3 dancers on their glow-inducing skincare regimens

Dancers are required to glow.

With sweat and makeup congealing under the heavy stage lights, their pores go through hell and back. But how do they still get their best skin from day to night? Turns out, they prescribe to a “skincare that’s practice until made perfect” model.

SEE ALSO: These are the back to school beauty products you need now

Well, at least according to Joseph Aumeer of The Royal Ballet, who finds dancing is chaotic for his skin. The dance professional says that he’s dancing from morning to night, with rehearsals and performances in between. For him, it’s about treating his skin as he does his twirls and plies. 

José Lapaz Rodriguez, who is currently studying contemporary and modern dance at school, agrees. For him, moving, stretching and dancing for days on end is challenging. Naturally, he sweats and his skin gets oily, but he’s also constantly being exposed to bacteria. Sometimes the choreography calls for dancers to put their faces on each other. Hand on face, face on back, face on arm, face on foot – the possibilities are endless when it comes to how many sweaty body parts touches dancers’ faces. At times, José’s face even ends up touching the ground. 

Between the sweating and the constant exposure to breakout causing bacteria, add stage makeup and its pore-clogging perils. Compared to everyday makeup, stage makeup is heavier, thicker and comedogenic. After all, it’s meant to stick to skin through the heat of the stage lights. On its own, smear-proof makeup is great, but combined with dancing and bright stage lights, sweat gets trapped in dancers’ pores under their makeup. “Along with the rest of our body,” Sean Miller of the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School says. “Our skin is honestly put through a lot.”

Despite everything their skin goes through, dancers still somehow manage to have dewy, luscious, beautiful skin. After all, it’s almost a requirement when you’re onstage, with nothing to bare but your soul. Very Good Light spoke with three dancers who are as dedicated to their skincare routines as they are to dancing to learn all about their skincare secrets. 

Joseph Aumeer

Having danced since he was 9 years old, Joseph grew up with the pressures of being on stage, being surrounded by mirrors in the studio, and having his pictures taken by the press. In other words, he’s gotten used to people staring at him. 

Although it’s not a major pressure, Joseph found that there is still a push to look after himself with all those eyes on him. “Looking after my skin and seeing results definitely gave me more confidence and a healthier outlook on things,” Joseph shares. 

View this post on Instagram

bit of garnier archive ✨

A post shared by Joseph Aumeer (@joeaumeer) on

After rinsing with water in the morning, Joseph follows up with the Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic. “I started using this recently and it’s really helped my skin get a good glow and feel clean,” he raves. The 5% glycolic acid toner exfoliates his skin, even getting into the pores and flushing them out. Next, Joseph follows with the This Works Morning Expert Hyaluronic Serum – the serum’s star ingredient hyaluronic acid keep his skin moisturized all day long, keeping oil production level, while the Vitamin C brightens. Once he locks everything in with La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Duo [+] SPF 30, he’s ready for a long day of dancing. The mattifying moisturizer helps Joseph control blemishes, and the SPF, a daily essential, is especially important when using AHA’s like glycolic acid in the morning. 

Throughout the day, Joseph is sure to continuously hydrate. Not only is water necessary for the body when dancing for hours on end, it helps Joseph’s skin stay hydrated and plump. From time to time, he also spritzes on the Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater. “It does give you a good flow and leaves you feeling fricky fresh,” Joseph says. 

After a long day of dancing, Joseph always makes sure to thoroughly cleanse his face with the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Cleansing Gel. This cleanser washes away a day’s worth of dirt and oil while still being gentle on Joseph’s skin. With his busy schedule, the last thing Joseph wants to worry about is irritating his skin. He follows with the same toner from the morning, gently taps on the Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado, and adds a moisturizer so his skin is prepped for the long day ahead of him tomorrow.    

Sean Miller 

Sean appreciates every moment he’s dancing. When onstage he doesn’t have to think about his skin. He’s focusing on every plié, jump, pointed toe. 

But once he leaves the stage, he’s passionate about skincare. 

“I try to really focus on hydrating my skin for the tough day ahead,” Sean shares. In the morning, he starts by cleansing with the gentle and non-irritating Drunk Elephant Beste No.9 Jelly Cleanser. Next, Sean goes in with the 2-in-1 Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer, which helps him achieve soft, supple skin. For an additional boost of hydration, he follows up with a moisturizer. “Currently loving the Belif Aqua Bomb as well as the Farmacy Honey Drop lightweight Moisturizer,” he tells us. 

For eye cream, he recommends a light layer of the Floral Hydro Eye Gel Cream from Mamonde and Tatcha’s Camellia Gold Spun Lip Balm to finish off his skincare routine. 

Throughout the day, Sean is sure to wipe away the excess sweat from his face with facial wipes and use moisturizing face mists during rehearsal breaks.

His nighttime skincare routine is similar to his daytime routine, but he is sure to use a more heavy duty cleanser to wash away his long day. For the past two years, Sean has been using his trusted and beloved Shisedo Deep Cleansing Foam face wash. Twice a week, he’ll exfoliate with the Rice Enzyme Powder from Tatcha. The powder to foam formula gently polishes skin without over-exfoliating. Sean also recommends the Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Pads. Formulated with lactic acid, a chemical exfoliant, Sean finds that he can slough off dead skin cells without rubbing and tugging at his face.

To really indulge in self-care, Sean also masks a couple of times a week. From sheet masks to sleeping masks, he loves them all. “I love all the masks from Summer Fridays, Glow recipe, and Sulwahsoo,” Sean shares. As a bonus: He also loves Japanese sheet masks Saborino and LuLuLun. 

José Lapaz-Rodríguez 

For his skin, José chases balance. His cleanser of choice is the Clearasil Gentle Prevention Daily Clean Wash. “It doesn’t leave my skin too dry,” he explains. “It’s very gentle but it does the work.” He exfoliates with Lush’s Ocean Salt scrub. With flakes of sea salt, avocado butter, coconut oil, and citrus extracts, this scrubs buffs away dead skin cells while moisturizing, nourishing, and toning. For toner, José uses the Original Facial Toner from Thayers. It’s important to him that it’s alcohol-free – it helps keep his skin balanced. Witch Hazel, the toner’s hero ingredient, is a known natural astringent. It shrinks pores and reduced inflammation, which is perfect for all the sweat and oil dancing all day long can cause. For moisturizer, José then uses the Shea Moisture African Black Soap Balancing Moisturizer. José then always follows up with sunscreen. In order to make sure his skin is protected from the sun’s harmful rays, José uses SPF 50.

During his quick breaks between rehearsals, José rinses his face. Not to irritate his skin by cleansing every time, he sticks to just cleansing with water to wash the sweat off. 

José’s real secret is 100% natural African shea butter. At night, he carries out his skincare routine but swaps moisturizer for shea butter. He finds it helps with everything from acne to restoring his skin. “I love using shea butter because I wake up with the smoothest skin and lips,” he explains. “It’s boosts my self-esteem because I feel ready to take on anything in the day whether it’s going out with friends, performing, or having photo/video shoots.” As an additional bonus, José swears shea butter also helps his lashes grow longer. 

It’s not exactly a secret that dancers go through a lot with their skin, but now the secret to keeping their skin happy is out. They key? Gentle but thorough cleansing keeps both irritation and bacteria at bay. Moisturizing makes sure skin stays hydrated no matter how much you sweat is key in keeping oil production at a minimum. 

3 individuals on why they decided to get plastic surgery

When it comes to men, plastic surgery is surging.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ annual Plastic Surgery Statistics Report, 8% of all procedures in the United States in 2018 were by men. From only a decade ago, that’s a surge of 29% of men who undergo the knife. 

SEE ALSO: I spent over $100,000 to look like BTS’ Jimin

Even though the numbers seem small, Dr. Jason Roostaeian, a LA based plastic surgeon, assures us that interest is growing exponentially, “Every year, male plastic surgery is one of the fastest growing parts of plastic surgery,” he tells Very Good Light.  

Why is male plastic surgery growing so much? Dr. Roostaeian says it’s due to the stigma of guys and aesthetics disappearing. “Guys have always cared about their looks, there’s just way more social awareness about plastic surgery,” he explains. He credits social media for further emphasizing people’s appearances. It’s coupled with social media’s ability to spread information about plastic surgery – of its existence and how common it is. More so, social media is now perhaps destigmatizing enhancement surgeries altogether. According to Dr. Roostaeian, it’s also more accessible than ever. 

And with it comes the bigger question: Why is plastic surgery stigmatized in the first place? If it promotes confidence, well-being and empowerment, what’s the fear? For many men and male-presenting people, investing in their appearances has become a sort of means to feel more whole. While the reasons for plastic surgery is a very personal choice, it varies from person to person. Very Good Light spoke with three people, inspired by conversations on redefining masculinity and male beauty, on why they chose to alter their appearances. Here’s why each decided to go under the knife and their candid thoughts after. 


In order to fix a severe underbite  Brandon Katsuyama underwent a maxillofacial surgery at 18 years old. He’d always been insecure about his jaw and even after braces worn throughout middle and high school, it was still apparent. 

“I was having an identity crisis,” Brandon says. “I was just thinking, Was this the right decision?”

And it wasn’t solely something he felt was aesthetically obtrusive. His doctors continually warned him that the underbite would lead to problems further down the line. With his underbite getting in the way of him chewing properly, Brandon was already dealing with chronic digestive issues. Perhaps worst of all, Brandon recalls being too insecure to even smile. “If I did, I would have my bottom jaw jutting out from under my top teeth,” he recalls. In his eyes, “it just looked really terrible.”

Desperate to live his life to the fullest, Brandon turned to plastic surgery as a last resort. The maxillofacial surgery in and of itself is invasive. It’s one in which the jaw is broken, grafted onto steel and then reshaped. For good measure, his doctor also suggested breaking his nose and pushing it up so it would be more aligned with his jaw. With such a major operation coming up, Brandon was nervous.

When he woke up from his surgery on December 31, 2014, he watched the New Year’s ball drop on TV from his hospital bed. After he’d healed, he looked in the mirror and realized he couldn’t recognize himself. Even after the swelling from the surgery had settled, he grappled with his new face and was weighed down with regret. “I was having an identity crisis,” Brandon says. “I was just thinking, Was this the right decision?”

Eager to get the surgery over with and start a new chapter of his life, Brandon hadn’t considered how his face would entirely change. He trusted his doctor to do what was best for Brandon medically, but the surgeon had taken liberties shaping Brandon’s new face. 

View this post on Instagram

If you follow me does that make me ur leader

A post shared by 勝山 (@osakepapi) on

A hapa –half Japanese and half caucasian – Brandon’s “flat Asian face,” something that helped him feel connected with his Japanese family, was gone. “The surgery created more angles to my face, appealing more to Western appearances,” he observed. “Once I had the surgery done, I saw that I was further out of my Asian identity.”

While Brandon eventually settled into his new features, found the confidence and self-acceptance he was looking for going into surgery, and was able to find new ways to connect with his heritage, there’s still a lot he thinks he should have done differently. He wonders it he was too young. He admits he rushed through his surgery instead of asking all the questions he should have asked. 

View this post on Instagram

Me by Fre

A post shared by 勝山 (@osakepapi) on

For anybody considering a cosmetic procedure? “If you’re having any doubts or facing any anxiety, that’s a red flag to slow down and really rethink it,” Brandon advises. “If you go through with something and it’s irreversible, that’s one of the bigger regrets.”  Today, Brandon has come to appreciate himself – from the inside out and is growing into his own. 


Working in the cosmetics industry as a makeup artist, Rudy, or Ru, as he’s called, found that he was surrounded by perfect faces. However, it wasn’t the genetic jackpot or impeccable makeup that made them so beautiful, he’d realized that most of his coworkers had gotten enhancements like lip injections, fillers, Botox, or some combination of all of the above. 

He eventually gave into the curiosity and decided to try out lip enhancements for himself. 

“I didn’t have a problem with my lips before – they were a good size,” Ru explains to Very Good Light. “But I’ve always been fascinated with perfecting things and making everything as good as you can get them. I love the idea of changing yourself and making yourself feel happy in your own skin.”

Ru’s initial experience with lip fillers ends there. It was only very recently that he picked up where he felt off with cosmetic procedures. In the last few months, Ru has re-plumped his lips, and he’s tried out cheek fillers, midface rejuvenation, Botox in the jaw, and three non-surgical nose jobs. 

To perfect his features, Ru used fillers to create flattened cheekbones more in line with a chiseled bone structure. The Botox relaxed his jaw muscle to square out his jawline more. Strategically injecting fillers, Ru says he was able to straighten out a small hump in his nose and give his nose a slight “ski-slope effect.”

Today, Ru says he’s extremely happy with his refined look, and is grateful he was able to use non-surgical methods to see how he would look, first. He recommends the same for anybody thinking about going under the knife.  

“Every single day, when I look in the mirror or take a photo with friends, I notice my nose and see a huge difference to my profile,” Ru shares of his nose, post-surgery. Although most haven’t noticed the change, he knows a rhinoplasty operation would be worth it because of how much more confident it gives him.  

“Think to yourself, Okay, am I prepared to deal with this if it happens?”

One thing to be cautious of, Ru advises, is that even minor cosmetic procedures like fillers or Botox aren’t a walk in the park. Injectables are often perceived as quick, painless procedures where you walk into the clinic and walk out five minutes later with perfect results, but that’s not the entire reality. 

“When I got my third nose procedure, I was a little too confident in the healing process,” Ru admits. The first two were quick and painless, but the third time around was difficult for Ru. “There was a lot of bleeding and I was bruised on my nose for maybe a month after it. Really serious bruising,” he says. “It was the first time I had any serious reaction from any procedure, and I know it could have been a lot worse.” 

While non-surgical procedures absolutely are a milder alternative to surgery, it’s still important to Ru that injectables are taken with seriousness. “Read about what can happen, Google examples,” Ru advises. “Think to yourself, Okay, am I prepared to deal with this if it happens?”


As a non-binary person, Tresor Prijs struggled with gender dysmorphia, which affected how they viewed themself and impacted their self-esteem. “As a teenager, I wanted nothing more than to look like somebody else because what I saw on the outside and what I felt on the inside were just very different,” they share.

Every time they looked in the mirror, they were simply unhappy with the reflection that stared back at them. Their low, droopy eyebrows in particular were a large point of scrutiny for Tresor. They hated how masculine they were and wanted nothing more than a brow lift.

No matter how desperately they knew they wanted a brow lift, they took their time researching and reflecting. 

They started out at the library, researching what cosmetic procedures were an option for what they wanted. From there, they went online to find plastic surgeons who were skilled in these procedures. 

Consulting with the doctors in real life, it took Tresor three tries to find the right doctor – somebody who they could trust. “If somebody isn’t going to make you feel personally comfortable, it’s best to step away,” Tresor advises. “Give it some time and look for someone who can align with your own end goals in a more fluid way.”

What did patience get Tresor? 

“I found someone who was able to accommodate the fact that I was still quite young and treat me with the kind of tenderness and gentle nature that you need with someone in my position and not take advantage of the insecurities and all those feelings.”

“Wow, I really look like me today.”

While studying up on plastic surgeries, Tresor also had the privilege of going to therapy, and they had a space to work through their gender identities and their insecurities. For Tresor, a key breakthrough was that no matter how much they altered their face, they could still feel the same conflict and unsettling feelings internally. 

Focusing on therapy first, sorting out everything they were feeling on the inside, Tresor was able to narrow down the alterations that would genuinely make them happy and the ones that wouldn’t. In the end, they realized they only needed one thing: a non-invasive brow lift.

They went into surgery feeling confident, informed, and empowered. Small incisions were placed under their brows and polypropylene sutures were placed the skin, creating the lifted but natural look, the “bitchy brows,” Tresor wanted.

After a couple days of recovery time, when they felt ready to be out and about, they looked in the mirror, and they were astonished. “That was one of the first moments when I looked in the mirror and I was like Wow, I really look like me today,” they share. 

Although it was just a cosmetic change, it wasn’t simply cosmetic. It was everything from self-care to a way for Tresor to express theirself. 

“It gave me a little pep in my step,” Tresor explains. “When I did my makeup, I felt better about my brows.”

It was the little confidence boost that was right for Tresor at the time. They loved their brow lift, and they’re still beyond happy with it. But it helped them realize that appearances only mean so much, and Tresor wants to shift the emphasis from the outside to the inside. 

“Loving yourself is a process, a daily act. It takes time and work,” they explain. “Take the time and energy into focusing on what you love about yourself.” After that, when you’ve done the work and there are still things you want to change about yourself, you’re free to do so. 

The latter is a sentiment shared between the three: Brandon, Ru, and Tresor, a message that if somebody wants to change their appearances to empower themselves, they should. After all, everyone has autonomy over their bodies. 

A Millie Bobby Brown inspired skincare routine

It’s been a week, but I still can’t stop thinking about Millie Bobby Brown’s nightly skincare routine video. 

You know, the same video in which she goes through her skincare routine but doesn’t actually use her Florence by Mills Gen Z products? *Insert awkward emoji here*.

SEE ALSO: We asked a teen to review this all-natural vegan acne brand

The line of “clean skincare” products range from a $10 mist to $12 lip gloss and is skincare with a few cosmetics. It’s great that the star is promoting a good price point – we just wished she actually uh, used the products.

In case you didn’t catch it on her Instagram before she deleted it, the video is still floating around on YouTube. Enjoy!

From the moment the 15-year old wunderkind starts off her skincare routine video, we know that it’s headed in the wrong direction. First of all, Millie loves misting away from her face. Perhaps this is one method of misting – misting the air – we don’t know. Whatever the case, she holds her Florence by Mills Zero Chill Face Mist a literal foot away from her face. 

But maybe it’s just that she spritzed in the wrong direction – plenty of people have done this (no, they haven’t). Next, with completely dry skin, she goes in with her Get That Grime Face Scrub then her Clean Magic Face Wash

The thing is, there’s no water that she uses. She doesn’t even put the product in her actual hands. Watching her really rubbing and tugging her skin, I can feel her wrinkles forming. If you’re wondering why she’s pulling on her skin so much, it’s probably because she’s not using any product at all. Is this a Hollywood method she learned from, say, Charlotte Tillbury? Perhaps. But most likely not, as you can literally hear friction when she rubs her product-less fingers together.  

There was a lot of backlash, confusion, and jokes as to why Millie wouldn’t let her products touch her face. Responding to the scandal via Instagram post of a screenshot from her Notes app, she clarified that the video was only meant to replicate her skincare routine.

Is it just a convenient excuse for Millie not to use her own stuff? Does she secretly hate her own skincare line? Whether you’re afraid to try out her brand or you can’t because, surprisingly, most of the line is sold out on the Florence by Mills website, we put together a skincare routine inspired by Millie’s routine. It’s just as wallet friendly, and we’d like to think that Millie would happily let these products touch her face.

Step 1: Facial mist

The first step to any good skincare routine, as any skincare expert knows, is a facial mist. Because it definitely makes sense to spritz your face before you wash it all off. 

Millie’s rose-infused  spray claims to soothe skin and give a boost of moisture. Doesn’t it sound simple and dreamy? 

Well… it’s sold out. A fantastic alternative is the Derma-E Hydrating Mist with Hyaluronic Acid. Just like the Zero Chill Face Mist, it’s vegan and uses clean ingredients. Between the rosewater, coconut water, and hyaluronic acid, the Derma-E spray provides the same calming moisture.    

Rosewater isn’t your thing? What about the Hydrating Milky Mist from Pixi? Black oat extract soothes skin while hyaluronic acid moisturizes and B vitamins fortify the skin. It’s cruelty and paraben free, and like any face mist, it’s light and quickly absorbs into the skin.

BUY Derma-E Hydrating Mist with Hyaluronic Acid HERE, $11.50

BUY Garnier SkinActive Soothing Facial Mist with Rose Water HERE, $9  

BUY Pixi Hydrating Milky Mist HERE, $15

Step 2: Exfoliation

Complaining about the makeup residue on her face but inexplicably skipping makeup remover (we’d recommend the Neutrogena Cleansing Oil), Millie’s second step is exfoliation. 

Her scrub is made with sustainable ivory palm seed powder. Based on the reviews, it sounds like people do find it gentle and non-irritating. Also, props to Millie for not using microbeads.  

Debates about physical exfoliants aside, we’re following Millie’s routine. One that isn’t totally abrasive? The DHC Face Wash Powder. With finely milled powder and enzymes, you can scrub away all you want without worrying about over exfoliating. The powder to foam formula will stop you. It also has lavender to calm your skin and honey to smooth. 

Something Millie might love is a chemical exfoliant. The e.l.f. Gentle Peeling Exfoliant is an unassuming gel, but the gel pills on itself to create fibers that pick up dead skin without scrubbing. Packed with tangerine, papaya, and licorice extracts, you can make sure the skin is soothed while exfoliating. Just like the Florence by Mills exfoliator, it’s vegan, cruelty free, and free of parabens, sulfate, and phthalates.  

BUY Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil HERE, $8

BUY DHC Face Wash Powder HERE, $12.50

BUY e.l.f Cosmetics Gentle Peeling Exfoliant HERE, $10

Step 3: Cleanser

Millie cries, “You immediately feel better,” after “applying” her cleanser. Some other cleansers that would actually make Millie feel immediately better? 

The Pixi Rose Cream Cleanser covers all the bases the Clean Magic Face Wash does. It cleans and refreshes (of course), it balances the skin through conditioning ingredients such as rose and avocado, and it’s rich in antioxidants that protect the skin.   

Another incredible option is the Pacifica Complete Sea Foam Face Wash. It has coconut water, a natural skin balancer, and sea algae extract to restore the skin’s moisture and brightness. 

BUY Pacifica Complete Sea Foam Face Wash HERE, $10 

BUY Pixi Rose Cream Cleanser HERE, $18

Step 4: Moisturizer

Millie’s “favorite part of [her] skincare routine” and one she actually tries in the video (she squeezes the tube on camera) is moisturizer. It’s perhaps the one part of her video that makes sense. Moisturizing is very important. 

Formulated for teenage skin, the Dreamy Dew Moisturizer is all about keeping the oils at bay while staying moisturized and looking dewy. 

An easy way to accomplish that is with a gel moisturizer. A fail-safe option is the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel. This moisturizer is oil free but the hyaluronic acid draws in water, making sure your skin gets the moisture and care it needs without any oil. 

The Water Boost Hydrating Booster from Simple, made with clean ingredients, takes care of dryness, roughness, and tightness, leaving you with the dewy skin of Millie’s dreams. Plus, this moisturizer has a non-comedogenic formula, which means it won’t clog your pores. 

BUY Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel HERE, $15

BUY Simple Water Boost Hydrating Booster HERE, $5

BUY Versed Skin Soak Rich Moisture Cream HERE, $18

Step 5: Lip oil

Millie wraps up her nighttime routine with lip oil. Another product she actually puts on in the video, the Glow Yeah Lip Oil seems trustworthy, which might be why it’s sold out. 

Instead, another fantastic option is one from Versed. The Silk Slip Conditioning Lip Oil features jojoba oil and vitamin E, delivering moisturized and smooth lips.  

A no-frills option is the ChapStick Total Hydration Vitamin Enriched Lip Oil. As the name suggests, it’s packed with vitamins C and E and omega 3, 6, and 9 to help chapped lips heal. The oils in the formula pump moisture back to the lips. 

BUY Versed Silk Slip Conditioning Lip Oil HERE $10 

BUY ChapStick Total Hydration Vitamin Enriched Lip Oil HERE $5

Buy Nooni Applecoco Lip Oil HERE, $12

These are the back to school beauty products you need

Even though I just graduated, summer ending brings back some major PTSD. After every end of August, I get stress dreams about going back to school.

Usually, they involve the campus transforming into a creepy, haunted carnival or a global disasters worthy of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s assistance. While those nightmares are extremely unlikely to come to life (knock on wood), there are still some nightmarish scenarios that are universal for any student. Not everything is going to require a disaster survival kit, so we put together everyday emergency items for all the little stressful scenarios you might run into this school year.

SEE ALSO: The one reason you’re breaking out this hot girl summer

You look like you haven’t slept in a few months 

Three months to be exact. Summers are for napping all day, hanging out with friends, and going to cheap, cool new restaurants. Oh, and marathoning The Office before they take it off of Netflix. 

When you start school, everything changes. It’s all about those all-nighters and focusing on those pesky midterms (shudder!). Luckily, with a few quick steps, it’s easy to look like our usual awake and vibrant selves when we get up for school. 

First step? Depuffing. You can swipe the Pixi by Petra 24K Eye Elixer Peptide under your eyes, roll your face with a jade roller that was in the freezer overnight, rub ice cubes over your face, or whatever else works for you. I usually just hold a cold compress to my face while I eat breakfast. Once the swelling has settled, brighten under the eyes with a trusted concealer and add a nice flush with blush. 

Another pro tip: Using a white eyeliner on you lower lids to brighten your eyes. Our favorite is NYX’s bestselling Slide On Pencil. For $8, it’ll last you all four years. 

BUY Jade Roller, HERE $20  

BUY First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Bendy Avocado Concealer, HERE $22 

BUY Burt’s Bee 100% Natural Blush with Vitamin E, HERE $10

BUY NYX’s Slide On Pencil, HERE $8

You have a giant zit on your face 

Breakouts are normal, but they always seem to surprise you at the most inconvenient times – ever. 

Never again do you have to let a breakout shake your confidence before a big event like the first day of school or an important presentation. With the help of a few Very Good Light favorites, you can zap your zit away ASAP. 

Pimple patches are everywhere these days, but one that actually works is the Acne Pimple Master Patch from COSRX. Prefer a cream? What about the AcneFree Terminator 10? Don’t have anything on hand and all the stores are closed? Look in your first aid kit and put some Neosporin on your pimple. I know, I thought it was odd too when my friend first told me about it, but trust me, it works.  

BUY COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch, HERE $5

BUY Peace Out Acne Healing Dots – 20 ct., HERE $19

BUY AcneFree Terminator 10, HERE $8

BUY Neosporin Original Ointment, HERE $4 

You overslept and you have five minutes to get ready 

This doesn’t actually qualify as an emergency if you’re a fan of a #nomakeup face, but if you’re anywhere near as high maintenance as I am, it’s a crisis. While I’m fully the type of person who would attempt to squeeze in the entire 10-step K-beauty routine and a full face of makeup, I’m also not going to encourage anybody to be late to class. 

In order to look fabulous and be on time, a simple routine is all you need. Swipe on some Glossier Boy Brow to shape, fill in, and tame your brows. A simple coat of mascara to open up your eyes and some highlighter in the inner corner of your eyes and the high points of your face have a huge impact without eating away at your time.   

BUY Glossier Boy Brown, HERE $16 

BUY NYX Tinted Brow Mascara, HERE $7.50

BUY Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Definer, HERE $23

BUY L’Oreal Lash Paradise Mascara, HERE $8

BUY Benefit Watts Up Highlighter (mini size), HERE $8

You have class right after P.E.

Anybody who has watched Legally Blonde knows that “exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy and happy people don’t just shoot their husbands!”

Reese Witherspoon isn’t wrong. Exercise is great for you, but the problem with P.E. classes is after the class when you can’t shower and you spend the rest of the day swimming in your sweat. Some essentials to make sure you never make a stink about stinking? Deodorant, duh. A great aluminum free yet effective option is the Native deodorant. 

Also, a trusted dry shampoo, like the Kristin Ess dry shampoo, goes a long way in disguising any signs of hair sweat. Dove’s own Foam Dry Shampoo is also a solid choice. To go the extra mile, invest in some face wipes to prevent clogged pores and follow up with your favorite moisturizer. Our favorite wipe is Burt’s Bees that comes in Grapefruit. It’s gentle, but refreshing enough to awaken your senses. As for moisturizer, Clinique has a great one that’s lightweight, quickly drying, and suitable for all skin types. 

BUY Kristin Ess Style Reviving Dry Shampoo, HERE $14

BUY Native Deodorant, HERE $12

BUY Schmidt’s Bergamot+Lime Natural Deodorant, HERE $4.79

BUY Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes – 30 ct., HERE $3.50

BUY Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly – travel size, HERE $5  

BUY Dove Foam Dry Shampoo, HERE $4.89

You have to pull an all-nighter 

I don’t know anybody who enjoys an all-nighter. If you do, nice to meet you!

Not sleeping can be bad for your physical, mental, and emotional health, but it can also take its toll on your skin. Equal parts caffeine, stress, and unhealthy snacks, all-nighters can lead to dehydrated skin, puffiness, breakouts, and more. If you absolutely have to spend the night at the library, be sure to cleanse your face before you go to the library and put on a thin layer of an overnight mask such as the Water Sleeping Mask from Laneige. Once you’re at the library, put on some under eye masks to get ahead of the swelling. All-nighters aren’t cute, but these KNC Star Eye Masks are!    

BUY Laneige Water Sleeping Mask, HERE $25

BUY Innisfree Vitalizing Sleeping Mask With Aloe, HERE $18

BUY KNC Star Eye Mask  – 5 Pack, HERE $25

You can face map your pimples to tell you why you’re breaking out

Not all acne is the same, but have you ever noticed that some zits keeps popping up in the same few places?

Whether your acne occurs once a month or it’s decided to become a permanent resident of the United States of You, recurring blemishes can be your body’s special way of communicating with you. To find out what your acne is so desperately pleading with you, we sat down with Dr. Y. Claire Chang. A board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Dermatology in New York City, AKA a professional pimple whisperer, Dr. Chang told us how you can decode and listen to your acne.

SEE ALSO: This $7 acne gel destroys your cystic bumps in a day

All acne, whether it’s on your face or your body, can be narrowed down to the same root causes. The culprits? A blend of excess oil production, clogged pores, bacteria, and inflammation. If you keep breaking out in certain spots, it could point towards a range of things from lifestyle patterns to fluctuating hormones, so mapping your acne can be beyond helpful so you can figure out exactly what’s going on.


If you’re past the teenage hormonal stage, forehead acne could be due to your hair – or hair products. Yep, greasy hair or oily hair pomades, gels, creams can be a major cause of breakouts. This, due to it blocking your pores or increasing bacteria on your forehead area.  “Long hair, bangs, or oily hair may exacerbate sweat and oily, clogging the pores, worsening acne,” says Dr. Chang. And completely avoiding doing your hair by wearing a hat doesn’t help, either. According to Dr. Chang, wearing caps or hats can also clog pores and trap bacteria. Yikes. To decrease your forehead acne, Dr. Chang says to wash your hair regularly (and also your dirty hats!) If that’s not helping, cut it short.  “Oftentimes, cutting the bangs shorter and avoiding hair products can treat forehead acne.” And cut out forehead acne, for good.

Chin and Jaw

Did you know your beard could be why you struggle with acne along your jaw and chin? Isn’t that so rude? If you have a beard, ingrown hairs may irritate the skin into breaking out, but shaving your beard off isn’t the answer either. Shaving can inflame the skin, even leading to infection if you’re very unlucky, which means more acne. So, what’s a guy to do? According to Dr. Chang, prevention is key. She recommends, “using a moisturizing shaving cream, using a single blade or electric razor, shaving in the direction of the hair follicle, and keeping razors sterile before use.” Prevention isn’t a perfect science, so if your break outs still continue to flare up, you could always opt for these very effective treatments such as benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin, topical steroids, and oral antibiotics.

Deep cystic acne, and sometimes small pink bumps and whiteheads, along the jawline can point towards hormonal triggers such as the menstrual cycle. In short, your period could be the reason for your monthly pimple pop ups. Although the hormone train that is your menstrual cycle can’t be completely stopped, Dr. Chang suggests slowing things down with oral contraceptive and even some forms of high blood pressure medication (oral spironolactone treatment).

Cheek and Nose

There’s nothing worse than waking up to a giant pimple in the middle of your face, but it is also one of the most common areas people break out in. One downside to how common cheek and nose acne are is that there are many different causes for the breakouts. The most likely reason, however, probably has to do with the fact the notoriously pesky T-Zone runs through your cheeks and nose. The T-Zone, where most people get shiny and greasy throughout the day, produces an excessive amount of oil and sebum. Your over-achieving oil glands make the cheek and nose area more vulnerable to clogged pores and acne. An quick and easy solution? “Avoid bacteria buildup by washing your pillow and bed sheets frequently, which can touch the skin while you sleep and flare the acne,” Dr. Chang advises.

Back, Shoulder, and Chest

According to Dr. Chang, the shoulder, back, and chest are areas with high concentrations of sebaceous glands.Unfortunately, this means they’re more prone to acne, just like the T-Zone. An obvious issue is puberty because your hormones cause higher levels of oil production in the sebaceous glands. Although you can’t fast-forward through puberty, simple swaps like opting for loosely fitting clothes rather than tight ones can make a big difference. Sweating during exercise or in the summer can also contribute to body acne, so be sure to immediately, and I mean immediately, get out of your sweaty clothes when you’re done at the gym or when you get home and shower. Why not make it a luxurious shower with your favorite shower gel and fancy shampoo while you’re at it? It’s not like you don’t deserve it! When breakouts still occur, which they could because you’re human, Dr. Chang says, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial medications can help significantly with chest and back acne. So take that salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide wash and use it stat!


Everybody’s favorite past time, Netflix in bed, could be contributing to acne on your tush. Unfortunately for us, “sweating and sitting for long periods of time can clog the pores,” Dr. Chang shared with us. Clogged pores, as we all know by now, increase susceptibility to breakouts. Ass acne (which will now be known as assne) can also come from folliculitis. What is folliculitis? Simply put, it’s an inflammation of the hair follicles that is commonly caused by bacterial infections or from shaving. To combat this, don’t skimp on the soap down there, and if you shave for a bare butt, be sure to follow the crucial steps you would when shaving your face. Use a nourishing shaving cream, sterilize your razor, and go forth.

Our Takeaways

While some acne can be easily remedied with simple solutions such as showering after the gym or prepping your skin before shaving, recurring blemishes can also have internal causes such as hormones. Although hormones aren’t something you can control, they are something you can regulate with the help of a doctor. Even still, Dr. Yang’s recommendation may not work for everyone, but there’s no need to worry because not every single breakout is one that needs to be banished. Acne is nothing to be ashamed of because it is something everybody deals with. Whether your skin is flaring up in breakouts or you’re having the clearest skin day in weeks, you are still you and you are still incredible.

Reporting by Blair Cannon

Gen Z athletes are rejecting hypermasculinity in sports

In partnership with Roman

Masculinity: let’s talk about it. From the inception of our site back in 2016, our mission statement has been to redefine masculinity. A year and a half later, masculinity is now front and center in our national conversation. It’s why we decided to launch our first Masculinity Week. We’ve partnered with a company that shares our values with Roman, a company that’s redefining the relationship men have with their own health. They believe that the more we talk about, communicate, and confront our problems, the more empowered we’ll be. This week, we’re introducing important stories unpacking masculinity and how we, as men, can empower one another. We’re in this together.

BJ Sanders was an all-star high school football player who had his sights set on Division 1 colleges, maybe even the NFL. His future was bright. He was headed towards his dreams and all seemed to align.

But then he decided to walk away from it all.

“There was a very serious altercation with one of my coaches,” he recalls to Very Good Light. “It was to the point where we almost fought each other.”

SEE ALSO: The one thing everyone misses when they talk about masculinity

The cause? What BJ says is hyper-masculinity, an exaggeration of extreme male stereotypical behavior, one that emphasizes sexuality, aggression, physical strength.

Hyper-masculinity, or often dubbed “toxic masculinity,” has been on the tips of everyone’s tongue as of late. It’s what psychologists and behaviorists say is a cause for self-harm or harm to others and is especially pervasive in sports.

“The amount of ‘pussy,’ ‘pansy,’ soft comments like that from my main trainer, who was getting these colleges to talk to me, and athletes on the team was just very frustrating.”

The ways in which masculinity expects athletes to excel, limits and restricts athletes from experiencing a three-dimensional human experience. They’re conditioned to limit emoting feelings, being vulnerable or expressing a need for help. Our culture unfairly places athletes on pedestals for their strength, but in turn, confines them to being one-dimensional creatures. It not only isolates them but creates real problems – like mental illness.

BJ recalls an incident during his junior year. It’s when he had a groin tear so severe, he couldn’t hinge at the hip and needed surgery. Instead of words of encouragement or sympathy, BJ received judgment.

“The first comment I got when I finally got back to practice a few days later, was, ‘Did your lips tear?’ Pretty much saying that I had a vagina and that my… you know,” he says. “The amount of pussy, pansy, soft comments like that from my main trainer, who was getting these colleges to talk to me, and athletes on the team was just very frustrating. It feeds into this unrealistic mold of this toughness that surrounds successful athletes and the competitive nature of sports right now.”

It’s no wonder why there’s been a microscope placed onto athletes as of late. The pressure has amounted to something so big that men are now starting to speak out. It was in February that NBA All-Star DeMar DeRozan tweeted out a need for help. “This depression get the best of me…” he wrote. Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love wrote a powerful essay about the anxiety he experiences. A few weeks ago, Oakland Athletics star Stephen Piscotty was seen grieving the loss of his mother on the baseball field. He was jeered for showing emotion.

It’s clear that masculinity needs to evolve – and not only in sports. After all, hypermasculinity doesn’t just start and end with athletics. It starts when boys are young. It starts when boys fall down and we tell them, “Man up.” S’top crying.” “Boys don’t cry.” We’re socialized to accept that boys shouldn’t express physical pain, let alone emotional pain, and our prized athletes, especially, should be immune to pain and bulletproof. Masculinity suppresses them and chokes them of being human.

But the good news is this: masculinity is quickly evolving with the future generation of men. We can see this with BJ, who’s speaking out on hyper-masculinity and machismo, becoming allies to others on and off the field.

“[Hypermasculinity] made me quit a sport, honestly,” BJ admits. “It’s such a negative thing for all people, and that’s something that I didn’t want to represent, to become, to conform to.”

Today, BJ plays basketball at Sarah Lawrence College, a place where he feels he can be himself.

He says his new group of teammates are open, honest, and most importantly, vulnerable.

We’re socialized to accept that boys shouldn’t express physical pain.

They talk to each other about everything from bad grades, girl drama, injuries, everything. When a player is in his head during practice, they pull him to the side and give him space to share what’s on his mind. No judgement. This creates pathways for players to become a team and for teams to thrive.  

“Speaking from experience, I had a lot of anxiety with games and a lot of different other things,” BJ opens up. “I was able to sit down with the guys, everyone – every single player on the team, the coaches, and all – and open up about a few things and get perspective of what’s going on and how to handle that situation on the court.”

We spoke to several Generation Z athletes from across the country on their own experiences with sports and how they’re changing it for the better. This is what they had to say.

Justice Horn, 20, wrestling, Blue Springs, MO

How do you think society describes masculinity on the field or on the mat?

I think what society describes masculinity on is just years and years and generations of what a typical man should be and act like on the field of play, and then I feel like even off the court and off the mat, you’re supposed to act a certain way. Certain norms would probably be very narrow minded things like a man should be into weight lifting;  he should like to drink, to go out to party, and even be a little misogynistic. It’s just stereotypes like that. You have to keep up a façade of being this ideal man.

In playing a very hyper-masculine sports, did you ever feel the pressure to keep up this façade of masculinity?

Yeah, I really did. I think it depends on the generation and the time, but I did really struggle with that my early high school years because I was thinking not to be too feminine and that I needed to be masculine cause I was out at the time. I didn’t want to be in double jeopardy and I did feel like I had to live up to that. But now, I don’t think it matters because our generation is being a lot more open minded and I think, really, where that comes from is having inner confidence that you know who you are.

How would you say that weakness in sports is viewed?

I think in the sports world, things in your personal life are a lot easier to accept, but if you’re weak physically and you’re not performing, it’s a different scenario. What I mean by that is, in the sports world, we really do accept people of any creed, but if you’re not performing, people don’t like that. But then, mentally,  you always kind of have to put up a façade of being strong, being a leader, being dedicated to something, being dedicated to a that sport you love. It is a weakness and it isn’t a good thing. Even in the NCAA, they’re doing a good job about being fine with sharing your weaknesses, not only physical. For example, my concussion [when I played] football was really shunned on, like it was a secret. That’s one instance on the physical side. And then on the other side, on the mental side, the NCAA has been doing a good job with how we think about mental health. It’s good because athletes and students can share that and it’s not seen as weakness. You can get help and it’s not so taboo as it really was back even five or ten years.

You guys have been having more opportunities to open up to each other and you guys have been and you guys are all more supportive of each other. What are some examples and way coaches and teammates are being more supportive of each other?

Nothing is off subject and anything can be talked about. I think that really creates an open atmosphere because everything is so open and nothing is frowned upon. I think it’s just having an open environment and just knowing that not only is it an open environment but that it will be met with love and support and I think that’s what creates such a good team atmosphere and such an open, accepting atmosphere.

Between society at large and the sports world, there is a disconnect about how athletes can have emotions. Do you have any thoughts about that?

I totally agree with that because just being an athlete, you’re kind of put on a pedestal and you’re seen as, especially in the big leagues, perfect. You can’t have problems and you almost can’t not have a perfect life. But I think that’s a misconception because although we might look like gods on the field of play, we’re regular people and a lot of people need to understand that. We may deal with anxiety or have physical problems or even mental health problems. There is a disconnect because we see athletes as champions as if they’re immortal.

Jeremy Yuan, 18, tennis, Johns Creek, GA

How do you think people define masculinity and how do you define masculinity?

I guess masculinity is like a social pressure from peers and media to look a certain way, perform a certain way, and  behave a certain way. Personally, I haven’t had a lot of pressure when I play because of my surroundings and circumstances, but I can imagine for more stereotypically masculine sports, where you’re expected to look more masculine and behave more masculine, it could become an issue.  

Tennis isn’t a conventionally masculine sport, but do you still feel the pressure to be masculine because you are an athlete?

Yes, especially in college, where everybody is working out and getting a lot bigger and stronger than they were in juniors. It’s important to be physically intimidating, which can benefit you, but the benefits are smaller than in other sports. There’s less of a need to be physically bearing than in something like football.

Do you think that as an athlete, that societal pressure to be masculine affects you? 

Personally, I think I’m doing okay. It’s a lot easier to get by without satisfying the masculinity in tennis. There’s a lot of non-perfectly-masculine people who do really well in tennis. I think that would be a much bigger issue in other sports, but in tennis, it’s definitely on the lower side. You’re definitely able to succeed and there is less social pressure to be masculine in tennis than in other sports.

What do you think would happen if you or somebody on the team were really struggling with something that could bring the team down? Would you guys share it?

For us, specifically, we definitely would tell and we’d pitch in whenever we could. For example, some people in weird majors have weird schedules and they can’t make practices because their classes run in the afternoon. That’s obviously a problem. One guy told us that he couldn’t make practice this quarter because he had two labs which ran during practice time so he couldn’t make any practices that quarter. That was not good and he needed to keep playing to get better so we thought of a plan. We had a couple of seniors who weren’t in any classes Spring Quarter, so they would play with him in the morning and they would practice again in the afternoon. Different people, whenever they could, were like, “Hey, I got two hours do you want to play a little bit?” Basically we got him as much practice as we could as a team through individual efforts.

BJ Sanders, 19, basketball, Silver Spring, MD

In general, does this hyper-masculinity affect guys in the same way that it affected you?

Yeah, for a lot of people. Look at the NFL and the amount of people who are going through this post-NFL nightmare. For the past 40 or 50 years, NFL players have been using, essentially, foam helmets. Only up until recently did they start revolutionizing the helmets, and nowadays, there are helmets out there that can withstand all but car accidents. It’s so advanced now, but for this 40 year period, heavy hitting athletes were only wearing little foam helmets and getting concussions. Because of this, post-NFL players are dealing with CTE, [a degenerative brain disease occurring mostly likely from repeated head trauma], and there are hall-of-famers, who have had great careers, who are going through extreme anxiety and committing suicide. 

We call if having a ringer when you get hit so hard your ears ring, and it’s probably a concussion, but that means you’re playing good. And I went through that. I had three or four concussions throughout my whole football run. Had to go to the doctor’s several times. Had to stay home from school because I couldn’t see anything light. There are NFL players that are even tougher, even stronger, even bigger that do 15 years of this horrible, horrible trauma, and because they have to be masculine and strong, they have to push through that. That’s a brave thing to do, but at what cost at the end of the day? It’s been really rough for a lot of these guys.  

How do people expect you to be because you are a male athlete and how are you in real life?

The amount of “You’re nicer than I thought,” “You’re less aggressive than I thought,” “You’re smarter than I thought,” comments I got my freshman year is just disgusting, honestly. That’s a frustrating thing to go through. People expect dumbness, close-mindedness, anger, aggression, and so on both on and off the court. If you come to a game, I do play aggressively because that’s when I play my best, and I try to play my best. But that mind set doesn’t really carry off the court. The expectation, coming from the stereotype of hyper-masculinity, is that we play basketball and we go back to our house and play beer pong and chest bump and do dumb Jackass things, but we’re actually pretty smart guys. People on the team are doing engineering programs and internships in the off season. We don’t follow this mold, and we don’t have to. 

What are the type of things you and your teammates open up to each other about and the type of things you guys are supportive about?

You would be surprised. We’re very open about a lot of different things. There’s always been a stereotype that athletes have a tough mentality, and you know, we carry that in practice and games to make ourselves stronger and better for the opponents that are relentless and we have to go up against. But on the court, off the court, if we knock each other over, we help each other up. We talk about injuries, we talk about stress of the day, we talk about feelings, emotions, everything. We make sure our dynamic’s good. If we come into practice and someone’s distracted for something, we sit down, we pull them to the side, “What’s going on?” I think our ability to communicate creates such a strong bond with us.

Speaking from experience, I had a lot of anxiety with games and a lot of different other things, and I was able to sit down with the guys – every single player on the team, the coaches, and all – and open up about a few things and get perspective of what’s going on and how to handle that situation on the court. There’s times where I have checked out during practices and coaches have talked me through and all that kind of stuff. The same with some of our other  athletes who are going through something. They get frustrated, angry. It’s so easy to get into a little box by yourself but I think the guys, the coaches, everybody does a good job of communicating how to get ourselves out of these boxes and keep the season going.

You run a sports camp for kids in the summer. How do you coach them?

Because I look at the sport and how it is – and it’s survival of the fittest – I try to toughened kids up. I’ve seen kids that are injured, I’ve seen kids that are crying during the game because they’re nervous to speak up about how they’re frustrated, they’re nervous, or something like that. I’ll pull the kids to the side, stop the game, and all that kind of stuff, because I think that the kids’ psyche and not traumatizing them with that toughness mentality is key to making the kids fall in love with the game and the sport and have fun, cause you know, that’s the biggest thing.

I even do it with my niece because it’s a tough world out there. If she’s playing with kids and she gets hit on the shoulder, I don’t want her crying about it. I tell her, “Pick yourself up. You’re stronger than that,” and it’s the same with the kids on the court. My goal is to foster toughness but in a positive way, not toughness by saying, “C’mon get up you little pussy,” or, “Pansy, get up.” It’s more like, “You’re better than this,” “You can do this!” “Get up, you’re stronger, c’mon,” and if they’re actually hurt or they actually can’t do it, that’s when you give them the empathy to push through. For us to break that mold, it takes continuous patience and toughness.

Andrew Kim, 21, soccer, Aurora, CO

As an athlete, do you ever feel pressure to be a certain kind of guy?

Yeah, I think since you’re with a bunch of other guys in team sports, there’s more chance of conformity. You just have to fit in by acting a certain way. I think that’s what happens when you first join a team. Whether it’s acting like a jock or someone who is a typical athlete athlete. With my overall toughness and whether I got hurt or not and just going through it, I didn’t want to show any weakness towards my friends. Those are the pressures I’ve felt.

Why didn’t you want to show any weaknesses?

I wanted to show that I was important to the team. I wanted to show everyone that I was qualified to be a part of the team like everybody else since it was my first time playing soccer. I wanted to show everybody that I had potential, so no one would, you know, sleep on me.

So it’s important to support your team, but have you ever felt supported by your team when you were insecure about something?

Definitely. I have great teammates who would stay after practice with me and teach me a couple of things or go through games and just look at videos and clips of what I could do better or what they could be better at, so I could learn from their game too. I had pretty good support from my friends and teammates.

Did you have to reach out to them about that?

I definitely had to reach out and step out of my comfort zone. I knew that I wasn’t as good as them but I wanted to strive to be as good as them, so I had to step out and go out of my way to ask. I wanted to be a part of the game, so I knew that if I wanted to be a part of this, I had to step up on my end and on my terms. I had to show to the team that I was working hard. They saw me grow and improve as a player and for them to acknowledge that really made me happy and made me proud of myself.

Yitzhak Franco, 22, dancer, New York, NY

As a dancer, which is seen as feminine in America, do you ever feel like you have to be a certain type of guy? 

There’s no way to ignore that thought because, like you said, outside the dance world, it is seen as a more feminine career, but not really. I guess when I was younger, I felt, I don’t know if it was pressure, but the thought of having to be a certain type of guy even within dance and outside of dance and to measure up to these masculine standards was always there.

What made you realize you didn’t have to live up to these standards of masculinity?

I don’t think there was a defining moment, but also, one of the more selfish aspects of dance is that you are working out everyday so you end up having a pretty nice physique. So even going through puberty, all my non-dancer guy friends worried about how buff or defined their muscles were. Whereas, with my dancer guy friends, we’d just be like, you know, regular, because that was our exercise routine. That aspect made me more comfortable and confident in my body and how it presented to the outside world. That was definitely when I would say things shifted.

Between you and other guy dancers, is there a space for you guys to be supportive of each other?

When I was seriously dancing in high school, those were the guys I hung out with all the time, the people I saw all the time. You know, we collaborated a lot – quite physically too, and that creates more space for deeper connections. So there definitely was a space for male dancers.

In high school, I had two really good guy friends, and we’d finish class, go get changed, go to the locker room, and then we’d usually be the last people to leave all the time because we just lagged around and talked. That’s when we would do most of our critical talking about the class. That was usually the conversation starters – what went on that day, who looked really good that day and who didn’t, what we did wrong, and etc. And the consistency in which we would do that, which was most days of the week, definitely allowed me to open up. It could be things from doing really bad to a test, people you had feelings for, and just helping and being close friends.

Do you think that being able to be open with your fellow male dancers helped you guys to be better dancers?

I would say yes because there was an unspoken acknowledgment of the person in the dance studio. You knew them well enough so even if you were just standing in front of them, you were aware that they were behind you. It completely changes the quality of your movement once you’re comfortable being and moving with somebody.

Adam Dalton, 24, runner, Salt Lake City, UT

As an athlete, what forms of masculinity are expected of you?

Track is unique in the way that it’s both a team and individual sport, you’re competing to score points for your team; however, all of the events I competed in were more individually focused. Since I didn’t run any relays, it was always just me out on the track representing my team and racing. I think in that moment on the track, you’re expected to be competitive, aggressive, a team contributor, and those forms of masculinity are always present. But at the same time, you have to stick to the rules of track. You can’t tackle anybody or push anyone to the ground like you can in other sports, otherwise you’d get disqualified. So, it’s more of a focus and competitiveness-based masculine drive that defines masculinity within the realm of track or cross-country, as opposed to a more physical masculinity present within many other sports (i.e. hockey, football, basketball, wrestling, etc.).

As an openly gay athlete, did you ever have to face homophobia from different athletes?

I was out for the majority of my time at Grinnell College, as I came out at during my first semester. At least for me, it was very easy to be myself on my team because at that point, roughly 25% of the men’s XC team identified as queer. Needless to say, there definitely wasn’t any type of stigma present within the team. Generally speaking, most of my competitors didn’t realize I was gay, but once they started to figure it out, not a single person harassed me. It also probably helps that track and cross-country are more niche in terms of spectating; it’s not at all similar to football or basketball where thousands of fans get rowdy and yell all kinds of shit at the players. Because seriously, who goes to cross-country races…basically only significant others, friends, and parents of the athletes; all of whom are generally very supportive and courteous.

Because there were so many queer athletes on the team when you came out, what was the team atmosphere like?

It was really interesting, because the team itself was more queer than other teams undoubtedly. However, when the men’s XC team went from being 25% queer my freshman year down to 2 people my senior year, the culture was almost exactly the same. No matter what percentage of athletes on the team identified as queer, the culture was just kind of the way it was. The Grinnell men’s XC team was always quirky, tight-knit, and supportive. It was also masculine and over-achingly kind of bro-y, but was perceived as less so than other men’s teams on campus. Overall, there’s a lot of team bonding where guys will make fun of each other. It’s not uncommon for guys to say mean things about/make fun of other teammates’ girlfriends, parents, etc. With gay athletes, people would instead make fun of their boyfriends. It was basically equal opportunity teasing. In a weird way, my teammates teasing me in the same way as everybody else was a sign of affection and respect.

Do you think that being friends with everybody on the team and forming your own team family helped you guys to be better runners?

I think so because we all, for the most part, wanted to see each other succeed. We would really push each other to do our best and root for each other. There’s absolutely no money or fan pressure; therefore, everyone does the sport because they love it and more or less appreciate the social aspects the team provides. I think an organic and lighthearted team bond was a great aspect of being a D3 athlete in a more niche sport.

Do you think that this type of closeness between teammates is different from previous generations?

I think the place where camaraderie is coming from and overall the closeness is almost the same, but the way it manifests itself is different. The camaraderie and brotherhood you have between teammates stands regardless of time period; because you have the deep understanding and support of your teammates, and shared connections through sports, your passions, and your goals. That being said, I think people today are more open to talk about tough mental and physical issues. Whereas before, there was more of a you’re a man, you can take this, get through your stuff, don’t let us know about it type of attitude. That, I believe, has changed over time. Also, I think today more male athletes are open to being emotive and thinking for themselves. In previous generations, many coaches were revered as an absolute figure not to question and showing emotion was not seen positively. However, in my experiences, coaching is now a two-way street and athletes have more license to express their emotions.

What is the stigma around being mentally weak, not finishing a race, or not having dedication? How do you as a runner combat that?

I started running because I was in a really small town in Iowa and I went to Catholic school, but I knew I was gay from a really young age. I thought that the way I could become super masculine and not have people think I was gay and be respected was to become a star athlete. I think a lot of my original drive came from wanting to prove myself, so a lot of it was just in my own head. But at the same time, that’s where I originally came from, so my training was obsessive and tough to the point where I ran a race on a broken leg in my senior year of high school because I was that insane to try and qualify for state cross-country. When I got to college and I came out and I no longer had that kind of background, the thing that kept me going was wanting to do my best personally and wanting to be the best I could for my team. That’s where my mindset shifted when I no longer had to prove anything to myself.

My motivation in college was that I wanted to run for my team and I enjoyed what I was doing, but once that was gone, I ran to stay in shape but I didn’t really see the point. But then I ran into a training group in Salt Lake City and I started training with them, and that’s when I regained my love for running and I found that yes, even post-collegiately, you have a family and a team and friends that you can run with. Because of that, I rediscovered my love for running and I started training for a while. And just the self-improvement, the camaraderie, and hanging out with everyone post-collegiately was something that spurred me on and after training for less than a year and being a mediocre D3 runner, I still somehow qualified for the Olympic marathon trials, which still makes no sense to me.

I think that my motivation now is that running is a part of my identity and it’s what I do and I have a good group of people to train with. As long as I’m healthy, it’s something I want to move forward with.

Walter Prince, 21, soccer, Aurora, CO

Do you ever open up to your teammates when you are in your head?

Yeah but only a few of the close ones. It’s easier to be closer to guys in your class cause you’ve just grown up with them throughout the four years. I think everyone has their own way of dealing with it. I don’t really need to talk to anybody about it as much – especially on my team. I think I’m pretty good with dealing with it myself or if I really need guidance, I will call my dad or something. For the most part, I think once you get to this level, you kind of learn to deal with it yourself because we played for a long time so everyone has their techniques to deal with it.

When you do open up to your teammates and your dad, in what ways are they supportive of you?

A lot of it’s affirmation. Just being there to listen to you and hear where you’re coming from. For me, it always helps when someone, even if it’s not practical, gives motivation by saying it’s going to be good, you’re fine, and stuff like that. Little compliments like that are strong and do a lot. Also, when they share their experiences as well, like similar experiences or they’re going through the same thing, it’s a bond, and that helps as well.

In what ways does the bond you guys create when you support each other help you guys to be better athletes?

It makes it a lot more bearable. For example, a fitness session that’s really tough, if you know that your other teammates are doing it with you, it makes it a lot easier. Especially because you guys can talk about it later, like how hard it was, how you guys got through it. That’s how the bond is made, I think. It’s like being able to have a shared experience, and that’s something nobody can take away from you, when you have that shared experience with a teammate and you guys understand the same pain, and stuff like that.

What are the changes you want to see athletes making to step away from insecurities of having to put up a façade?

I would say, for everyone, it’s important to be true to yourself and not really care what society tells you or what you think you should do because whatever identifier you play. For me, something I’ve learned is definitely that concept of being true to yourself and it’s okay to feel the way you feel. It’s not wrong to have feelings and to act upon them. Once you understand that, then you feel a lot more free and you can be more comfortable and that insecurity doesn’t matter as much. I think for athletes now, it’s stepping away from what the definition of what masculinity or toughness used to be. For example, I think it’s tough to say how you feel if you’re sad. If you really follow your feelings, I think that’s pretty tough. I think that’s pretty masculine to be honest cause if you do that, it takes a lot of bravery. But I think that’s not the full definition that people would use now.

As we’re transitioning into a more socially conscious society, we’re understanding that some of these norms created are kind of stupid. I think it’s important for athletes to understand as well that being brave is just as important as being tough. I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s okay to feel how you feel.

Self-care products to keep in mind when you’re transitioning

From using your preferred pronouns to undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT), those who choose to transition go through what can be a challenging process. However, despite all of its work, transitioning is literally life-changing for those who choose to partake.

According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 61% of trans and gender non-conforming survey participants reported having medically transitioned, and 33% had surgically transitioned. It’s clear that medical transitioning is not the only choice for everybody.

For trans people who choose to go through HRT, the wave of testosterone, or simply, T,  flooding one’s body with sudden changes can be overwhelming. As Dr. Maddie Deutsch of University of California, San Francisco’s Center of Excellence for Transgender Health puts it, hormone therapy is like going through puberty again. This time around, though, you aren’t alone. Very Good Light spoke with five trans individuals about their own experiences with HRT and they recommended a few things to help out on your journey. Below, we’ve compiled items in a “post-transition kit” with products you’ll need in prep for your immediate future.

Your Skin

One the most instant changes is to the skin. After testosterone, it will grow thicker and more oily with enlarged pores – basically a break-out waiting to happen. Additionally, “chest binding can cause breakouts on the chest and back,” Ash, a 21- year old aspiring psychologist from NYC, tells us. Transitioning already has a lot of bumps in the road, and it’s only an added stress to develop skin issues.

SEE ALSO: What if we could redefine acne and see it as beautiful? 

When first starting T, Jaimie Wilson, an NYC musician, recalls that his skin “definitely flared up.” He shares: “I used a lot of witch hazel to calm my skin.” Witch hazel, a natural botanical extract, is an anti-inflammatory packed with antioxidants, and it’s really good for acne prone skin because it clears out the skin’s excess oils.   

“My skincare routine before T was very minimal,” Baphomet Nayer, a 21 year old Brooklyn resident, tells us. “After T, my skin texture changed to where it’s more porous and less smooth, and I have to take that into account now.”

Baphomet found his skin to be turbulent,  a reason why he decided to simplify. “I’ve been using Lush’s Eau Roma Toner,” he says, sharing his love for the two-ingredient toner. Also on Baphomet’s list of favorites? The classic Nivea Cream and the CVS Health Gentle Cleanser All Skin Types.    

Ash also shared with us that his skin had grown more oily since starting T. His secret tip? “Exfoliating,” he tells us. “I don’t have a product I have a deep loyalty to, but exfoliating is definitely really important.” As a bonus, exfoliating helps Ash “prevent ingrown hairs, especially around [his] face and chest.”

“My body is changing really fast so I do have stretch marks that came up from my transition,” Ash tells us, “and Vitamin E oil has been a lifesaver.”

sj Miller

“If you have surgeries, you end up with scar tissue,” sj Miller, PhD, Coordinator of Master in Science, Dual Teacher Certification Program in Secondary English Education and English as a Second Language, who is agender and pronoun-less, explains. “I was encouraged to buy rosehip oil because it has natural properties for healing scars.”

Your Hair

On T, the hair on the head is confronted with changing textures, receding hairlines, and sometimes even male pattern balding.

“I started losing my hair and I had to change hair gels,” sj shares. sj now uses the Crew Grooming Cream, which doesn’t pull out sj’s hair as much.

Ash’s hair was always curly. “But it got curlier and I’ve been trying to negotiate with that,” he shares. Ash recommends using the Reuzel Fiber Pomade. “It’s super lightweight and you don’t need a lot of it for it to work.”  

“My hair got really coarse and it thickened up,” Jaimie tell us. To style his thick hair, Jaimie uses the Kevin.Murphy Night.Rider Matte Texture Paste.

“I have noticed that my scalp is a lot more dry and sensitive than it used to be, and to combat that, I use Lush’s Superbalm,” Baphomet says. “Literally, after using it one time, no dandruff, no nothing for a month.”

Your Facial Hair

“I was so excited to shave. The first day I got some hair, I was like ‘yeah! I can shave now!’”  

Having studied up on shaving tools, sj arrived at The Art of Shaving. sj starts with the Sandalwood Pre-Shave Oil, lathers, then uses a straight razor. “Those blades are actually better because they’ll give you a finer cut,” sj says. sj reminds us, “These are blades. People could really hurt themselves and I’ve had to learn how to not cut myself.”  

Baphomet was ecstatic to shave for the first time. “I did everything correctly because I had been practicing and I talked to my boyfriend and my dad [about shaving],” he tells us. “The next morning, I wake up, and I’m like, ‘Wow, my jaw and neck feel so swollen and itchy.’ When I looked in the mirror it was red with welts.” Confronted with severe razor burns, Baphomet resourcefully “went out to CVS and got a little electric trimmer [from Remmington] that doesn’t shave as close to the skin.”  Instead of stressing out over razor bumps, Nayer simply decided to make stubble his style.

Shaving, however, is a choice and you are not obligated to shave. “You might experience dysphoria, especially if you’re just starting T and you don’t have that much facial hair,” Jaimie notes.

“I never liked, and I still don’t like, shaving completely,” Jaimie shares. “I feel that it kind of makes me look younger. I get clippers from Wahl with a really low guard so I still look groomed while the facial hair is still present.”  

Your Emotions

Dishearteningly, the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that a staggering 78% of trans K-12 students reported harassment at school and 53% of survey respondents reported verbal harassment and disrespectful treatment in public places. The same study found that 41% of the survey participants, compared to the 1.6% of the general population, had at some point made an attempt to take their own lives.

Despite this mistreatment, many of the participants were able to return to school and obtain their degrees. Those who had been terminated due to bias, found new employment. Those who faced housing discrimination were able to find housing. There’s no doubt that the trans community is overflowing with tenacity, resilience, and strength.  

“Find your source of strength and know that you never need to justify your existence to any one. That resilience is important to our survival,” Christian Zsilavetz, Pride School Atlanta’s Director of Community Outreach and Fundraising, says.

That source of strength is different for everybody, but from the people we spoke to, there was one resounding answer.

Christian and his wife Heather Hastings (she/her/hers)

“One of the most important things people need is a way to find community,” Christian tells us. “Actually being able to look somebody in the eye and get a hug or a handshake and hear their voice and laugh together is so important for all of us. We need to see people who look like us.” “Don’t let anyone’s discomfort be an obstacle because you have to live your truth and your life and nobody is going to live it for you,” sj advises. “Surround yourself with people who are going to love you and be there for you.”     

“When I did come out, I lost my family and my friends. Social media was my place to go where other people could connect with me,” Jaimie tells us. “That’s really where I found my support system and it’s still there. Now, I’m lucky to be able to help other people in my position.”

When we come together as a community, when we are here for each other, we lift each other up. As Jaimie puts it, “It’s so fucking attractive when someone has the ability to make others feel good about themselves. I believe that is true beauty.”