At 19 years old, YouTube creator Emma Chamberlain is acutely keyed into an aspect of the human condition that takes seasoned adults years to grasp: the power of connection through struggle. In 2017, as a teen posting videos from her Bay Area bedroom, the content creator became known for her quick-cut videos in which trippy facial distortion was shown more than full-beat makeup (or any makeup for that matter). Some 9.29 million subscribers later, she’s still using the platform to share an unfiltered existence, in which acne isn’t photoshopped and vulnerability and adversity stay in the picture.
The more Chamberlain has shared her own struggles, which include suffering from hormonal acne, the brighter a beacon of transparency she’s become on the Internet, effectively shifting the way women are aesthetically portrayed on screen. Recently, STYLECASTER placed a mid-pandemic call to Chamberlain, a Bliss brand ambassador, to talk about keeping it real on the Internet as a form of self-care (even when you don’t have so-called “perfect” skin); heating pads as an unsung hero of the wellness world; and tapping cooking videos on TikTok as a form of relaxation.
Read on for Emma unfiltered.
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On Solo Sweat & Sun Sessions As Me Time
“I think that true self-care is doing things that uplift me for me and not for anyone else. That can mean exercising, eating well, taking care of my skin, keeping my home clean and comfortable, or being around people that treat me well. This year, I’ve found my independence and learned how important it is to be by myself and take care of myself.
Going on a run and taking that time for myself is so important—it’s a huge one. I’ve always been somebody who has exercised in group classes, but I find that taking that time to run and be by myself is actually really special and meaningful to me.
Working out really helps clear my mind a lot. I also love going to the beach and spending the day in the sun—sitting near the ocean and getting some vitamin D always really helps me. Then, I take a nice warm shower and spend time with the people that make me feel good.
And I know it’s random, but if I have a second, I’ll clean and tidy things up a little. It helps me feel in control.”
On Digital Transparency As Mental Health
“It’s so important to accept the way you look and project it on social media honestly. I’m vulnerable because I’m constantly changing and growing. I’m in a very pivotal time in my life where I’m about to enter adulthood and there are so many pressures that come with that: the need to find a significant other, the need to seem cool on the Internet. That’s the pressure I feel we all deal with.
I don’t want to be putting something out there that’s not honest and isn’t me because it’s false advertising. It’s like when you see a burger in a fast food commercial and then you go to the fast food place. You get the burger and it literally looks like it was slapped together by a toddler. I don’t want to be like that.
I want to show exactly who I am and for people to know exactly what they’re getting themselves into so I don’t feel like I’m living a fake life. That can be a huge responsibility if you’re feeling like you’re living a fake life and you have to keep that up. Some people have fun with it and it doesn’t affect their mental health and for those people, that’s awesome—I’m rooting for them. But I get anxiety if I feel like I’m putting out a false image.
I’ve also grown up seeing everything retouched and it was definitely hard on me. Comparing myself to people who aren’t necessarily showing who they truly are caused me a lot of grief. I think showing the truth of a situation can be really comforting. That’s something I really needed as a kid, just seeing that a person does get acne and she does look like shit in the morning. I want to be that honest voice for people on the Internet.
It’s something that makes me feel good because, honestly, helping others is self-care to me. Besides, if I had been sugarcoating my life when I had a full face of zits and never showed them, then they would have thought that I always had good skin and they wouldn’t have come on this journey with me. I think humans connect through struggle.”
On Shifting Beauty Standards, One Post At A Time
“I really hope that projecting truthful images of yourself can help shift beauty ideals. Since I started my time on the Internet, a lot more people are showing who they truly are and showing a more vulnerable side. It’s definitely a snowball effect: the more people do it, the more others will do it, too. Don’t get me wrong, there are days where I’ll take a photo and I’m like, ‘my skin looks kind of dry and I don’t really feel confident posting this.’ Those things don’t hit the Internet.
Then there are days where I’m like, ‘You know what? I don’t care. This is what I look like and it’s going up. YouTube has been a really great place for me to do that more than anything because it’s so much more intimate of space, so that’s an easy way for me to show who I really am.”
On Posting More Honestly
“It’s hard when you’re breaking out to feel healthy and happy, and I understand that. It’s not like having acne is ever fun and I’m not going to act like it is. I think the key is to get excited about something else. Find something that you’re really excited about that will take attention off the fact that you’re not excited about your skin—that’s something that always helps me.
It could be making a YouTube video about a story that you’re really excited about and want to tell or posting a cool outfit if you’re into fashion. The other thing is to remember that people are more focused on themselves and won’t be hyperfocused on your acne like you are. No one is zooming in on Instagram posts to see people’s skin. I mean, who does that? I see a photo on Instagram and I double tap it and I move on. As long as you’re coming at it with confidence and a positive message, that will always override how your skin looks. With human nature, personality is always number one.”
On Her Skin Care Journey
“I’ve spent a lot of my life not taking care of my skin. I neglected it and would treat it badly—and it would show. Part of me not having great skin was hormonal, but even when you have hormonal acne there are things you can do to help support your skin. Taking steps to get the skin of my dreams has been huge for me.
I went on Accutane late last year because my dermatologist recommended it. He said there were certain things going on with my hormones in my skin that just wouldn’t go away on its own—it was a deeper problem. I was on it for seven months and finished the treatment in early June of this year. When I was doing the treatment, I was like, I’ve got Accutane—I’m never washing my face again’ and my dermatologist was like, ‘no, you’re going to take care of your skin even more than you did before.’ You have to take care of your skin as much after the treatment as during and before. So I found some amazing products, which meant reading the ingredient labels and making sure that what I was putting onto my skin after the treatment would help maintain clarity and not just clog my pores again and bring me back to square one.
Once the Accutane was out of my system, I was able to start exploring new products again because my skin regained its toughness. I probably tried every single skincare product under the sun because I’m curious. I tried Bliss Pure Genius line before we started working together and I really am genuinely a fan of their products. I’m obsessed with Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Toner + Serum because it’s a toner and a serum in one, which is so easy. I also love Bliss Pure Genius Cleanser and Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Liquid Peel. I’ve been using these products for a while now. I’m the type where when I find something that works, I just leave it. And because I bleach my hair, I depend on Function of Beauty Custom Hair Masks to hydrate and give it extra love.
On Quarantine Comforts & Bedtime Treats
“I probably have 50 favorite meals that make me feel nurtured. If I’m cooking for myself, then I love eating pesto chickpea pasta, which is loaded with protein and fiber and makes me feel good. But I also love this pizza from a place in L.A. called Crossroads. It’s a spicy vegan meatball pizza. If I eat that, nothing can hurt me into my life.
In my downtime, I really like crime documentaries but I tend to watch a lot of cooking TikToks, like those from Tabitha Brown because they’re so quick. Anything with cooking or crime? I’m into it.
The one thing I can’t live without is a heating pad. Heating pads are super underrated—they make my muscles feel good. I was a cheerleader growing up and ever since then, I’ve had black pain constantly so laying on a heating pad feels really good on my back. But I also use it because I like having my home really cold—I’m talking about 66 degrees at all times. I like keeping it cold in my house because it makes me move quicker and I feel like I’m more productive. It keeps me awake. It’s a weird system that I have, but when I get in bed and I have my heating pad on, it’s such a nice reward.