#RealTalk: Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin
By: Melissa Mae
In our #RealTalk series, we invite inspiring individuals to come forth and share their journey to self-discovery, confidence, and success in their respective fields. For the month of March, we focused on the importance of wellness, holistic health, and self-expression on women’s skin health and mental and physical well-being.
Ever since I started pole dancing, it made me realize that nothing is really quite impossible.
When asked if we wanted to collaborate with Singapore’s premier pole and aerial dance studio—SLAP Dance Studio, the answer was practically a no-brainer. It was also how my creative team and I found ourselves gallivanting around their headquarters one sunny Friday morning in March. There, we got to sit down with two incredible women who defy all odds daily (literally and figuratively) and asked them to share their journey with the sport.
Meet SLAP’s teacher and student duo of the month—Kim and Shermin, your everyday working women cum pole artists in their free time. In their daily lives, Kim is a risk manager, certified pole instructor, and a mother of two, while Shermin is a digital event specialist and a current pole student at the studio.
I had to spend some time and a lot of effort training up. But what I found is that as long as you're passionate about something, you're doing something you love, you wouldn't mind putting up all the effort and hours to be good at it.
As a training pole dancer myself, I was curious about the challenges they faced when first starting out and whether they differed from my personal experience. “I think the biggest challenge for me,” explains Shermin, “was really my body image.” She ponders, almost as if she were mentally placing herself back to when she first started.
“When you see other girls who have slimmer body types, you tend to feel a bit more self-conscious, and I think my self-esteem wasn't great at that time.” I agreed, knowing firsthand what she meant. “I think it was really a mental obstacle for me than a physical one at first.”
“The initial challenges I faced are the same as any other pole dancer who never had an athletic background,” adds Kim. “It’s the amount of strength and dexterity needed for pole dancing that I didn’t have before and was something I had to build up.”
To say that I was shocked is an understatement as I was so sure that Kim was always naturally strong and flexible pre-pole (she makes pole seem so effortless!).
“I had to spend some time and a lot of effort training up. But what I found is that as long as you're passionate about something, you're doing something you love, you wouldn't mind putting up all the effort and hours to be good at it.”
Kim doing some aerial pole tricks mid-routine
It is unfortunate that pole has a negative connotation to sex and strip clubs. And no, this is not to say that sex work or stripping are inherently bad things as they are still respectable professions. But as a pole dancer, it does get frustrating when the one thing you’re so passionate about is constantly being stigmatized in the media and society.
“I actually think that Singapore is a bit more open to pole,” Shermin illuminates when asked about the stigma of pole in Singapore as compared to western countries. “We really see it as a sport, and it’s more of an activity than anything else.”
“Maybe initially there were some preconceived notions for people who have never done pole dancing before,” Kim elucidates. “But I find that we can usually quickly dispel it because what I found is that as long as I'm open about this and I feel that there's nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of, people very quickly warm up to the idea of what pole dancing really is and also warm up the idea of me pole dancing.”
Shermin goes onto share that her family and friends were supportive of her pole dancing from the get-go. “My mum did a pole trial with me, and she saw the change in me,” Shermin reminiscences. “She saw that I was doing something I loved to do, and there wasn’t any scrutiny at all.”
I feel so liberated and confident now. It also helped me in my mental health, and I think it just made me a really happy person.
Shermin showing off her moves post-routine
If you ever asked a pole dancer to describe the sport in one word, chances are they’d probably say it’s empowering. Even I, a woman who has always suffered from self-confidence issues, can safely and surely say that I’ve felt a surge of self-assurance when acing tricks in class. Pole provides you with a wave of something (a sense of magic, if you will) that transforms you naturally over time.
Almost as if by telepathy, Kim put this feeling into words. “I’ve shared this with many people, and I’ll say it again. Ever since I started pole dancing, it made me realize that nothing is really quite impossible.” Shermin and I give her a look of acknowledgment here. “The strength that I have today, the flexibility I have today, the pole tricks I'm doing today, are things that I would never have imagined myself doing ten years ago.”
Not to mention how supportive the pole community is in whatever you do. It goes beyond just the sport but into real life as well. “(The pole community) continues to inspire me every day to be better about myself, to be courageous, to never give up, and to be determined to follow through and pursue what I love. After joining pole dancing and seeing many men and women being so comfortable with themselves, I very quickly felt comfortable with myself.”
Shermin agrees, “(Pole taught me) to really love and accept my body. With a curvier size, a lot of people reached out to me and said, “Wow, I'm really inspired by you,” and encouraged me. I feel so liberated and confident now. It also helped me in my mental health, and I think it just made me a really happy person.”
Kim and Shermin using our products post-workout
At this point, you’ve got to be wondering how pole and skin health correlates. Well, it’s pretty simple actually—regular exercise can lead to youthful skin in the future. Did you know that keeping your body on the move strengthens your skin’s ability to defend itself against age spots, wrinkles, and other external factors?
Additionally, research shows that exercise can power your body against harmful diseases and retain your mobility for much longer, lowering your stress levels and improving your mood in the process. Dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann also found that the immediate effects of exercising can be seen in “increased lymph flow and increased blood flow to the skin that brings more nutrients and oxygen to support the repair of skin cells,” that “decreases eye puffiness and body-wide inflammations.”
Exercise also reverses mitochondrial (essentially the engine of your cells) changes within your muscles to protect your naturally-produced collagen and help your fibroblasts (collagen-producing cells) work more effectively as you age to delay aging. It does this by creating a chemical known as ATP that repairs skin damage and produces collagen and hyaluronic acid that keep you looking young.
Of course, with this, a proper skincare routine is essential when sweating it out. Dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth K. Hale explains that “natural bacteria and yeast on the skin can start fermenting, and you may clog or irritate pores, which can cause small, red bumps.”
“Since I was a young girl, my mom taught me the importance of always cleansing my skin well and moisturizing,” shares Kim when we asked her why a skincare routine post-workout is vital to her. “I think it was a way of teaching me how to stay beautiful and young.”
Since I was a young girl, my mom taught me the importance of always cleansing my skin well and moisturizing. I think it was a way of teaching me how to stay beautiful and young.
“I have eczema, so that makes me more conscious when I pole,” she continues. “I make sure that I wash off whatever things I applied on my hands (during pole).” Much like rock climbers, pole dancers tend to rely on grip aid, on their hands and legs primarily, to ensure that they can stick on the pole when attempting tricks. It’s also why they are dressed in so little clothing as they need their skin to be as grippy as possible to ensure that they don’t fall off the pole and injure themselves (I can attest to this!).
And like most grip products, such chemicals can be harmful to your skin and dry it out, which is why double-cleansing and moisturizing is critical post-pole to replenish the moisture lost in your skin during exercise. “(After pole) I wash my face twice a day with a gentle skin cleanser and it's always followed by a toner. And then I put on eye serum and definitely moisturizer and sunscreen,” Kim concludes.
So who knows? If you're looking for a fun activity that will benefit your mental and physical health (and not to mention, your skin health) in the long run, perhaps you should try out pole fitness. You never know, you just might surprise yourself with what your body can do for you.
Watch the full interview here