Why loving your acne should be the new wave of body positivity
I want to tell you the story of my life. My life influenced by acne.
I am sure I am not alone in saying that I am 22, female, and “suffer” from mild to moderate acne on a daily basis. And I’m probably not alone in saying that I have “suffered” for half of my life. Since around the age of 10 or 11, I have had acne. It started on my face, with few enough breakouts that each one could be treated individually. Now, I have pimples, cysts and scars that extend over my face, down my back, and halfway between my shoulders and elbows.
And because I’ve had acne for half my life, and most of my memorable life, it is inherently part of me. Dealing with my acne has been part of my daily beauty routine ever since I had one that extended beyond brushing my hair. My acne has been with me at every life-changing moment of my adolescent and college life.
(and if you want to skip the part about how acne sucks when you’re a teenager just keep scrolling, I’ll let you know when that’s over. But I promise it’s relevant. And this is my story, so please let me tell it.)
And sometimes it plays small roles and sometimes it plays bigger roles. I blamed my acne for the fact that in sixth grade, my counselor identified me as someone who was in need of extra guidance, thus forcing me to eat lunch with her and five other school “weird kids” once a week for a whole year. I blamed my acne for my lack of a dating life until college. I blamed acne for the rude comments I felt I didn’t deserve. I blamed acne for separating me from “normal”.
I put up a poster of Orlando Bloom…over my mirror. To keep me from looking at myself. Because I saw so much physically wrong with me every time I did.
It lead to negative things in my life, beyond the low self esteem it inevitabely caused. I felt the need to compensate in other aspects of my life. Since clearly I would never be the “pretty one”, I decided to be the “smart one”. I developed a personality that can be condescending towards others, even mean at times. I felt better when I encountered those whose acne was worse than mine, as opposed to feeling solidarity or sympathy. I was unsympathetic towards my friend’s own doubts about their physical beauty. To me, acne was the worst thing anyone could have to deal with, and nothing else was even worth complaining about.
For a long time, acne felt like it wasn’t part of me. With so much advertising around me promoting the latest and greatest acne treatment. With every family friend suggesting home remedies to my parents. With no family event ever being free of comments on how my skin was improving, reminding me that my acne was what people saw about me first. I wanted nothing more than to get rid of my acne. It was so clearly wrong, so clearly bad, so clearly not me.
I would spend so much time in front of the mirror poking and pinching and popping that my mother suggested I put something in front of the mirror to keep me from looking at myself. I put up a poster of Orlando Bloom. He hung there over my mirror. To keep me from looking at myself. Because I saw so much physically wrong with me every time I did.
(Stop scrolling here. It wasn’t even that long, see?)
Then I began to realize that I was reaching the age where people (parents, doctors, teachers, friends) had told me my acne go away. I told myself it would be gone by the day I graduated high school. And when I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I devoted myself to a new idea. I left behind hopes that it would ever go away. I resigned to being a bride and a mother and a grandma with the same acne I’ve always had. I worked towards accepting the fact that it would with me forever. Part of me did it because it would make having no acne one day all the better. Part of me was sick of trying product after pill after face scrubber to no avail. The other part of me did it because accepting something that for so long I was told was wrong would be the most empowering thing I could do with my situtaion.
I think I’m going to have acne for the rest of my life. Every day, every year, until I die. And that’s okay.
And maybe this is the wrong idea to have. Every dermatologist I’ve ever seen has promised me a solution. Products have improved it — but nothing I tried ever cured anything.
So maybe this seems like giving up. But it only seems like giving up when what you were working for is something worth acheiving. I don’t think clear, perfect skin is worth that much of my effort. At some point you decide that your efforts are better directed towards acceptance of your body and your self.
I have seen such a beautiful communities of women rise up to appreciate their natural hair, their plus-sized shape, their lack of curves, their skin tones — you name it. All of these movements and communities embrace their bodies. All of these movements are fighting against the idea that what makes them different from other people is wrong and needs to be changed. And the plus-size appreciation is the most powerful one I have seen.
At some point you decide that your efforts are better directed towards acceptance of your body and your self.
And I draw inspiration from it every day: Just because you’re plus-sized or have acne, that doesn’t mean you need special diets or special treatments. If someone doesn’t like your body, it’s on them to change their attitude, not you to change yourslef. I am learning to see my acne in a way radically different from how I was taught to see it.
The body positivity movement showed me that big girls can wear bikinis and crop tops and leggings and mini skirts — not caring about their non-flat stomachs or their cellulite. It showed me that I can wear tank tops and cut-outs and sleeveless dresses, helping me understand that I don’t have to care about the redness and bumps and scars that will show.
And I want to see more women (and men even) owning their acne as part of their bodies, not something that needs to be removed. Acne comes from my body, whether it be my hormones or my genetics — it comes from me. It is mine. It is part of my body like my eyes and my hands and my smile.
And there exists as stigma against acne I wish to combat. I think we recognize acne as blemishes typically signs of an illness. But it is not contagious. It will not kill anyone. It does not result from my lack of hygiene. There is not something wrong with me becuase I have acne.
I want to say it again: There is not something wrong with me becuase I have acne.
There is similarly not something wrong with plus-sized women, or those with natural hair, or those with small breasts, or those with big butts, or gnarly toe nails or pointy noses. NOTHING WRONG.
And I am still learning that. I am still learning to accept that my acne is not wrong. I want to be able to love my acne as a unique part of my body and myself. I still pick nervously at my pimples. I still read lots of articles and reviews about the latest acne treatment and the newest methods in fighting those pesky red bumps. I’m far from loving my acne. But I want to.
I want to see more women (and men even) owning their acne as part of their bodies, not something that needs to be removed or fixed
So I’m just looking for other people to share this journey with.
If you’re interested in contacting me and talking about how we can create this sort of environment you can reach me @evercalmedrose on twitter.