Why Social Media Needs Acne-Positivity Now More Than Ever
Photo Source: Peter Devito
One particularly sleepless night, after another mindless Instagram binge, I went into my phone to finally set up time limits for my social media apps. That moment came from a realization of just how skewed my perceptions of “real life” had become because of the images I scrolled through daily. It was time for a self-served intervention— a much-needed reset.
Looking at a seemingly endless stream of perfectly filtered vacation photos and impossibly dewy and flawless selfies, it’s easy to feel inadequate and underrepresented. This is particularly true when you’re an adult struggling with acne. Thankfully, there’s been a refreshing trend blossoming all over social media in the past couple of years that’s closely tied to the self-love and body-positive movements: acne positivity.
Another Journey into Self-Love
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a steady rise of celebrities, beauty influencers and even models sharing more vulnerable, unfiltered versions of themselves, acne and all—and I am here for it! Embracing the inherent imperfections of life isn’t just a collective sigh of relief; it’s necessary for our overall wellbeing in the social media age.
As the cultural focus towards positive representation in different arenas, from film to fashion, continues to gain momentum, it’s only natural that the shift towards inclusion would extend to skin.
With the surge in body-positive images and sentiments in ads and social media (we see you, Aerie!), representation of “real” skin—texture, acne, scars, etc.—has been a little slower to take center stage. But normalizing acne and other skin conditions that the beauty industry has traditionally deemed as “imperfections”, is exactly what we need to start breaking down long-held stigmas.
It’s Way Beyond Vanity
The stigmas around acne specifically—that it’s an adolescent issue, that it’s a sign of poor choices and bad health, or that it somehow signifies lower social status—have perpetuated so much anxiety and frustration in so many people.
Over 30% of people who have acne are diagnosed as an adult (1), myself included. As if adulting wasn’t hard enough! These feelings of frustration and shame around acne not only affects our confidence, a study in the British Journal of Dermatology has shown a link between acne and an increased risk of depression (2). It’s also been linked to higher levels of emotional and social impairment (3).
Negative emotions around acne can have a real impact on our mental health. And it can easily become a vicious cycle. We feel stressed and anxious because we have acne—and that stress can lead to more acne.
When we assign labels to skin: acne, texture, acne scars = bad, clear skin = good, we’re essentially tying our self-worth to a very narrow standard of desirability. Knowing how fickle skin can be (hello, hormonal breakouts), this mindset can throw us into a negativity spiral that not only ruins our days, but also chips away at our self-esteem.
Seeing yourself reflected positively in others can be the most powerful spark to start flipping your own inner narrative. A glorious no-makeup selfie of your favorite beauty vlogger with visible acne or acne marks may not seem that revolutionary now, but the message it sends continues to be impactful.
By seeing others owning their place in the world, being comfortable in their skin, acne or not, it empowers others to do the same.
Life has its ups and downs, that’s a given—but so does our skin! It’s time to cut ourselves a little slack. It may not always feel like it, but acne is temporary. Why define yourself by it? Say it with me: I am NOT my acne.