IIt was on a family vacation that Kali Kushner discovered abruptly, just how others looked at her skin. "At the end of the day I washed my make-up," she recalls. "My cousin said:" Why is your face so dirty? "It took me a moment to realize that he saw my foundation as a" clean face "and" acne like dirt. " 39;
Shortly thereafter, Kushner, 23, from Cincinnati, Ohio, began to document her struggle with acne on the Instagram account @myfacestory – her experience with the drug Accutane, dermaroling, make-up, scars, hyperpigmentation, in addition to all the ways people her acne reacted, from her husband, who was steadfastly supportive, to the traffic policeman who assumed she was a junk. To her surprise, people began to follow. Today, with more than 50,000 followers, she is part of the growing movement of acne positivity.
After years of oppressive aesthetic perfection, acne positivity is a drive for people to be more open about their skin problems, from a single spot to complete cystic acne. It unites recent movements to celebrate the many and varied appearances of our skin – from vitiligo to freckles and stretch marks – but also seeks to educate those who still believe that acne is a problem for unwashed and unhealthy.
Many trace the movement back to the British blogger Em Ford, who put in 2015 a YouTube video called You Look Disgusting. It showed her both in complete makeup and exposed with her acne visible, as well as a succession of comments that people had posted about her skin around her: "WTF is wrong with her face?", "I can not even look at her "," Ewww, dirty, hideous, ugly … ". In the first week alone, it collected 10 million views. Ford, whose YouTube channel My Pale Skin now has more than a million subscribers, will soon launch You Look Disgusting 2.0.
Others have followed, including the Colorado Instagrammer Hailey Wait and the British beauty blogger Kadeeja Khan, as well as a large number of celebrities – from Kylie Jenner who promoted her favorite spot treatment to the Instagram post of Justin Bieber who claimed "Pimples are in" and Lardards sardonic answers to people who give her unsolicited advice for skin care. Last year, Teen Vogue launched the inaugural Acne awards.
Kushner developed acne in high school. "Whiteheads, blackheads, the usual things." It was around the age of 20 that she developed adult cystic acne. "It was difficult, and very painful, I had no idea what was going on with my skin, nothing worked, or if it did, it did not take long."
She became increasingly socially anxious, sure that everyone she encountered stared at her skin. "Once I remember talking to my girlfriend in the classroom and laughing at a joke she was telling me, and while I was laughing, a cyst burst and began to bleed. was horribly embarrassing, I ran out of the class and did not come back in the next two weeks. & # 39;
Dr. Bav Shergill of the British Association of Dermatologists says that acne "often affects people without much power in society, such as adolescents". He talks about an American study in which participants were shown a selection of photos of high school students with skin problems, as well as photographs of the same students with their acne purified, and asked for their impressions. The results, says Shergill, showed that "once you have a deformity on your face, you are seen as an introvert nerd".
Although many consider acne as a teenage disorder, it can develop into adulthood. An estimated 25% of all women over the age of 30 still have the condition. "I see so many women – mature, professional, intelligent women – who have ruined their lives by acne," says Shergill. Women often find that their pimples are linked to the hormonal shifts that accompany their menstrual cycle. "Female hormonal acne is miserable," says Shergill. "You may not get a lot of stains a month, but each leaves a scar, and each scar has both an emotional and a physical component."
Corrinne, an educational psychologist from Folkestone, was 40 years old in August. To celebrate it, she visited the Mac Cosmetics counter for a make-over. She sat before the make-up artist, felt terribly and painfully unmasked. "I could not make eye contact," she says. "To be naked with my face, I felt so vulnerable."
Every morning, Corrinne devotes an hour to the preparation process, with most of that time being reserved for make-up. She uses a base, foundation, concealer, then more foundation, then powder and then a spray to fix it. It is not an attempt to look infallibly glamorous: "I try to give myself a baseline to face the world."
It has been so since she was 14. At school she would wear make-up that was so thick that it was "almost a mask". She found it terrible to be seen in the light of day and would use a small mirror instead of something that showed her whole face or full length. She prepared for an hour and a half every morning for school, and at lunch she would go home to use her foundation again. During breaks she walked straight to the toilets to check her concealer. Comments have been made of which she says she has formed her. "I remember someone saying I would do so much makeup, it looked like Polyfilla.
"Without social media it was isolating, lonely and mysterious, I thought I was acne, I thought I was not bigger than that."
In her twenties, she met a friend who had also suffered severe acne. Finding someone who understood that completely, who would openly discuss it and not feel shame, was hugely helpful to Corrinne – perhaps a taste of the current acne-positive attitude. "I wish we had that movement when I was 14," she says. "I think it's fantastic."
When Kushner started her Instagram account in 2015, it was only for herself – a private page to keep track of her progress at Accutane. "At first I was not really interested in sharing my trip because I did not realize that others were going through the same," she explains. "I wanted to capture my skin and side effects so that I could look back and see how far I have come."
When she made her page public, it was an act of resistance. "My account at the time was an uprising against the typical beauty blogger accounts," she says. "There was no curation, no filters, no corners, and certainly no Photoshop.I took my phone, took a photo, came up with a caption within four or five minutes and posted it. It was and always has been to keep it real. was a call against stereotypical standards of beauty, saying that you do not need X / Y / Z to be beautiful, everything you need is you. & # 39;
This attitude has now spread to other previously flawless areas of social media. Jessica Oil is a fitness guru known for her Let's Start Yoga ebook and an Instagram account where she is often photographed with yoga postures in charming locations around the world. A year ago, Oil's account broke her carefully calibrated perfection in favor of a new kind of honesty, in which she documented her divorce, her father's illness and her problems with her skin.
Oil suffered from teenage acne, aggravated by the constant exposure to chlorine as a competitive swimmer, and in her late teens the pill was prescribed. Five months after she stopped taking the contraceptive last year, her skin became "confused" – worse, she says, than when she was a teenager.
For someone who earns their living by looking good, healthy, and honest about her skin problems posted, there was a certain risk. "If someone said:" You have to be healthy, why is your skin bad? "" Then I would tell them that only because you are healthy does not mean that your skin is good, and only because your skin is good it does not mean that you are healthy. "
And the pursuit of perfection can be tiring. "I think I was tired of not being pretty or pretty enough because I had a few pimples I looked at my friends who did not wear make-up and I realized that if they had pimples they still looked beautiful . "Today she places photos & # 39; s and video's of herself without make-up, her skin in the middle or masked by splodges of spot cream. "People put you on a pedestal, they think everything in your life is perfect, so it's nice when people on social media reveal that there are things they have no confidence about."
The sympathy seems to spread. Last year the photographer and activist Peter DeVito was surprised when he saw that the supermodel Cara Delevingne posted a picture of the words "Acne is normal", decorated on his face with acne. He recently concluded that "it was stupid to retouch an image [on social media] for hours, just to place it where people would forget it in a few minutes. "Nowadays he says:" I get happy when people accept themselves as they look and learn to stop comparing themselves with other people on social media."
Kushner also felt a change in attitudes. "Honestly, there has not been as much backlash as you might think," she says. "In the beginning for sure, people will always have something negative to say regardless of what you do or post or say, so that's important to keep in mind, but now I feel that our small community has been able to nourishing once ignorant about the subject, it feels like a more understanding and acceptable place than four years ago, I just hope that it keeps on growing and that the community keeps shining its light. "