Skin Positivity Influencer Kadeeja Khan Shares Her Acne Story

Kadeeja Khan, as told to Chloe Lawrance
·5-min read
Photo credit: Kadeeja Khan
Photo credit: Kadeeja Khan

From ELLE

Kadeeja Khan never expected to become an influencer. In fact, she was only just beginning her skin positivity journey when an unfiltered make-up video went viral, revealing bare, acne-prone skin that, at the time, Instagram wasn’t used to seeing.

Now, half a million views and three years later, the 24-year-old acne model and make-up artist has built a following of nearly 400,000, sharing empowering posts, product recommendations and make-up tutorials along the way. But the road to self-acceptance hasn’t been without a few hurdles. Here, Kadeeja shares her skin story, plus how she’s adapting her routine to suit her age with Boots great range of skincare…

Growing up, my skin was completely clear, to the point where people used to comment on how smooth it was. But the moment I hit puberty, I started getting acne, which eventually spread to my back, neck and chest. People at school would bully me, teasing me and calling me names.

When you suffer from acne, you’re willing to try almost anything that promises to calm your skin. I’ve tried prescription products recommended by my GP to help with my acne, over-the-counter picks and even professional treatments.

It’s taken up until my mid-20s to understand my skin and accept what works for me. With time, I’ve worked out which cosmetic products won’t aggravate my skin. Now, rather than trying to find an instant miracle cure, I’ve built a skincare routine that helps to control my breakouts and helps to fade the appearance of scarring.

As a teenager, I used to think squeaky-clean skin was the answer, scrubbing my face with a bar of hand soap and covering my spots in toothpaste. Unsurprisingly, this just left my skin, red, irritated and covered in rashes, without soothing my acne at all. Now, I take skincare seriously; I always look at a product’s ingredients and patch test anything new before I use it.

Photo credit: Kadeeja Khan
Photo credit: Kadeeja Khan

I start every morning by cleansing my face of any dirt that’s built up overnight. Wisdom clearly comes with age, as I’ve ditched the unsuitable soap for a cleanser like Garnier Micellar Water. Twice a week I’ll use a gentle chemical exfoliant, as I’ve found these are better for my sensitive skin, when used sparingly, than physical scrubs. I always look out for products with AHAs, like NIP+FAB Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads, and BHAs, like Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner.

I also like vitamin C, which I’ve found really does help to fade the appearance of my scarring when I use it. I never used to look for specific ingredients when I was younger, but I’ve done my research about the ones that should work for me. I’ll use a serum like Boots Ingredients Vitamin C Serum on alternate days to when I exfoliate, and follow this up with a great moisturiser (like Boots Ingredients Hyaluronic Acid Moisturiser) to nourish my skin. Hyaluronic acid is another new holy-grail ingredient for me.

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

At night, I always begin by double cleansing to remove my make-up really thoroughly, rather than the single rinse with soap I used to do. I’ve always been told that when it comes to ageing, prevention is better than cure, so I've incorporated a few extra steps into my nighttime routine now that I’m reaching my mid-20s.

Retinol has recently become a staple to help keep the appearance of wrinkles at bay; the NIP+FAB Retinol Fix Booster is so effective and easy to apply. Finally, a really nourishing eye cream (like No7 HydraLuminous Water Surge Gel) is now essential for me to keep my eyes looking youthful.

Shop Kadeeja’s top skincare picks from Boots:

I’ve been on the receiving end of so many misconceptions about acne, but drinking more water and cutting out sugar isn’t going to suddenly change my skin.

There’s an assumption that people with acne are somehow dirty. In fact, I think the opposite is true. We wash our faces, change our pillowcases and clean our make-up brushes more religiously than anyone else!

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Photo credit: .

People forget the emotional impact acne can have, and it can be tiring to be told these things over and over again. I’ve just learnt to laugh at people’s misguided advice now when they aren’t medical professionals.

I think it’s great that services like the Boots Acne Online Clinic exist, where you can access treatments for mild to moderate acne without having to leave your bedroom*. It can be nerve-wracking to seek treatment for acne, but with this service, you can complete an online consultation, which can provide you with access to suitable treatment options. You can have prescription treatments delivered to your door in discreet packaging, too.

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Photo credit: .

As a teenager, I remember seeing skincare adverts using models with flawless skin, which made me feel even worse about my own. I could never understand why products targeting people with acne weren’t advertised using people that actually experienced it.

That’s why I use my platform to normalise acne. Building my following has helped me to learn to love myself, accept my skin and see how beautiful I really am. Yes, I still get the occasional hateful comment – but every message I’ve received from someone who’s felt empowered by my posts, or liked one of my product recommendations, makes it all worthwhile.

Discover products to suit all your skincare needs with Boots, in store, online at Boots.com or on the app

*Subject to clinician approval. Charges apply.

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