Their Story

Toni’s Story

My name is Toni. I am 29 years old and I live in California. I am originally from Ghana, West Africa, but have been living in the states since November 2011. Currently, I am a social worker. I am trying to learn how to be patient with myself, my skin, and my body.

I have three goals for my (Instagram) account. 1. Learn from and be inspired by others. 2. Provide some much-needed representation of Black faces in the acne community. 3. Help other people feel encouraged about their own journeys. 

 I started developing acne late into my teens, but back then it was very mild. When I turned 21-22 is when my acne really came in full force. It’s been about a 12 year battle with acne and acne scars. 

I feel like I’ve tried everything to try and improve my acne. I’ve cut out dairy, changed my diet, tried various topical treatments, bought expensive skincare, you name it. I’m not in a position where I can afford expensive peels or facials. Since the pandemic began, I decided to really try and focus on my skin and spent hundreds of dollars on various products, some which have helped and some which haven’t helped at all. I finally decided to invest in online dermatology and am currently using tretinoin. And no, my insurance does not cover this.   

…there is little to no representation of Black people in the acne/skincare community. It is incredibly difficult to find people who look like me and whose scars look like mine.

My self-esteem has been severely impacted by my acne and the scars they’ve left behind. Especially as an adult, I would look around at my peers who seemed to have perfect skin and wonder why that couldn’t be me. I was very self-conscious about my acne and still am to this day.  Though I am naturally shy, my acne has caused me to be even more introverted, keep to myself, not engage with new people, and build friendships out of fear of judgment.  This is something I still struggle with to this day.

 Every day is a conscious effort to remind myself that my acne doesn’t define me. Though I’ve never really experienced bullying from my peers as a youth, I did experience some “bullying” from family members who would point out my acne and scars. Now I believe they had good intentions and were trying to help, but I always felt so singled out and degraded when they would buy me products without my consent or point out my breakouts. It got to the point where I had to tell my own mother to stop pointing out my skin and treating me like I’m stupid/don’t know that I have acne. 

Social media has really affected the way I feel about my skin and my body. First of all, there is little to no representation of Black people in the acne/skincare community. It is incredibly difficult to find people who look like me and whose scars look like mine. This makes it difficult to find products or treatments that would work for me. Also, social media has created this perfect image of what skin should look like, and mine is nowhere close to that ideal. This is part of why I created my acne journey account. Not only to document my skincare progress but also to provide some much-needed representation for Black people suffering from acne and acne scars and also to gain inspiration from others who are also on this journey. 

 I also recently started therapy not only to deal with some personal issues around grief, but also to improve my self-esteem and learn how to be vulnerable around others; two things which my acne/acne scars have severely impacted. Today, I am grateful to feel self-confident and know that even the moments where I feel betrayed by my skin do not define me nor do they have any value on my worth as a human being. 

I wish people knew how isolating it can be to live with acne/acne scars. How many of us struggle not only on the outside but on the inside too, and that NO we are not sitting idle doing nothing about our acne. I wish people could be more empathic, supportive, and non-judgmental. 

My advice to anyone struggling with acne/acne scars and emotional scars left behind is to be patient, love yourself, and stand up for yourself. Do not take shit from anyone about this journey of yours, which is so very personal. 

Follow Toni’s skin journey on Instagram.

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