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.
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.