This Model Is On A Mission To #FREETHEPIMPLE

Photograph By Sophia Harris-Taylor

In the past year, the body positivity movement has *finally* gotten a lot more love in the media. But for some reason, “skin positivity” is still very much lagging behind. Showing the world our acne still very much feels taboo (even though 80% of people have it!). But one model in particular is on a mission to change the conversation around acne: Britain’s Next Top Model finalist Louisa Northcote. After years of struggling to accept her skin, she decided to champion the hashtag #FREETHEPIMPLE on social media in an effort to battle the stigma around acne.

When did you start championing #FREETHEPIMPLE?  

It all started on the first day of filming for Britain's Next Top Model. On the first day of filming, we we’re supposed to go for a paired down, makeup-free look. But just before we started filming, my skin decided to act up, and my acne was really bad. During the year and half before filming, I had actually felt like my acne was under control. But for whatever reason, on the first day of filming, my acne was back in full force. I got really self-conscious while on the show because I knew the episode was going to air on television and the world was about to see my skin. I was really nervous about what people, and the medial, would say when the episode aired. What if people start shit talking me? I decided to take control of the conversation about my face by posting a selfie about my acne on social media before the episode aired. That was really the beginning of #FREETHEPIMPLE. 

Louisa Northcote's first #FREETHEPIMPLE Instagram 

Can you share more about your journey with acne?

I grew up in Dubai and started modeling when I was only ten years old. At around age 13, I started getting acne. I still got modelling jobs, but I started feeling the need to cover up my acne. As my acne got worse, makeup artists would have to spend longer and longer covering up my acne, and it would take photographers even longer to edit my photos. It really started to affect my self-esteem. I moved to the England when I was 16, and that’s when my acne got really bad. Maybe it was the climate change? I’m not sure. But I was in boarding school at the time, and remember wearing makeup every time I left the house. Actually, I even remember wearing makeup to bed because I didn’t want my boyfriend to see me without makeup. I felt ugly and horrible and I was not OK. When I was trying to get signed in London, they all liked my portfolio, but would tell me the same thing: “can you go away and clear your skin, and then come back in a month?” I wish I could… but that’s not how acne works! Being told that over and over really hurt my self-esteem. Even though I really loved modeling, and it was truly my passion, I had to stop modeling for a while because agencies just couldn’t see past the acne. I saw so many different dermatologists, and was prescribed antibiotics for six months at a time three separate times! I also tried all the horrible creams… and retinoids… which all made my skin angry. On top of that, no doctor would prescribe me birth control to temper my acne, because my mom had cancer and going on birth control could put me at risk. And because I couldn’t go on birth control, I couldn’t go on Accutane, because you have to be on birth control when you’re on that drug. I was in a really bad, desperate rut and my mental health was just deteriorating. It’s been a really crazy journey. I now believe, like you do at Mirra, that education is really the first step of getting the skin you want. If you educate yourself, you can figure out for yourself what you should be putting on your face.  So many brands say that they’re good for acne, and contain ingredients that are good, but they’re paired with ingredients that are bad. Like parabens.   I had been fighting acne for five years before going on Britain’s Next Top Model. I knew it would be a topic of conversation going on the show. The show itself was not a good experience. My acne got really out of hand and it was really painful, and none of the other girls had acne. But I am grateful for the show because it forced me to confront my struggles and start championing the hashtag #FREETHEPIMPLE. If I hadn’t gone on the show I would probably still be suffering in silence. Sometimes you need to hit rock bottom to feel like you have to change.

What is your philosophy when it comes to skincare?

I believe in not overwhelming your skin! I try to keep my skincare routine as basic as possible. Putting loads and loads of stuff on my face just doesn’t work. I also make sure to avoid products with unsafe chemicals and irritating fragrance. I think the media tries to over complicate skincare. The truth is, most beauty influencers don’t have problematic skin. A lot of them openly talk about new skincare products they’ve found or have been gifted and then claim that they don’t cause breakouts. And that when they follow a 10-step regimen, and put ALL these products on their skin, they don’t break out either. But I’ve found as someone who does get acne, if i were to try putting on all those same products I saw influencers post about --- a toner, then an essence, then a serum, then a face oil and an eye cream... I would most definitely break out. It’s sexy to show new products and wear 1,000 products at once. I would just say try not to give in to every new review and product you see. It’s worth while to really do your homework on the ingredients, and to remember that everyone’s skin is different. Simplicity is more than OK.

Do you have any specific skincare recommendations?

I love using black African soap to wash my face. It’s totally clean, and free of harsh chemicals. I also wash my makeup brushes with that soap. Other than that, I use a moisturizer, night serum, and sunscreen when I remember! I’ve also been getting in-office skincare treatments and have really seen a big difference with my skin. I’ve had 3 glycolic acid chemical peels (spaced four weeks apart), 5 laser sessions (also spaced 4 weeks apart), and am now trying out microneedling (I’ll probably also get 4 treatments spaced 4 weeks apart).

What effect has your movement had so far?

I get girls messaging me all time telling me that I’m inspiring them. I tell that that YOU are actually inspiring ME! I didn’t grow up with friends with acne. My parents didn’t have it. I felt alone. There was no one I could share stories and notes with. But now, through social media, I have conversations with people like me! That is truly the best reward of championing this hashtag. When I have a shit day, and I feel alone, I realize that I now have a safespace and a where I can feel comfortable being me. If I can inspire one person to feel confident and help them on their acne journey - that’s the best thing in the world.

Do you ever get bullied on social media?

Honestly, people on social media have been so kind. But sometimes, it’s hard for people to understand why I chose to wear makeup. Ever since I’ve become more comfortable in my skin, I actually enjoy the process of getting dressed up and wearing makeup! Before, I used to feel like I had to wear makeup when going into public. But now, I use makeup as a way to play. It’s great. It’s not a mask for me anymore. It’s about doing what you want to do when you want to do it.

Photograph by Britain's Next Top Model

I was suffering from acne in silence for no apparent reason! I felt like like I had to cover my acne every time I left the house. I should be allowed to go outside with no makeup on if I want to. It’s my face - why do you care?

Do you have any parting advice for people who are struggling with acne?

As much as social media can be a bad thing, it can also be a blessing. There IS a community of acne sufferers out there. Find it. I really think it will change your perspective on your skin because you will not be alone.  

Photograph by Sophia Harris-Taylor

As much as I thought I would, I’ve never gotten hate for my acne on social media. There’s an amazing community of people on social and I want to make it a point to show people that it does exist!

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