Your acne doesn’t make you ugly. And although it may not seem like it, everyone struggles with bad skin at some point in their lives.
We all know these things to be true, but why are they so hard to believe?
It’s simple, really: Acne just doesn’t factor into the media’s representation of teenagers. It’s nearly impossible to think of a celebrity or TV/movie character who has openly struggled with severe acne. Sure, you might come across a few characters with acne or hear occasional stories now and then, but images of teenagers with acne are still perceived as too horrid and embarrassing to publicize. What’s worse is that when teenagers with acne ARE shown in the media, they’re usually ridiculed or made to portray an “ugly” character.
This is so ridiculous considering the fact that “85% of teenagers get acne, and those who don’t are a lucky minority.” In addition to this, teenagers also have a distorted perception of acne because the standards set by beauty and fashion industries lead us to think that only clear skin can be considered as beautiful skin. Why is it that both on and off screen, we as teenagers are only considered beautiful or complemented for “looking our best” when we have clear skin? Again, another contradiction in society’s perception of acne: people are so ashamed of acne despite knowing that clear skin is only ever a result of either a) winning the genetic lottery or b) wearing a ton of makeup.
In her video entitled “How I Clearned My Acne”, 18-year-old vegan advocate Essena talks about what she did to clear her acne including her decision to stop wearing foundation on a daily basis after learning to be confident about her bare skin. More importantly, however, she talks about her belief that there are so many things in our lives that we can choose to be thankful for and focus our energies on as opposed to immersing ourselves in the anger or frustration we might feel towards our skin. In one of her more recent videos, Essena is also very honest about acne’s unpredictable nature and the effect that it can have on a teenager’s self-esteem. The positive attitude that Essena maintains when talking about her skin might even be considered as brave considering the extremely negative manner with which society perceives acne. Essena is definitely one to turn to for any teenager who might feel hopeless about their never-ending war with their skin.
Similarly, beauty blogger Em Ford published a powerful video online entitled “You Look Disgusting” in which she shares the comments she received online when she started posting photos of herself without makeup on social media. Among these comments were “WTF is wrong with her face?” and “Imagine waking up next to her in the morning”. So incredibly out of line, right? What’s striking about this film is that despite all the negativity harbored by these reactions, Em created it in order to remind people struggling with acne that they ARE beautiful no matter what. In doing so, she also highlights the unrealistic beauty standards that society inflicts on both men and women, as well as the reality that there are people all over the world who share the same struggle with severe acne. Through her videos, Em not only presents acne as a reality but also encourages people to view it in a more accepting and positive manner.
These bloggers remind us that unless society changes its unrealistic beauty standards, we as teenagers won’t always have the most supportive environment when dealing with our acne. However, they also remind us that there’s more to life than immersing ourselves in the stress we might feel or the negativity we might receive from others about our skin. It isn’t easy to keep up a positive attitude, but we simply need to accept that this is the way we look in this particular point in our lives and there’s only so much we can do to change it. Our skin should never be definitive of who we are, and we owe it to ourselves to focus on enjoying our lives and doing things that we’re passionate about regardless of the attitude that others might have towards how we look. Although acne has the potential to have a strong influence on how we perceive ourselves, how we choose to deal with is much more powerful and can indeed make all the difference.