Social media is one of the main forces fuelling our insecurities and obsession with looking ‘perfect’. Yet at the same time, more and more people are using platforms like Instagram to challenge rigid beauty ideals and create a new and inclusive conception of beauty that doesn’t hold anyone to impossible standards.
Instagram’s growing acne acceptance movement is encouraging more people than ever to find the confidence to share their bare skin – blemishes and all. But translating that online courage into the real world can often be a lot more challenging.
The psychological impact of having acne is rarely acknowledged but the effect it can have on your sense of self worth and confidence can be extremely damaging. There’s still a pervasive assumption that those who have acne simply aren’t ‘healthy’ enough or might be lacking in basic hygiene. When in reality, for many people having chronic acne is something they simply cannot control, and ‘curing’ it is not as straight forward as just drinking more water or cutting out sugar.
This growing online community is helping to challenge the notion that acne is somehow ‘abnormal’ and inherently ugly. By creating a space where acne sufferers can feel represented and begin to see themselves as beautiful – regardless of whether their skin is clear – the Instagram skin acceptance movement is helping tackle the shame and stigma around having acne.
I spoke to some of the most popular skin positivity influencers to learn about their acne journey and to find out how they’ve come to love the skin they live in.
Jo Kenny – @beautifulbreakfast
“I’d had acne for about thirteen years, and at that point I had tried all the conventional oral and topical medications with no success, so I started to change my approach to clearing my skin.
About two years ago, I decided that if I wanted to heal myself from my acne anxiety I would need to confront my worst fear which was to show people my REAL SKIN. So with that in mind, I created an Instagram account and posted an image of myself exposing my acne.
There’s so much shame and guilt surrounding this particular skin condition and no one talks about it! It’s so easy to feel like you’re the only one going through it. But there are over 3 million uses of the hashtag #acne on instagram alone, it’s a massive community of a variety of ages and genders.
I would say that there is no shortcut to getting rid of acne. No overnight fix or one miracle cure product (which I spent years searching for!) Finding the root cause of your acne is the best way to achieve fast and long-lasting results. Listen to you body, start journaling and discover where your breakouts are coming from. From my Instagram account I developed the LYS journal for this purpose to inspire and guide people feeling utterly hopeless about their skin. It is a non-profit endeavor, donating 100% profits to Mind mental health charity to raise awareness of the psychological effects of acne.”
Sofia Gahn – @isotretinoinwiths
“Social media was a big thing for me. Seeing other people sharing selfies of their acne helped me to normalise skin that isn’t airbrushed and ‘perfect’ looking. It also made me start to critically question the beauty standards that we value so highly in society.
I realized how ridiculous they were, and how I would probably never be able to live up to those standards. I felt empowered by defying those standards and showing that there are so much more to me than my skin. Someone’s worthiness and capability aren’t found in their ability to achieve clear skin.
I started seeing my beauty as a whole and that stopped me from fixating on my skin’s imperfections. We’re all multifaceted beings and there are so many qualities that make us who we are outside of how our skin looks.
Skin positivity as a movement has definitely grown, but often times acne and skin that differs from the clear skinned norm is left out in acceptance campaigns. I want to see positive representation in media, commercials, tv-series, you name it. Because when you see yourself represented in a positive light, you can apply that to yourself as well, you recognize that you are a person that is worthy to be in the spotlight as well.”
Lea Alexandra – @skinwithlea
“I want to help people realise that it really isn’t them talking when they get down on themselves because of their acne. It’s all this conditioning that acne is gross and ugly and hard to get rid of etc. I think it really just comes down to not letting yourself be defined by your acne and how you look and living your life anyway instead of hiding away.
Yes this is hard to do in the beginning but once you make it a habit, it’s not going to hold you back anymore. You can still love yourself even with acne, you can still enjoy your life and go places and feel good about yourself. You don’t have to be perfect to be confident or look a certain way. It’s really all in your head.
If you want to get out of the cycle of shame and obsession and worry over your acne and your skin you have to stop letting it consume your life. Start replacing the negative habits with something else, be kind to yourself, go enjoy your life anyway.
The secret is you getting tired of hiding away and deciding to not let your acne hold you back in life anymore. Once you take the focus away from your acne and your skin, that’s when the internal as well as the external healing can begin.”
Cassandra Bankson – @cassandrabankson
“I had been suffering with acne for eight years and I was hating myself and appearance daily, never ever giving myself a positive complement. One day while looking in the mirror, it dawned on me that the underlying reason that I wanted to get rid of my acne was to feel better about myself, and ultimately to feel happy.
But happy in itself is independent of many other things – some would even see it as a choice. I realized that I could wait all of my life to have clear skin in order to accept myself. I realized I could wait until I earned $1 million to tell myself that I was financially free. I could wait until I had a doctorate degree to celebrate the hard work that I had done in school. Or I could choose to celebrate all of these things today.
Realizing that my final goals have not been met completely, but I can still celebrate the small wins.
After that I made the choice to except the fact that I had acne, but choose to no longer let it define me. Yes, my skin has blemishes, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve already come along way. Yes, my appearance isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve to go out, have fun, make new friends, or try new things.
I started to find value in other places, and let my actions and morals defined me instead. This was the steppingstone into loving myself, even with blemished skin.
I’d say to anyone who is currently wrestling their own appearance and identity, look for what makes you unique and beautiful. Do you love your eyes, or your hair? Outside of appearance, do you have morals and values that help others? Have you done things out of kindness that positively impact the world?
Remember that what you look like has no relationship to the positive impact you can make on the world. You are valuable simply because of who you are, not because of what you look like, or what you do or don’t have.”