On social media, everything is beautiful and nothing hurts — at least, that’s how it can appear. Some influencers live their lives in a realm ruled by fantasy, full of glowing selfies, dream vacations (minus the realities of travel), and poreless, perfect skin. For others, social media offers the opportunity to fully show themselves to the world — breakouts and all. In so doing, they’re creating a skin-positive community and virtual safe space for others to ask questions, share recommendations, and celebrate the skin they're in, instead of the skin they wish they had.
“Following people in the skin positivity space helps you realize you’re not alone,” says
Oyintofe Oduyingbo, a member of the skin-positive Instagram crowd since 2020. “Personally, it made me more confident in myself. I started to see acne for what it is — pretty normal. Beauty standards have made us think it is not.” Oduyingbo’s sentiment is echoed by the many influencers who define the space, each citing the freedom that comes from discovering they’re not alone as a pivotal point on their journey to self-love.
While highly filtered photos of “perfect” lives and “perfect skin” can promote feelings of inadequacy and separateness, social media platforms also provide the potential to pierce these veils. The seven influencers I spoke to all made it a point to emphasize the importance of seeing real human beings with real struggles and real skin beneath the filters. “Please know you are not alone,” says
Lou Northcote, a beauty enthusiast and creator of #freethepimple. “Remember that you are more than your skin.”
Ahead, meet seven social influencers who believe in showing off their real skin and inspiring scrollers to do the same. I asked each of them to share some wisdom they’ve gained on their skin care and self-love journeys. Read on to discover how they stay skin-positive through breakouts, Accutane, skin triumphs, and skin setbacks.
Shiny’s Skin Journey (So Far)
“There have been many times I let [my skin] stop me from living the life I wanted. I had such low self-esteem that I struggled to speak to anyone, and it was difficult for me to make friends. I tried an endless amount of products from DIY at-home treatments to drugstore and luxury products. Over time, I slowly learned what worked for me. Focusing on hydration is the number one thing that has helped. Our skin repairs itself so making sure it’s hydrated and in its most optimal state for healing is important. The most important thing I learned was to embrace my skin and to be confident in myself, regardless of what my skin looked like.
I don’t feel confident in my skin every day, and I think it’s pretty unrealistic to expect that! We’re human and that means embracing how our body, skin, mood, and everything else fluctuate, but I remind myself to be compassionate with myself on those days. What’s most important is accepting all of yourself. I like to check in with myself to see what I can do to feel better and do the best I can.”
Shiny’s Biggest Breakout Advice
“Remember that you are beautiful regardless of your current skin and don't let it take away how you want to live your life. Many of us think that other people are staring at our skin and judging us, but in reality, it’s in our heads. You are usually your own worst critic. Know that you are much more than your skin and confidence will follow.”
Prableen’s Skin Journey (So Far) “I’ve always been someone who has acne issues ever since I was a teenager. I used to go to different doctors and they’d prescribe different medicines, but it would be a temporary solution. Later, I [was] diagnosed with PCOS and understood that [I needed] much more than just a topical solution. When I was struggling with acne, I couldn’t find anyone who was talking about skin positivity on social media. At the time, I would put on filters, smooth my skin, and cover up my acne with blurring effects on Instagram.
I was just starting to put out content on Instagram when I was invited to an event where I met some people from the industry. The first thing I heard from them was, ‘Oh my God, you have so much acne! It doesn’t look good. You don’t look like this on social media; you look so different.’ That’s when it hit me how important it was to put the real me on social media rather than hiding it. I ran out of the event crying but then put up my first picture where I showed my real skin with acne and scars. That picture went viral. After that, the journey has just been upward. I’ve gotten to know people across the world that have skin problems and just want community.”
Prableen’s Biggest Breakout Advice “For people struggling with complexion issues, acne issues, and skin insecurities, the biggest battle we need to fight is with ourselves. We need to stop hating ourselves. You are so much more than your skin. You are your talents, your education, and your career. Derive courage from those things. It’s so important for us to appreciate our skin and our body because it’s ours to keep for life, and if we don’t love it, we can’t expect anyone else to appreciate it or love it, either.” Lou’s Skin Journey (So Far)
“I was scared of skin care when I was younger because I had severe cystic acne. I thought putting on moisturizer would make it worse, and I definitely over-washed my face. It took me years to realize that even if you have oily skin or acne, you need to moisturize. I then became very fascinated by skin care because of my acne journey. Now, even if I’m tired or have been on a night out, I always, always, always wash my face and do my skin care. My routine right now is an oil cleanser, gel cleanser, acid exfoliator, serum, moisturizer, and SPF.”
Lou’s Biggest Breakout Advice: “My best advice is to understand what you need, find an ingredient that does that, and then find a product with those ingredients. Please know you are not alone. Eighty percent of people in their life will have acne, and every single human gets spots. I would also point anyone struggling in the direction of the best community on social media: the acne community. Search my hashtag #freethepimple and you’ll be greeted with the faces of so many amazing people sharing their own acne journeys. Message them. Ask them questions. They know exactly what you are going through.” Oyintofe’s Skin Journey (So Far)
“My skin care journey hasn’t been smooth but has taught me a lot. It started properly in the summer of 2020 after I had made a wrong decision when getting products for acne and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The products had damaged my skin, and I wanted to fix it in the quickest way possible before I returned to school. I started watching YouTube videos and following people on Instagram that were licensed aestheticians who helped me understand there’s no ‘quick cure’ for acne. Instead, they promoted skin positivity and spoke about being patient, consistent, and practical. It helped me work on my self-esteem, as I was very insecure about my skin, and corrected some misconceptions I had about the effect of skin care. Progress isn’t always linear and there are many reasons for breakouts, like genetics and hormones.”
Oyintofe’s Biggest Breakout Advice “To those struggling, take it easy on yourself. I believe in appreciating whatever it is you’ve got. You have to constantly work on how you view yourself to be able to be positive about your skin, but half the Earth’s population has acne at some point in their life. It’s not something to be ashamed of. Finally, don’t give anybody the power to make you feel inadequate. Do things you love, unashamed. Do not hide, and if anyone tries to make you feel less of yourself out of ignorance, educate them.” Liz’s Skin Journey (So Far)
“There are three things I’ve done every day on my self-care journey. I stopped comparing myself to other people. I stay away from over-analyzing my face in the mirror. I say loud affirmations and treat myself the way I would treat my best friend.”
Liz’s Biggest Breakout Advice “Never give up. There will be days when you feel beautiful and other days when you won’t, but that’s OK. Self-love takes practice and you will get there eventually. You are unique and no one does you better than you. Know that social media is a place full of Photoshop and filters. It’s not real. If you have to, keep mirrors at arm’s length to avoid self-criticism and skin picking. Compliment yourself loudly so your body and soul can hear how much you love and appreciate yourself. We never have enough of it.” Katie’s Skin Journey (So Far)
“I’ve had acne for 13 years, starting in middle school. It’s affected my life in so many ways, and if you’ve had acne, I'm sure you know exactly what I mean — learning to wear foundation at an early age, the emotional burden of store employees guiding you to try new skin care products, people saying ‘you should drink more water and have less dairy’ (I love ice cream; how dare anyone question my life choices), or having family discussing why you still have acne as if it’s a fun detective game. I couldn’t erase the marks on my face, so I learned to embrace the beauty of my natural looks. I started taking comfort in my skin by taking selfies every time I felt guilty for having acne.
I know many people with acne feel this way, but we need to stop being apologetic for our skin! People need to see what being human looks like. I started forcing myself to see the positive assets of my body by writing positively about myself. As minuscule as it seems, I felt so liberated when I finally posted a *real* picture of myself without foundation on my Instagram along with a narrative piece on skin positivity. Although the comments validating my experience felt good, the best feeling was just knowing I could post my natural self and escape the harsh beauty standards that once so strongly defined my life. I have been working on this journey of self-love only within the last few years, but learning to go from hating my skin to loving it has played a major role in my self-worth.”
Katie’s Biggest Breakout Advice “Embrace skin positivity. I still have my insecurities and bad days, but skin positivity has taught me to smile at myself in the mirror even when I get new breakouts. Skin positivity means normalizing beauty in all different skin types, and being skin-positive means freedom. It means choosing how to represent yourself instead of what society dictates. The emphasis is on you and nobody else. The funny thing about skin positivity is that it seeps into all different areas of your life, and you begin to find yourself loving and accepting yourself a little bit more.” Monique’s Skin Journey (So Far)
“Growing up, I never struggled with acne. I had the odd breakout here and there but nothing like I experienced in my adult years. In 2019, my skin started breaking out from stress and a whole host of other health issues I was experiencing. After trying every treatment available, and them all failing, I finally went onto Accutane in 2020. My skin got a lot worse before it started getting better, but I am so thankful for the medication because it truly saved my skin. My journey was physically and emotionally draining. I cried almost every single day from the pain. But I learned so much about myself and my resilience. As difficult as it was, in the end, it was a beautiful journey of discovering strengths within me I never knew I had.”
Monique’s Biggest Breakout Advice “Keep going, as hard and as draining and painful as it is. Just keep going. You're allowed to have off days, days where you avoid any reflections of yourself, days where you stay in bed, but always remember that better days are coming. You aren't alone in your journey. There are millions of others out there that are living through the same journey as you. Surround yourself with your favorite things, and be patient and kind with yourself. Your body is doing everything it can to heal itself. And lastly, take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Find things that fill your cup, and do them often.” Don't miss a thing
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