just wanted to make clear that what you see on the internet isn’t real. Just like the photos,” Khan wrote. “I’ve loved the compliments but the harsh reality is it is not real.
“I don’t want others to be trying to achieve what I did using editing apps.”
Khan then shared that she’d used the app BeautyPlus to edit photos she recently posted on Instagram of herself all dressed up to celebrate Eid. It was her first time attempting a full face of makeup since the accident, a painful process that she wrote “has become so much harder” due to her skin’s scarring and sensitivity.
Seeing herself in full makeup for the first time, Khan wrote she felt “like the old me again.” And while she looked amazing in the resulting photos she shared, Khan said she didn’t want to give viewers the wrong impression, choosing to share her makeup-free, unedited selfies, too.
“Makeup did a great job and so did angles and an edit,” wrote Khan. “But please don’t see my photos and go into despair, or try to achieve something that may not be possible.”
It’s natural to want to put our best foot forward on social media, a supposed extension of ourselves. But it’s rarely (if ever) the full picture — and acknowledging that in a constructive way is harder than it looks.
Even makeup-free selfies can bolster the beauty standards we’re trying to avoid in the first place: a quick Google of the phrase reveals numerous articles on the “best” celebrity makeup-free selfies, whose photos are lauded as “ageless” and beautiful even without makeup. The packaging may be slightly different, but the conversation is still the same.
What sets photos like Khan’s apart isn’t the difference between what she looks like with makeup and editing vs. without — though it’s incredibly brave of her to share them. It’s her willingness to bare all in the accompanying discussion of the photos: detailing the edits she made without apologizing for them, sharing her makeup-free selfies to inspire others in tough recoveries, but admitting she still misses her “old self” and wants to improve her appearance.
The road to self-acceptance isn’t a straight line. Khan embraces nuance in her story, and that’s what really gets filtered out by social media. Khan reminds us that the full picture is always more complicated — and allowing for that is the most beautiful part.