BODY TALK: SHELLY MARSHALL
THE NURSE, ESTHETICIAN AND FOUNDER OF BEAUTYSHAMANS GETS RAW ABOUT HER SKIN JOURNEY
In Our Body Talk series, women talk unfiltered about their bodies, their self-image, and self-worth through a very personal lens.
It’s a chance for them and all of us to chip away at the perfection-seeking myth in society today and get to a more purpose-driven, authentic life. Celebrating who we are rather than tearing ourselves down over who we are “supposed” to be. We are all unique and beautiful, and have the stories to prove it.
Like Shelly Marshall: skin therapist, esthetician, and founder of clean beauty line, BeautyShamans. Her deep-rooted passion for healing the body’s largest organ stems from a personal story she bravely and generously shares here.
Her journey reminds us of the power food as medicine and how nothing changes until self-love begins.
First and foremost, we absolutely adore your line of clean products. The ingredients used and the love and care put into everybody is undeniable, and has done wonders for our skin. You've described having an abusive relationship with your skin. Can you share what that journey has been like, and how you've healed?
I had my first acne breakout when I was 9. It wasn’t just on my face, it was all over my body. I played a lot of sports, so thankfully I was often able to hide it (and the evidence of my picking at it) with jerseys and T-shirts, but my pocked face was something everyone could still see. As a kid, I was chronically sick yet constantly on the road playing soccer. My life was essentially a broken record of dermatology appointments, picking at my skin, prescription creams, antibiotics, traveling to soccer games, eating fast food on the road, being sick in bed, new antibiotics, different creams – and all the while, crying myself to sleep every night and asking the universe for clear skin like my friends. I remember literally trying to rip the zits off my face, not caring how bloody or swollen I got. I was beginning to hate the person I was because of how I looked, which only added more stress to my raging teenage hormones.
Thankfully, I had other things in my life to be grateful for. I was pretty good at soccer, and eventually earned a scholarship to play at Duke. When I graduated, a lot of people were disappointed that I didn’t want to do something "in business”, where I would make a lot of money like all my other classmates planned to. Instead I wanted to go to Esthetics school. I didn’t care what everyone thought; my skin was my obsession and I needed to find out how to make it better. Yet even after completing that, with all the new and amazing knowledge I had, my skin was still a disaster, and I still carried with me the emotional and physical scars from my acne. At my very first job as an esthetician, my boss told me I had to do my treatments with the lights out so that no one saw my face. I’ve never forgotten that day.
I carried with me the emotional and physical scars from my acne.
My overall health was also still a disaster. I was always feeling cloudy, fatigued, moody, and constantly calling out sick. I remember a woman at the spa once told me in passing that my skin was so awful because my immune system was weak, and that my skin would start to heal itself when my immune system was stronger. I had never thought of my skin (or my health) in that way. I was tired of being sick all the time so I decided to try a different route to healing since pills and creams from the doctor were still not working. I started watching documentaries on food and wellness, and reading health and nutrition books. Most of it was "alternative medicine" that talked about how our bodies process different substances, and how the quality of our thoughts, food, and environment could shape what and who we are as a whole.
What was the moment of change for you?
Once I pulled the thread, I needed to unravel the whole sweater. I became obsessed with getting healthy in a natural way. It all came together after I realized one major thing: ingredients are everything. I began researching the ingredients in all the food in my house and was completely horrified at the abundance of “extras” that my body had to process, meanwhile the “food” I was eating wasn’t providing any real nutrition (you know, things like antioxidants and bioavailable nutrients). I threw almost everything out. The more I learned about the principles of using food as medicine, the more mindful I became. I started being more conscious of what I was eating, not allowing synthetic preservatives, fillers, dyes, or artificial flavors into my body. It didn’t happen overnight, but everything changed. My immunity quickly started improving, my face became thinner, less inflamed and red, my stomach flattened out, and my skin was starting to clear up. I was still eating the same amount as before, I simply changed the default choices for myself. Of course, I couldn’t stop there, so I turned to my skincare products. I started to see that the choices I made for my skin, my external environment, had to line up harmoniously with the choices I was making for my internal environment. So I worked on gaining an understanding of skincare ingredients, treating my products like I did my food, treating my skin like I did my stomach, and cleaning out the toxic habits and people that were spoiling the recipe of life I wanted. It was all connected for me at that point, and the more I did to improve my health, the more my skin would glow. That’s really the secret in one sentence: internal health leads to external beauty, and you attain it by attending to what you put into and onto yourself.
It all came together after I realized one major thing: ingredients are everything.
Today I get a lot of comments on how beautiful my skin is. I’m actually quite proud of the fact that I wasn’t born this way; that through my own efforts, I made my skin into what I wanted it to be. I still work very hard at having good skin—professional treatments about once a month and quality home-care—and I share my skin journey with my clients all the time. I think it helps them to know that I have been to that dark place where you look in the mirror and don’t feel good at all about what you see. I encourage them to start with a thread; to learn about one ingredient in their food or their skincare products at home, in hopes that they also unravel the truth about real beauty, just like I did. When I was 9, if someone had told me that my nightmare was to become my gift, I wouldn’t have believed them. Now I’m thankful for having gone through what I did. Without having to heal my skin and my immunity, I would never have healed my heart.