How The Acne Positivity Movement Is Changing How We Think About Skin

If you’re one of those magical beings who has never had a pimple in your life, we salute you, it must be nice existing on that level. But let’s get real, acne is one of the most common skin conditions on the planet and most of us at some point have had to deal with our skin not looking how we’d like it to.

Back in the day, acne used to be thought of as something we’d ‘grow out of’, much like our emo phase, but a recent study by the American Academy of Dermatology shows the rate of acne in adults is actually increasing. So not only is acne super common, but it might also hang around longer than you think… Much like our emo phrase.

But before you start reaching for the concealer, let’s hit the pause button for a sec. 

If acne is so common, why is it so stigmatised? (PSA: stop telling people with acne to just ‘wash their face’.) How nice would it be to know that your skin, no matter what it looks like, was just seen as skin, the amazing organ that literally holds your human water sack together for 80 plus years? 

The acne positivity movement is trying to create that world.

What is acne positivity? 

Acne positivity is in some ways quite a natural extension of the body positivity movement—you just need to look at the epic downfall of the Victoria’s Secret show and the rise of Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty line to see that the tables are turning. In the words of Kendrick himself: “Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks.” 

In the same way that body posi Instagrams challenge the conventional standards of what makes a body beautiful, acne positivity Instagrams promote acceptance of all skin regardless of its state. Btw, these are some of our fav acne positive Instagrams to follow.

Where did acne positivity start?

Take a scroll through hashtags like #skinpostivity or #acnepositivity and you’ll see thousands of images of skin—just not the Photoshopped to hell and back kind. Skin selfies abound of cysts, blackheads, whiteheads, scarring and hyperpigmentation in various stages of healing. It’s real skin, #nofilter and until you see it you don’t realise how refreshing it is.

Accounts like @myfacestory, @isotretinoinwiths, @skinnoshame and @mynameisjustp share their experiences with acne medications, rare forms of cystic acne, fluctuations in their skin. And through it all, they promote a message of self-acceptance and positivity—check out our guide of acne positive Instagram’s to follow.

Constanza, 17,  who shares acne positive content on her account @skinnoshame says she discovered the movement through the hashtag #freethepimple: “I saw a few accounts dedicated to the skin positivity movement and I knew that I needed to show my story and be part of it.”

“My acne started when I was 6 years old and when I turned 11, my parents took me to a dermatologist and we discovered that I have cystic acne,” she told Syrup. “Being the only one in my environment with that type of acne isn’t easy; I was even mistaken for having a contagious infection and people started to avoid me because I was “gross”, but they were just afraid of the unknown.”

Why is acne positivity important? 

Quite simply, there is strength in numbers and there is real, tangible power in seeing yourself represented. Constanza agrees, “Thanks to this community, I found that I’m not alone in my journey, it gave more strength to challenge myself and to change the way society sees people like me.” 

“All these communities on social media were created for the same purpose; because letting people know about your reality allows you to live a more fearless life since your environment will be more tolerant and safer. And this idea not only applies to this community; we can also see it in the body positivity and chronic illness community and the LGBTQI+ family.”

Wait, so how do we balance acne acceptance with also wanting to take care of and heal our skin?

Being skin and acne positive doesn’t negate the fact that acne is still an uncomfortable thing to deal with. Constanza argues that the key is how we treat acne—that it doesn’t need to come from a place of shame or guilt, especially as it’s often something that is largely out of our control.

“I want to take care of my skin not because someone tells me that my acne is gross or abnormal, but because I want to take care of my body,” she explains. “Acne is not cute; it hurts, and we have had enough of people ignoring that aspect. I don’t like to have acne, but I want to feel good with myself and help others to do the same while having acne.”

So what’s next for acne positivity?

Last year saw the acne positivity trend explode: we saw media coverage, celebs posting makeup-free selfies, Cara Delevigne reposting acne positive art and a whole crop of acne pimple patches in cute designs enter the market.

Constanza agrees, “I have seen its exponential growth in just one year and it’s absolutely amazing. I started my account because I thought that my story was interesting, but I would have never thought this was becoming a big movement followed by thousands. Now, I’m working with brands that are dedicated to spreading acne positivity—I still can’t believe it! We are changing the market and with that the way we see ourselves and how others see us. We do have power.”

But what if there’s even further we can still go? Sofia Grahn who shares her experiences on her Instagram account @isotretinoinwiths to the tune of 37k followers has suggested that skin neutrality might be the next target to aim for. 

What’s the difference between acne positivity and skin neutrality? 

Skin and body neutrality is about dismantling the defining of people’s worth from beauty and attractiveness generally: so less “all bodies are beautiful bodies!!!!!” and more “bodies are just bodies y’all.” She explained to Fashionista, “Skin neutrality would be the ultimate goal, and I feel that’s the underlying message when people preach positivity.” 

The acne positive and body positive movements help us envision and activity create a world where we’re not being defined by beauty standards. And if more neutrality can provide freedom from the idea that beauty = worthiness? Sign us up.

Lead image via @mynameisjustp, @isotretinoinwiths.

Monisha is a writer with a background in publishing and digital media. A chronic Pisces, she’s into trying to be a better person and sparkling water.

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