Acne is one of the most common skin conditions that we have the privilege and joy of dealing with as human beings. An estimated 85% of Australians will experience acne in their lifetime, and we know that it affects people across a spectrum of races, genders and ages. Most of us are also pretty well versed in knocking back common acne myths and misconceptions. No, acne usually isn’t because of poor hygiene or because we ate a particular snack. We’d also never judge our friends for having acne.
So why then, knowing all this, knowing how normal acne is and how common it is to deal with, does it still feel like a painful failing every time a spot crops up? Despite its regular appearances across our faces, acne can still make us feel garbage, and in extremely severe cases interfere with our lives—cystic acne is legitimately painful. Maybe as well as trying to gently clear our skin, there’s an internal journey of self-acceptance that needs to happen too.
Christina Yannello, a model, blogger and acne positivity Instagrammer (@barefacedfemme) knows that journey intimately. She’s dealt with acne from the fifth grade, and like so many people went through an acne journey that’s put both her body and mind through a lot. Through her experiences with dermatologists, antibiotics, different birth controls, endocrinologists and even going vegan, Yannello became incredibly familiar with the impacts that dealing with acne has on your mental health and emotional health.
She describes feeling like she was stuck in a never-ending cycle of embarrassment, but ultimately, hit a breaking point. “I came to the point of giving up, not smothering my face in makeup and just embracing what I was going through.” Since then, she’s made waves in the acne positivity space, using her platform to champion self-love and self-acceptance. Even in the face of whatever uncontrollable things are happening on our face. Don’t worry, she’s extremely real about it and admits it’s something she still has to work on herself. As well as her IG, Yannello has also been a model for Neutrogena and is a Sephora Squad member, helping to shift the tired cliché of perfect airbrushed models featuring in acne product commercials.
Syrup caught up with the young New Yorker to chat about how we can accept ourselves no matter the state we’re in and how dealing with our emotions might even help us deal with our acne.
How can people who are struggling with acne begin to feel less self-conscious about it?
“Struggling with your skin is exhausting, and I get it. Its emotionally and physically draining. I’ve found that the best way to move forward is acknowledging the state of your skin and accepting yourself, as you are, as a whole. This is truly the hardest part of one’s skin journey.”
“If you’re not ready to embrace your skin, that’s ok! I was there too! During this time I used light makeup to just give me that extra push to get out of the house and give me the confidence to be social. I used a light, oil-free cc cream from IT Cosmetics. I always covered up my skin, but I wouldn’t let myself spend more than 15 minutes every morning doing my makeup with acne. I would give myself these 15 minutes to worry, be upset, apply some light foundation to my face, and by the time the 15 minutes were done, I would not let myself feel bad for myself anymore and try to make the most of the day!”
How can someone balance both wanting to accept themselves as they are, while also wanting to gently heal and clear their skin?
“I really think these two-points go hand-in-hand. Even if you’re accepting the state of your skin, you can actively seek ways to heal your skin. For me, what helped me feel more confident was accepting my acne-covered skin, and I would remind myself this is a temporary state, and in just a year from now I will make progress. In order to find some balance, I recommend treating your skincare routine like a type of therapy, healing session; rather than a manic time to try and heal your face!”
Any advice for how to deal with well-meaning but kinda irritating comments?
“I think that unsolicited acne advice does come from a caring place of someone wanting to help, yet many do not understand these comments have a negative emotional impact. I used to fight back and say, “you don’t think I have tried everything under the sun to heal my skin?!” but now, I say, “thank you so much for caring, I appreciate your support!” I keep it short and sweet because it is not worth it to lend your energy there. Remember it’s coming from a caring place, but many people don’t understand how acne does not have the one-cure-all treatment and there is no exact place to pinpoint the cause of one’s acne.”
Thinking and obsessing about your skin can be all-consuming when you have acne, how can people learn to quieten that voice in their head?
“I believe that you need to obsess and be upset about your skin in order to quiet the voice in your head. This is truly a process. It is emotionally exhausting to obsess over your skin, therefore for me, I needed to drive myself crazy and be upset in order to reach that point of just accepting my skin and embracing it. I wish there was a direct path of self-acceptance but it is necessary for everyone to go through the lows and learn from these lessons in order to reach the highs and be able to have that enlightenment. It’s a journey, it takes time. It is all so different for everyone, but the emotional journey for me is what helped me grow and be able to feel confident enough to share my skin and shed a positive light on those who are still on their acne journeys.”
On “bad” skin days, when you just want peel your face off or retire from society, how do you talk yourself down?
“I have had so many days like this. I used to cover myself completely, with a baseball cap, the majority of my hair covering my face, dark eye-makeup, and my eyeglasses to distract from my acne. As I would get ready in the morning I would process how I could avoid as many people as possible and figure out how I could make myself “invisible.” Then, I reached the point of, “why am I missing out on so much?” I started to talk to myself and repeat positive mantras to myself. The key for me was reminding myself that I am one day closer to figuring out what my cure will be. It was remembering that I am in a temporary state and that my acne won’t last forever.”
Do you have any other techniques, mantras or Instagram accounts you turn to for inspiration or wisdom about accepting your skin?
“I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. It is easy to get upset about things we cannot control, and once you finally let go of that need for control, it makes a huge difference for once you’re ready to accept your skin.”
“Some mantras I have repeated to myself are: “One-year from now, your skin will be in a better place” and “This is only temporary, this state will pass.” Actually repeating this out-loud or making a note of it in my personal journal has helped me immensely with processing my emotions and calming myself down. What gave me the most reassurance was following others online who were also going through their own acne journeys. By reading and watching other’s journeys, it helped me to feel less lonely cause having acne is so isolating it’s so easy to feel alone!”
(If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out our list of acne positivity Instagrammers.)
What’s been the most helpful thing to come out of your acne positivity and acceptance journey?
“I think that the most important lesson I learned is that everyone is going through something, whether they discuss it, online or offline, or even if they don’t discuss it at all. Treat everyone with kindness, we’re all human, we’re all just trying to do our best. The low moments and sentiments I felt throughout my acne journey taught me so much about myself. I learned an immense amount of who I am, what I want to be, and how I can put action into the words I say.”
“I am so grateful for my acne, as crazy as it sounds! I am so happy I was able to go through it and make it out on the other side and love myself the most I ever have. My acne taught me the true definition of self-love and self-care and it’s not just taking baths and doing face masks, it is taking care of one’s whole health. Health isn’t just physical, it’s emotional and mental as well. By going through this long journey, I am proud to share there is light at the end of the tunnel and you are not alone on this journey.”