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I am more than my skin

We grow up in an airbrushed world. Everyone is portrayed to be flawless in all senses, thanks to airbrushing. Growing up with acne and awful skin in this world is pretty damning on your self-esteem and your view of yourself. They say comparison is the thief of all joy, and in this case it’s especially true. We have no choice but to compare ourselves to the perfect people.

I didn’t have anyone to look up to as I was growing up. Acne wasn’t, and for the most part still isn’t, portrayed at all in the media and YouTube, as it exists today, wasn’t a thing. Everything and everyone was airbushed, and it was easy to slip into the mindset of feeling ugly. My skin felt unnatural. I felt unnatural. I felt no guilt when airbushing my own photos, and I still don’t. I obviously don’t do it to the extent we see nowadays, I’m not giving myself 2 extra hands or anything. Just tidying up the bumps under my makeup so I feel confident enough to post the photo. We still aren’t exposed to acne in the media in a way that’s positive, it’s rare that I see any journalists discussing why acne is not a bad thing and how we can boost our self-esteem if we have it. Articles like that would’ve been invaluable to me as I was growing up, and maybe things would be a lot different for me now.

I was ashamed of my appearance for the longest time, and I still am to a certain degree. I was even more ashamed of the fact that I was on antibiotics for my acne – all but roaccutane, as by the time I was sent to the dermatologist, my skin miraculously cleared up. We’re told not to cover our skin with makeup to let it breathe, and although I feel better without makeup on it just isn’t feasible for me. You won’t know how hard it is to bare your skin unless you have suffered from acne yourself. I don’t trust advice from a lot of people anyway; different things work for different people. A lot of people swear by certain products that made my skin flare up, and a lot of people who have never had acne try to give advice. Hence the ignorant piece of advice labelled; ‘Has She Ever Washed Her Face’. Probably more than you do, hon.

I’ve had acne for a large chunk of my life; it started when I was 13, I’m now 20 and still suffering. Although it has definitely improved since I was a young teen, I don’t think I will ever have a completely clear complexion. Even if I have no active spots, the redness and uneven skin tone prevents me from leaving the house bare-faced. The dermatologist told me only time will heal the redness, but with the constant stream of acne that I suffer from it just doesn’t seem feasible. I obviously didn’t accept this answer and still slap whatever I can find on my face to even it out. PSA: Please don’t tell me I’m using too many products on my face and that having a ‘simple’ skincare routine is better. You don’t know my skin, I don’t know yours, let’s not do that.

There’s one, very specific, thing that irritates me about the culture surrounding acne. You cannot define your 3 pimples that pop up at that time of the month on your otherwise clear complexion as acne. As someone who spends all month slathering on topical creams and taking paracetamol to relieve some of the pain from the cluster of cystic acne around my face, it’s bloody irritating. I don’t want to play the “I had it bad so you all have to pity me” card, but I think most people that suffer from genuine, painful acne can agree with me here. It doesn’t even stop at the face. I get painful acne around my shoulders and on my chest that make wearing t-shirts and carrying bags sore. I would give my soul for your 3 pimples.

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I’m well aware that my paranoia is all in my head. The fact I wear makeup so other people won’t notice my acne as badly, despite the fact that nobody has ever made a nasty comment regarding the state of my skin before. The only person making horrible comments and the only person who is ridiculously aware of it is me. I wouldn’t judge anyone else on their skin, probably applaud them for having the confidence to show it, so why my estimations of other people are so low, I don’t know. I tend to define myself by the state of my skin – I’m on top of the world and the most beautiful human alive when my skin is clear. I’m more confident, and therefore I ramp up the humour and people probably enjoy being around me a lot more. When it’s a shit skin day, there’s nothing in the world that could cheer me up and everything makes me cry.

The reason I chose now to be open and honest about my real face is because I’m so inspired by a lot of people around me who are advocates for skin positivity. People like Em Ford and Kate Snooks, who show their struggles on camera. I want to use their journeys to inspire my own confidence which, in turn, will hopefully inspire even more people. Acne ruined a lot of years for me, destroyed my self confidence and prevented me from building it back up for the longest time. I’m finally now realising that it doesn’t matter. This is my skin, this is my face, and there’s not a lot I can do about that overnight.

Fighting my acne is an on-going priority for me, but instead of throwing everything I’ve got at it with all guns blazing, it’s time I try to accept it as a part of me. A painful, pain in the ass unwanted part of me. But still.
View Comments (28)
  • I loved this post, I too suffer from acne and always feel ashamed of my skin. I’ve tried recently to learn to love and accept my skin the way it is. The way society is makes it hard to feel like anyone else in the magazines or public eye suffers from the same issue. But I think you look amazing!
    Brooke x

    • Thank you so much. It’s such a difficult thing to do, accept your skin for what it is, and I’m still struggling but it’s getting much better! We got this xx

  • I’m so incredibly proud of you for publishing this post! You are amazing and you look gorgeous and I think this post will help so many young girls and women struggling with skin issues or even body image in general! xxx


  • This article is amazing, and I wish I could have read this when I had my own struggle growing up. I would get severe cysts on my neck and face, it truly was agony and I can sympathise with you completely.

    I’m now 28 and it has been clear for a few years, but my face will always be red because of the steroid cream I had to use which has caused permanent damage. I rarely go out in public without make up, but you’ve inspired me to embrace it!

    • Thank you so much. Cystic acne is honestly the worst because nothing makes it go away, they’re so painful. I’m so so glad I could help, we gotta stick together and keep inspiring each other!

  • Such an inspiring post! I’ve suffered since I was 13 (am 30 on Wednesday). Acne ruined a lot of years for me too and although I’m a lot more mature now I still have days where I think everyones looking at me. Luckily now I have quit alcohol, eat healthy and take zinc the breakouts aren’t as often. Thanks for being brave enough to share.

    P.s, you look beautiful with or without make-up

  • I’m glad that you shared your story. I have a posting about my struggles with acne saved as a draft because I just couldn’t find the strength to share that. My ance has definitely gotten a lot better since middle school but as an adult, I feel like this is something that I am just going to have to live with.

    xx Maria

    • Thank you so much. I vote share it, it’s so freeing and we gotta speak out about it more so we see it as normal!

  • I loved this post! I suffered from acne really bad in my teens; on my face, back, shoulders and chest and I had to get referred to a dermatologist to help it clear up. Thank fully after a year of being on roaccutane all of my acne had disappeared, it’s a miracle. I felt so insecure through this time but I know if i read this post back then it would have really inspired me and helped a lot. Also you still look so beautiful without any makeup lovely!

    • Thank you so much. By the time I saw a dermatologist, it had cleared up considerably so I never went on roaccutane. Sometimes I’m a little annoyed I didn’t get offered it sooner, because nothing helped except growing up, but then I’m thankful I don’t still suffer as bad as it was.

  • I honestly couldn’t relate to a post more if I tried! I started getting acne when I was 13 and I’m almost 24, so I know exactly what is going on on your head every day. I wrote in a post last year that it doesn’t matter what other people say, whether it’s positive compliments or advice, I’ve trained my brain to think acne is ugly for the last decade. It’s going to be a journey to finally feel good about myself and the way I look! And like you, my ance doesn’t stop at my face, which makes seeing people complain about a single spot so agonizing. Anyways, I don’t want to go into a rant or anything, but I do want to let you know that you always have someone in your corner that knows what you’re going through! Feel free to message me on any platform if you’re ever having a bad confidence day! I’m here for yahh!

    • Exactly! I struggle to see it as anything other than horrible and ruining my face, and that’s all down to me and no one else. I’m trying to rewire my brain almost, and completely change my mindset. The only acne I get really upset about is the stuff on my shoulders or arms, I don’t want to have to accept that and I’d much rather get rid of it! Thank you so so much lovely.

  • Oh, I totally agree with this post lovely! I’ve also been struggling with acne for a really long time- it started when I was about 12 and it’s still going strong at age 21! The amount of creams and medicines I’ve gone through over the years is insane! I had a really bad flare up last year, to the point where one of my classmates tried to recommend laser treatment to me-she was trying to help, but that kind of comment is sooo not helpful! Especially when I was already spending heaps of time going to get blue light treatment for it 3x a week haha! Luckily the antibiotics I’m currently using are working really well at keeping it at bay, which I’m soo thankful for 🙂 Hoping the struggles get easier for both of us! Thankyou so much for talking about this important topic! xx

    • It’s horrible, when you feel like there’s nothing else you can do! I’m so glad you’ve found something that works for you, I’m doing okay so far through regulating my diet and keeping up my skincare! Thank you so much.

  • I dont think anyone can truly understand how acne can be so detrimental to your confidence and mental health. It’s heartbreaking and I’m so sorry you have suffered for so long. I’m not going to recommend stuff because it used to do my bloody head in but I would say don’t give up! I had cystic acne for many years and I cleared it up a year or two ago but now I’m considering going off the pill which I’ve heard can give you acne because your hormones go crazy so I’m taking so many vitamins etc trying to prevent it. It’s so silly, but I can already feel my anxiety about it coming back. Anyway, as you said, you are more than your skin and have definitely inspired me with this post, I’m sure it wasn’t easy xx

  • Really loved this post, and agree with everything that you had to say! Would be awesome to see a journalist write an article talking about acne in a positive light, rather than seeing celebrities papped with one spot and having it be circled and laughed at!

  • Babe, you should be so so proud of yourself! I’ve suffered with acne since around the age of 12 and i’m now 22 still with bad skin. I find it infuriating when people complain of bad skin but only have one spot, and I’m here with two layers of foundation and three layers of concealer with my spots still on show. Over the years, my skin has slightly improved. I finally had an appointment with a dermatologist after being on a waiting list for a year, to have my bloods taken and be told I can go on Roaccutane, to return to be told my skin isn’t bad enough when I was having a ‘clear’ day, despite showing a reel of photos of how bad it is. I don’t think anyone realises how hard it can be when you don’t feel comfortable because of your own skin.

    This post has made me feel so less alone, and as if someone truly knows how i feel!

    Abi | abistreetx

  • Loved this!! I have been suffering with acne for about 5 years now and it has honestly made me so un confident and really impacted me throughout my life so far. I don’t think people realise the impact that it has on people and how their comments meant to help can actually make us feel worse! Thank you for this post,I think it’s so important to talk about so that people know they are not the only ones struggling! You look lovey with and with out makeup and I hope everyone suffering with acne can learn to love their natural skin!!

  • I absolutely love this post. I suffered with acne for a long time, from around age 11 and I went on Roaccutane for a year or so which helped SO MUCH. I flare up now every so often but apart from that my skin has really cleared up – but I know I’m one of the few that get these kinds of results. Anyway, my point was I think you’re right, having acne is something which just isn’t discussed or represented, and that’s wrong when it is a cause of pain, frustration and anxiety for so many people.
    Sian xo

  • I’m so grateful for a blog post like this as I feel exactly the same. My acne in comparison isn’t much but enough to warrant me to antibiotics and specialist creams and cleansers. The simple skincare does in no way shape or form help me. I only use a cleanser perscribed and a Superdrug own brand moisturiser, it couldn’t get much simpler. I completely get everything you’ve mentioned, I never wear a low neckline top as my soaring red spots are on display or a vest top to the gym as the top of my back also gets hit pretty hard! I was a lot different though in terms of when I got all my delightful acne. I had eczema and severely dry skin in my teens, so dry I couldn’t actually wear makeup or rub it in. In just kind of sat there. Once I hit my twenties my skin 180’ed and now I’m in the toilets on lunch literally drying my face off with loo roll. I reckon this is also the reason for the acne. Ugh! Live struggles, it def affects your self esteem and confidence and I’m grateful for side swept fringes, urban decay naked concealer and chunky knit scarves. I did watch a Lisa Eldridge acne cover video once and it always stuck with me how she mentioned the majority of our faces are good. And really it’s only the chin area of yours, the rest of your face is perfect skin. It kind of helped me a bit, hopefully it helps a little.

  • I feel you on this. I had acne from the age of 10 (10!!!) right up to my very late teens, and even then I spent 6 months on antibiotics before it finally started going away, and have had a couple of months on them since – and I’m now 20. Topical creams never worked for me, nor did any high street products. I was lucky in that mine never gave me crater scars, and the painful ones were usually on my chin (spots there have always hurt, something I attribute to nerve damage I acquired just before the acne began) or shoulders. I didn’t start wearing makeup until I was about 17 or 18 though, because I was lucky enough that the people around me never mentioned it unless I did, and I didn’t feel a need to cover it up. In the end, going on meds to get rid of it was just because I was sick of it, not because I was self-conscious about it. But I totally agree with you, it pains me when people say they have acne when it’s a few spots a couple of times a month. And you look gorgeous in these photos!

  • Well I applaud you for writing this post, it was bloody brilliant and I felt like I could relate so much. I had terrible skin in high school and honestly it’s so much better now but I still have issues, and I can’t actually ever remember a time in my life when I had clear skin and I can’t remember a time when I was not worried about it in general. That’s pretty sad when I think about it. You’re right though, I don’t want to be defined by my skin and I’m working on it, but yeah, I need to work on accepting my skin as a part of myself as well, instead of just hating on it all the time.

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

  • I wasn’t drawn to your acne. My eyes went to your eyes, your hair and the emotion in your face on your pictures. You’re beautiful. Although I have never suffered from many skin problems, you’ve encouraged me to just be myself and stop trying to cover up the flaws on my pictures. Loved this post x

  • Hi,
    I had a complexion problem until my early 20’s. I tried everything and when I started doing a little yoga, the inverted postures, like standing on my head, my skin cleared up. Thought it might help. Also a suave with comfrey root is helpful.

  • You are so beautiful! I’ve had extended periods of bad breakouts on my face but I’ve never called it acne; it trivialises the real thing. But I do feel bad though because there were times in my early teens where I have tried to give advice to friends with acne even though I’ve never suffered from it myself – I bet I sounded like a right patronising know-it-all! The first thing I noticed about you was your eyes and hair, they really stood out to me. I’m so glad you’re finding your confidence and talking about this. More people need to follow your lead so people don’t feel so self conscious about their skin.

    Meg |

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