"I don't really believe in imperfections," says 27-year-old Sara Geurts.
Most of us are guilty of being overly critical of our appearance, especially when it comes to our skin. We agonize over pimples, wrinkles, scars, and much more. But what if we could find a way to see those so-called imperfections as a beautiful part of the journey of being human?
That’s exactly what Sara Geurts, a 27-year-old model, wants us to do. Geurts is living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a group of connective tissue disorders that can manifest in many different ways. EDS has 12 subtypes; the two that Geurts has affect her health on various levels. The most visible effect is that it slows collagen production and causes her skin to appear fragile and wrinkled.
It took years for Geurts to feel comfortable in her own skin. Now, she's using her modeling career to help build awareness about EDS and encourage body positivity in everyone.
“I consider it to be the most beautiful thing ever now,” Geurts tells Health, referring to her skin, “but if you asked me three or four years ago, I would have been covered up in T-shirts and probably brushed off the question.”
Guerts was diagnosed at the age of 10, when very little information was available on EDS, she says. Unable to get the answers she needed about the disorder, Guerts pushed it to the back of her mind, spending years hiding her skin and avoiding all talk about the condition that caused it.
That all changed after Guerts went through a breakup, which made her reevaluate her relationship with herself. With help from her friends and family, she began to make peace with the parts of her that she had always seen as flawed.
She also said good-bye to friends who were negative forces in her life and stopped paying attention to media that didn't help affirm her self-love. “When I started to change my vision, I began to view my skin as my own sense of beauty that no one else had,” she says.
Geurts, who lives in Minneapolis, has come a long way since the days when she was ashamed of her skin, but she admits self-acceptance isn’t always easy.
“This journey of self-love is never really a journey that I think is over,” she explains. “You always have to give yourself those constant little reminders to not slip back into those old or negative mindsets.”
Surrounding herself with people who share her values has been key. She says her girlfriend, Briana Berglund, who also takes all of her photos (including the ones here), has been one of her biggest supporters.
Geurts says she chose to use photos of her skin to raise awareness of EDS because she knew it would get people’s attention, but she also wants the world to know that not all EDS patients look like her. EDS can affect any area of the body that has connective tissue, which includes the skin but also muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and organs.
“I don’t want anyone to feel like, ‘Oh, I don’t look like that person, so therefore I don’t have this,’” she says. “I’m doing this to make everyone aware of the disorder as a whole, all 13 subtypes.”
Guerts also hopes that her modeling career inspires anyone battling insecurity to embrace themselves for who they are. “I believe every single person is unique and beautiful in their own way,” she says. “I don’t really believe in imperfections. I feel like every characteristic, whether physical or mental, is part of who you are, and you need to celebrate that.”