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Their Story

Alison’s Story

 I reside in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. I am currently 35 years old. And I own and operate a boutique Digital Marketing Firm and operate as a Social Media Manager, as well as a mixed media and resin artist.

I first developed severe acne during my first pregnancy at 18, I was suffering intensely with what was often disfiguring. Prior to that id only had what seemed to be relatively normal teenage outbreaks from time to time. 

I have been suffering and struggling to find cost-effective solutions, for 16 yrs.

As a part-time model in my local fashion industry over the past 11 years, there has not been much forgiveness when it comes to flaws. We are a growing city with a strong community of artists and the standard for high-end jobs often left me competing with girls whose glass skin made me feel meek and introverted in their presence. In essence, I shrunk. For fear that even though I could see past my spots, perhaps the other team members wouldn’t be able to envision the quality we all hope to achieve when collaborating with other creatives. This unrelenting pressure and stress understandably lead to self-esteem issues and a lack of confidence. Depression, anxiety, thoughts of worthlessness … the whole dark nine yards…

I grew entirely overwhelmed, second-guessing people’s kind comments and backing out of plans or avoiding social gatherings and even dates just to seek comfort of no makeup and a facial to help ease the pain of inflammation. I have had many people on set comment about my skin and it even would flare worse before shoots or runway shows which would frustrate the top makeup artists and they wouldn’t work on me. Or photographers at events take an obligatory pic and move onto the prettier girls and I end up with less promotional material and this invalidates my presence, my efforts, my value in the project, and it’s something I’ve had to find the strength to push past. The Acne Effect Page on Ig has been a safe space where I can find support to help me better understand the psychology of coping with how acne affects my job opportunities relationships and overall self-image. I even had my father tell me if I “fixed my face”, maybe I “would feel better about myself” as he tried to tell me what I had to do and he would pay for it if I met his criteria, followed his instructions and fulfilled his expectations of redoing consultations with specialists, etc… this obviously led to a barrier. So overall this has had a major ripple effect in my life as a female, daughter, gf, mother, and entrepreneur.

My coping tools to manage these complexities range from regular skincare to practising self-love with my daughters to help prevent them from developing similar mindsets about their own flaws while teaching them to love themselves. I too am embracing the idea. Flaws have become a rebellious notion and that feels empowering to wear proudly.

Social media in my case has been positive, I FOUND THE ACNE EFFECT ON IG. Which has had a profound and bold impact on my self-esteem and provides me endless information to pass down to the young ladies I raise and influence, like my beautiful nieces whom I see managing the modern teen experience with strength and keeps me motivated to change the social norms for their own well being. I feel social media can be that catalyst for change, awareness, and empowerment. I have been lucky to learn to block out the fake perfection and the unattainable standards. But I still don’t post enough of the everyday me and don’t often go without make-up on social, that’s one goal I hope to achieve for 2021.


As for the methods I’ve tried everything from prescriptions to topical creams and ointments, everything that burns, dries, and peels your skin, and I’ve tried dietary changes, am attempting to cut out dairy as I know my body cannot process it, I reduce my sugar intake, I was ordering Proactive from the USA via telemarketing infomercials before it was even for sale in stores here in Canada. I had tried professional facials but cannot afford the ongoing costs in addition to raising two girls, I tried to make home remedies with coffee grounds, washed with baking soda, used apple cider vinegar, and burned away the bacteria as an astringent. I’ve taken apple cider vinegar shots each morning and burnt my esophagus, I’ve taken two rounds of the cheaper brand of Accutane called  ‘Isotretinoin” prescribed by my family Dr and Dermatologist, I believe, only to find out by a second dermatologist that it has made my teeth so brittle and discolored.

The exorbitant amount of money I spend on cleansing my body and ridding it of toxins, like consuming and applying Sea Moss gel and doing charcoal facials, etc. 

I wish people knew how painful and exhausting it already is, that their comments and judgments only make it harder to embrace our natural selves. If we ask for help, we need it. Not judgment or unwelcomed assumptions about solutions. JUST SUPPORT. 

And let us eat junk without giving us a look, we are allowed to enjoy food without being to blame for our skin condition. It’s internal and I deserve to not miss out on the spice of life. 

I HAVE TO PAY ALMOST ENTIRELY OUT OF POCKET FOR QUALITY SOLUTIONS. Every time I’ve received a treatment that the cost is covered… I ended up with additional complications. Sometimes no one listens or helps if it’s not dier, but what people don’t know is just how deep the impact of the ongoing battle can be. On average I spend maybe 100 a month on things to apply topically, to use to cover or combat acne as well as ingesting to help balance my internal ph. I’ve been very blessed to work as a small business promoter and have numerous companies have me test their services to see how it affects my skin, I also enter into a ton of facial contests on IG, and thankfully that has helped me cover the expense of deep dermal cleaning. I believe that these treatments and products have reduced the severity but have not concluded my battle.

Relating to the dream career, I spoke briefly about my work environment above, and do feel I definitely did not achieve what I could have, but I also feel like the industry is shifting towards a trend of being more encouraging and re-educating on acceptance and since finding THE ACNE EFFECT I feel validated in my work and in my body, my self-esteem has grown, and I KNOW there has to be a creative team that can see beyond the skin issue and still make beautiful work. So I persist even at 34. It’s all about the right team.

As for biases in the workplace I also spoke briefly above on that but I feel like lil comments by makeup artists about them having to clean their brushes after working on me, and just making the most obvious and played out suggestions like as if I have been lazy or mistreated my skin and didn’t have the common sense to attempt to rectify it, but I remind myself the “Stigma” people hold onto, as if it’s dirty, or a result of overindulging and a lack of self-control. But it’s really so much more complex when you look at the chemical absorption rates for young people and, specifically, females are exposed to in products, it makes complete sense that our body’s changes no longer can be generically tracked and charted… our genetics are all different and ever-evolving to our conditions.  SO much of this is beyond our control and I urge you to push past the guilt society puts on us. 

I work on my emotional health with daily reminders that in a world where there is a multimillion-dollar industry designed to make us hate ourselves, I can radically combat that and hopefully shift the thought process for future generations. Imagine the power we could have if we didn’t feel overshadowed by our flaws.

My Instagram account is a social activism page for outspoken and creative minds to share art, photography, stories of overcoming hardship and bringing amazing businesses to light, and acknowledging social inequities…. It’s a mishmash but I’m so proud of it. I currently promote my social media consulting business in addition to my resin art projects that I custom design and sell.

For the lovelies who are still learning to embrace their face- BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF, and be less patient with others. Sounds mean but I feel like the lack of acceptance stems from ongoing discrimination that’s often a social undertone, off the cuff comments and judgments aren’t to be tolerated anymore.


If someone makes you uncomfortable it’s time we let them know it’s rude and won’t be accepted.

Check out Alison’s Instagram account to follow her passions with modeling, social activism, and digital marketing.

Their Story

Isabella’s Story

Introduce yourself – your name, where you are from, how old you are, your profession, etc.

I’m Isabella, I’m 22 and from the UK. My profession is a little complicated right now, lots of different things which I’m passionate about and lucky enough to get paid along the way! 

At what age did you first develop acne?

I first started developing acne aged 9 so very very young. It means acne has been part of my life for 13 years!

How long have you been suffering from acne and/or acne scars?

After going on accutane I was pretty much acne free other than scarring and the odd cyst for 4 years but my acne has now returned albeit not as bad as it was. I would say I’ve been suffering from acne and scarring for 13 years. 

Have you ever been depressed, suffered anxiety, low self-esteem, been bullied, etc. because of the acne you suffered?

I am unbelievably lucky to have never been bullied for my acne by children. However, I have received a completely absurd amount of comments and looks from adults my whole life. I suffer with low moods, anxiety and used to have incredibly low self-esteem, it’s something I’ve worked very hard to get out of. 

Have you overcome these challenges or are you still facing them today?

There are definitely still some bad days but where I am now is so so different from where I was even a year ago. I love my life and I have learnt to accept and be okay with the fact my acne may be with me for the rest of my life. 

How does social media affect you?

Social media has been amazing for me, I’ve found the most wonderful supportive community and made some genuine kind friends.  Quite different to my previous interpretation of social media!  Unsolicited advice is frustrating and of course trolls aren’t ideal. I find that any negativity reflects more on the individual than me. 

What steps have you taken to try and improve your acne and did they work?

Everything from coating my skin in tea tree oil to antibiotics, creams, and Roaccutane. Roaccutane was the only thing that worked and kept my acne at bay for 4 years.  

What are some things you wish people knew about what life is like living with acne/acne scars?

I wish people know how painful it is! On top of the unsolicited advice which is hard to deal with,  the pain of acne is so underestimated.  I also wish people knew that acne doesn’t define you, you can still do everything you’ve ever wanted to do with your acne. 

Does your insurance cover acne/acne scar removal treatments or do you have to pay out of pocket?

I am so grateful that I live in the UK and the majority of my acne treatments took place when I was under the age of 18 and as a result were free. I am not on tablets for my acne at the moment due to other medical reasons so I just pay for skincare. 

On average, how much money do/did you spend per month on over-the-counter acne treatments – as well as any prescription medication for acne –  and do you believe they worked/are working for you?

I have absolutely no idea I expect hundreds of pounds on over the counter treatments considering how long it’s been.  Luckily my prescriptions were covered by the NHS so it wasn’t something I had to deal with.  Right now, my skincare products are working for me. My goal is to have healthy happy skin and to reduce the pain of acne. 

Did you have a dream career that you did not pursue because of your acne?

No. I have the most incredibly supportive family network and although there have been times I doubted myself I have been determined for my acne to never hold me back. I do believe I can do anything whether I have acne or not.  Right now my dream career feels very much in sight and I am excited for my future. 

Have you ever faced prejudices in the workplace because of your skin?

I’ve had comments about my skin looking painful and lots of people telling me you can’t tell I have acne when I have make up on. I wouldn’t describe these as prejudices. 

Did you avoid social gatherings because of your acne?

I have always been quite determined. Although I was incredibly conscious and aware of my skin I was always determined to not let it have a hold over me. So I would go to social gatherings but be very self conscious. 

How has acne/acne scars impacted your self-esteem overall?

Gosh so much so.  It’s only now I find beauty in myself and I have a much better self esteem. For years my self esteem has been low and I have always hated pictures of myself. 

Are you currently working on your emotional health? How so?

Yes! It’s very important to me. I am spiritual so I manifest, I work on myself internally by working through the things that have affected me and finding positives/lessons. I love lists so I make lists of accomplishments and things I’ve achieved despite having acne. I refer back to these lists whenever I have moments of low mood or doubt. 

What are you doing with your life today? Your career, emotional health, new goals, etc? Tell me about your Instagram account and what you hope to achieve with your account, etc.

With coronavirus, it has taught me you can never plan anything. Right now I’m achieving my dreams and not letting anything stop me. I won’t let others opinions or comments limit me and nor will my acne. I’m the happiest and most fulfilled I’ve ever been. I hope for my account to help me to continue to connect with others and to spread positivity and happiness to as many people as possible. You are never alone with a skin condition. 

What advice can you give people who are currently struggling with their acne, acne scars or the emotional scars left behind?

It’s all going to be okay. Your worth is not equated to your acne, it doesn’t define you. You can be happy and positive despite having acne. I never thought I would be but I am. You can get through this and you are not alone. 

Since joining the acne community online, has your self-esteem improved, stayed the same or worsened? What are your goals within the acne community?

It has skyrocketed! When I joined Instagram in July of 2020 it was more out of a determination to show others that I have acne and I didn’t care about their opinions anymore.   I have scars, I have acne, I have textured but it’s okay and sometimes I find it beautiful like little drawings! I hope to one day reach acne neutrality and to keep making friends and connecting to inspiring people. 


Follow Isabella’s journey on Instagram.

Their Story

Charlotte’s Story

My name is Charlotte, I am twenty-four years old and I’m from France. I have been dealing with acne and acne scars for 12 long years. I just graduated with a Masters’s degree in vine and wine sciences with a specialization in marketing. 

I first developed acne when I was 12 but it got pretty severe when I was about 17. I got prescribed creams, gels, antibiotics, birth control pills, I visited different dermatologists but nothing worked at that time.

Due to a medical condition, I couldn’t take Accutane. I specifically remember the day my doctor declared: “I am sorry, you won’t be able to take any oral medication for your acne, you just have to wait, there’s no other solution”. This is the day I was kind of left alone with my issues.

I definitely have been depressed because of acne. I have bullied by so many people including friends and family. Even by people who also struggled with severe acne when they were younger. 

At every family event, there’s always this moment when people would judge my skin. Always. It happened during a wedding, a funeral, at birthday parties… Somehow, I always end up being the center of attention so, yes, I avoided so many family gatherings because I did not want to hear people talking about my skin. 

I think when you constantly hear: “your skin is disgusting”, “you are ugly”, “you should take Accutane” (even though people know I can’t), “you should try this and that”, it is a normal reaction to feel sad and not understood. I don’t know one single person who would be happy to hear rude comments.

I remember crying in my bed at night, thinking about all of these mean and unsolicited comments. I realized I was spending too much energy and time focusing on that, rather than just literally live my life. 

To overcome this situation, I decided to let go of people’s comments. This can be hard to do and it takes time but I think it is important to move on. I realized I did not need negativity in my life, that if people were too concerned about my skin, they probably had concerns and insecurities about themselves too. I kind of grew to be more empathetic with people even though they were and are still sending hate to me. I think they don’t need hate back, they need love. Now, I surround myself with real friends and supportive family members and I also started to trust myself more. 

Social media is kind of a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand, it reflects and puts on a pedestal a vision of beauty standards created by society. When you see celebrities and people editing pictures to have a “perfect” face, eyes, nose, and skin, you start developing a complex. I, myself, used to fake my own appearance by editing pictures, just because I wanted to fit in and look “perfect”. I realized that there’s no such thing as perfection, and somehow I managed to understand that this was wrong to do, for my own mental health I stopped doing that. On the other hand, thanks to social media I discovered this empowering movement with the acne community. I virtually met people from all around the world with whom I could relate to, that understand me, and that inspire me. I created my account “” for myself and also for others. I wanted to add my contribution to normalize acne skin (even if it’s a small contribution). 

A few years ago, I couldn’t even go out without wearing foundation on my face to simply buy a baguette in my neighborhood. Now, I am confident enough to show my real skin with the world. It may be nothing for a lot of people but it’s such a huge step for me. 

You are stronger than you think you are. You will get through this.

I wish people knew that acne is both painful, mentally and physically. It can be itchy. It sometimes feels like your skin is burning from inside as if you’re putting your face on a stove. It hurts because you can feel every little spot growing within your skin. I wish people would understand that yes, we are cleaning our skin, that we are changing our pillowcases, that we tried everything but sometimes it just doesn’t work because we simply all have different DNA, different genes, and therefore different skin. Also, I wish people knew that most skincare advertisements are not true, treating acne and acne scars takes time and having acne can cost a lot financially.

In my case, my insurance is not covering acne and acne scar removal treatments. I have to pay out of pocket. On average, I’d say I spend at least more or less 40€ monthly for acne treatments but most of the products I tried didn’t work for me. 

I have two big passions, one is enology (science of wine), the other one is cosmetics including makeup and skincare. I thought to pursue a career in cosmetology, I ended up not doing it because I felt like I couldn’t belong there due to my skin condition. I pursued another career but I’m happy with my choice, I don’t regret it.

I have faced prejudices in the workplace during interviews to get an internship because of my skin and also because of my skin color. It is pretty difficult to deal with because these are things I cannot control but honestly, I prefer not to be hired by people like this than to work for them.

I think since joining the acne community online, my self-esteem improved so much. I’m not alone anymore and I’m happy to be part of this community.

I don’t know if I really have a goal within the acne community. Honestly, I just want to show the world that people with acne are normal people, that you can be confident with acne, and that acne skin should be normalized in our society. 

My biggest advice for people who are struggling with acne would be: “Stop focusing on negative comments, you don’t need this and you don’t have time for this. Start living your life to the fullest. You don’t owe a thing to anyone. You are stronger than you think you are. You will get through this.”


Follow Charlotte’s journey on Instagram.

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Riya’s Story

You know an artist is someone who does see the world according to their own imagination, someone who really wishes to believe that there will always be beauty and so you just need to look or maybe change your perspective of visualising small details around you. 

I will not say that I was not that girl till 15 who use to judge herself and others on the mere appearance of outer beauty. I never really even thought about why are we like this, and suddenly there was this day when I saw this Dove campaign, “Dove Real Beauty Sketches”, maybe let’s say it wasn’t much for a brand like Dove to execute an advertisement like that, but I cried after that, I really did. Something made me question the meaning of real beauty and how do I want to define a person around me. 

For me it’s not just about acne, I feel the issue is deep, the issue is more serious because the issue is the image our society already sketched since so so long. I never really suffer from acne till 19, so yes my acne is known as “the adult acne” like we all know it and till now people give me advice and ask questions as if I am suppose to tell my acne to just go, and they will listen to me. People/relatives ask questions like, “Why did I get acne, when I never use to have it?”, few of them are like “Ain’t you eating well or taking care of yourself”, I mean please what does make them think that I don’t love myself, or I don’t want the flawless skin like every other girl. Acne isn’t a choice, it’s a condition, it’s your body telling you something is wrong and you need to check what is missing. 

My acne is an effect or I will say caused via genes and stress, and so I am glad my acne does act as a trigger warning for my body, which does let me know that I need to divert my mind towards something more positive.

I am under professional care or shall we say dermal treatment since I was 17, and I am not ashamed of it because I like to invest in selfcare, plus I do my research about medicines as well. I am 22 now and really I don’t have the time to think what others tell me about my outer beauty. All I do now is rest when needed and do my skincare religiously with full dedication involved. Believe me it’s not the beauty that matters but your personal vibration as an individual. 

For me, I feel, we really can not change everyone, or let’s just say anyone for that matter. Someone who does really wish to listen to our story will do, and someone who wishes to criticise will just always blabber. It’s not a battle for me anymore, I love myself and my friends above all the stupid beauty standards. Maybe for a while let’s not try to answer the world and just question what we think is right. I will be honest to you all, I am still learning this process of self-loving and self-healing, but I decide to see from my artistic perspective because a human being is an art and we are just no one to question that art. 

Acne is a trigger and not an issue. We all are Unique. We all are Diverse.

Follow Riya’s journey on Instagram.

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Miyoki’s Story

My name is Miyoki, or, I’m from the suburbs of Philly. I’m 28 yrs old and developed cystic acne around 2012 – so after high school and 2 years of college. I have been suffering now with cystic acne and other forms of acne for approximately 8 years. 

Living with acne, especially not developing it until I was an adult, was beyond hard for me. I avoided mirrors for years. I became depressed and ate my feelings and went from 130 lbs to 230 lbs. I put on 100 lbs due to acne and some medicine changes to try to help this depression I was going through. Don’t get me wrong, I already was diagnosed with MDD in high school, but this whole new aspect of developing acne as an adult-only added to that depression. I currently own my own house and when I call professionals to work on my house, (window pros, carpet pros, plumbers, etc), almost 100% of the time they see my face and go “Oh I’m sorry we must have the wrong house”. Another frustrating part of having adult acne is that literal strangers will ask if I am a heroin and/or meth addict. I understand addiction is a serious disease that no one chooses to have, but I personally have never touched them so it does hurt my feelings.

For the most part, I have overcome these challenges. I started to teach myself it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of my skin but me. Regression is a part of the acne journey so I no longer get frustrated when I see that. Now I constantly look in the mirror because I in fact am GORGEOUS!!! I go out without makeup on 95% of the time. If someone gives me a look I just smile back at them and say “have a great day!” and move on. 

Social media used to affect my mental state so badly it was actually unreal looking back. That is why I made my page to follow people and creators that only lift my spirits, and to show real skin, and to show people that those with acne can still rock makeup. I honestly RARELY go on my personal page anymore because it truly does affect my mental health.

I used to avoid social gatherings due to my acne, and weight when I gained 100 lbs due to my acne, but not anymore (pre-pandemic).

I am currently working on my mental health, I see (now zoom) my LCSW weekly, and have appointments with my psychiatrist every 4-6 weeks depending on how I am doing. I also signed a HIPPA so they could communicate about my needs, struggles, etc. 

I’ll finish this off with the acne community and those who I have become very close to within it are so encouraging, positive, honest, real, FILTERLESS!, loving, and more. It’s honestly the family/friend group I never knew I needed.

Follow Miyoki’s journey on Instagram.

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Crystal’s Story

My name is Crystal, and I run a program for teens called Honestacne.  I am 31 years old, and I first developed acne when I was 13. It wasn’t until one year ago that I found a skincare line that actually helped my skin. I had tried everything outside Accutane. I have spent more of my life living with acne than without it.  

In High School, I was bullied by this one guy who picked on me every year. He called me butter face, and cake face. He would yell out loud mean things at social gatherings about my skin. He was really awful but I would say I was probably my biggest bully. I would wake up each day and count my new breakouts, I would call myself ugly in the mirror. I felt so ashamed and alone. I had seen many dermatologists and tried many things to help my skin. The anxiety of having acne led me to avoid sunlight, photos, mirrors, swimming, relationships, friendships, jobs & even learning opportunities.  

I have spent more of my life living with acne than without it. 

I wish more people knew the deep mental pain and physical pain that acne can cause, maybe then they would be more understanding and kind. The impact acne had on my self-esteem is still something I work on. I am unlearning the negative dialogue I fed my brain the last 17 years. I am no longer my biggest bully. I am falling head over heels in love with myself, acne or not. 

I didn’t learn to cope with my acne until I learned to understand that it didn’t define me. I had lost a loved one and suddenly I was faced with my own mortality and the idea that life isn’t promised. That was the pushing factor in creating this account. I had to release this heaviness. Making my Instagram account was essentially stepping into the light for me. Revealing my bare skin to the public internet was so scary but worth taking that step. It freed me of this mask I was wearing.  Only my spouse and family had seen my bare skin up until then. The acne community helped liberate me. It was for the first time in my life I was surrounded by others who understood the struggle of having acne. I had never seen so many faces that looked similar to mine. The social media I was used to was filled with filters and highlight reels. I was grounded by the honesty of this community and still am.

 If you’re experiencing anxiety, sadness, or withdrawal from social gatherings because of your acne. I want to remind you that tomorrow isn’t promised today is a present. You are the gift to this world. Don’t let acne keep you caged. You deserve to live every moment to its fullest. This world deserves to experience you not your acne.  

Follow Crystal’s journey on Instagram.

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Eivis’s Story

My name is Eivis. I am a 20-year-old Lithuanian that resides in the UK. At the moment, I work in tech development and I have a passion for gaming, skincare, and exercise. I started developing acne in my mid-teens with the occasional whiteheads. However, in college, I had poor skin hygiene and a horrible picking problem as a result of stress. My insecurities stemmed from family comments and I’d often see other people’s clear skin. I don’t remember anyone in college or any of my friends having skin that was similar to mine. I would think, why is this only happening to me? And it made me feel left out. Nowadays, I am much more confident with myself but I still have the occasional thinking sessions where I remember some bad memories. And it would often come down to how I looked. 

Not so surprisingly, my acne started to clear when I finished college and started work. However, upon returning from a Summer holiday, my acne became much worse, which is when I started to research and take interest in having a skincare routine. I also set up my Instagram page to help document skincare products I have used and my skin journey. Initially, I was hesitant to post a bare-faced selfie with a product because I thought no one would care because I had acne. But once I did, I started to receive an overwhelming amount of support from the skin community. I’d say the biggest factor in improving my acne was having a consistent skincare routine and taking prescribed antibiotics. I was very lucky to have support from the community at the time. Because I was advised to take probiotics along with the medication which really helped with the side effects of antibiotics & gut health.

Some things I wish people knew about living with acne: If it can’t be fixed within 5 minutes, then do not mention it. Even then, some things don’t need fixing in the eyes of others. It’s very damaging to hear people talking about your acne and even staring at your acne when it’s not even solicited. A scar is a scar, no matter the origin and it will always be a reminder of the past. Good or often bad, it does not need to be pointed out nevertheless.

I used to be quite careless of what people think of me until it came to acne and my body. However, I will not be blaming acne for the cause of current self-esteem issues. Because this is what other people have caused and not the acne itself. It has certainly made me conscious of what other people think. Being male, skincare is generally not something that is taught to us in a more traditional – Lithuanian – household. Therefore, my exploration of skincare as a hobby and passion originated from having something that became a ‘flaw’ over time. This passion has empowered me through having the knowledge, security, community support, and creative outlet that allows me to share my experiences freely with the world. Through my Instagram page, I intend to help push the #acnepositivty movement forward but also integrate skincare related content to break the idea that just because someone has acne, wrinkles, large pores, uneven skin tone, and facial scars, etc. Doesn’t mean they cannot share their passion for a hobby. We also need to see more diversity!

My advice for anyone struggling with acne, acne scars, or emotional scars as a result of acne: you are not alone!

Follow Eivis’s journey on Instagram.

Their Story

Emma’s Story

At what age did you first develop acne? How long have you been suffering from acne and/or acne scars?

I am currently twenty-two years old. I’ve always had acne-prone skin, but the first time I really battled with cystic acne was about two years ago, right around my twentieth birthday. My skin cleared up for a while after seeing a dermatologist, however, my acne returned about 6 months ago- and it was back with a vengeance. After having clear skin for so long, it seemed like my skin got a hundred times worse in an instant, and I’ve had the worst cystic acne of my life since. My skin now is working very hard to heal. I have occasional painful spots, but right now my skin is mostly riddled with deep purple and red scarring. 

Have you ever been depressed, suffered anxiety, low self esteem, been bullied, etc. because of the acne you suffered? Did you avoid social gatherings because of your acne?

During my moderate acne flare up when I was just entering my twentieth year, I was prepared to handle my incoming spots with an array of face washes, spot treatments, and any other products I could get my hands on. The thing I was not prepared to face was the mental and emotional struggle that came with my persisting acne. 

I never was directly bullied for my skin- other than the emotional damage and bullying I did to myself. On some of my worst nights I cancelled plans, stayed home, and would stay in front of the mirror, picking myself apart because of the condition of my skin. I would go to bed feeling defeated. I asked myself why I couldn’t just be normal, and have normal skin. The first time I really struggled with acne was pivotal for me because it also marked the first time I ever struggled with anxiety. I felt isolated around everyone, even my closest friends who I have known for years. I was afraid to meet new people-afraid to talk with them as I imagined their eyes only following my red, angry spots. Within a matter of a few months, I went from being in a constant bubbly, extroverted, and excited state to one of extreme self-loathing, insecurity and isolation. It ruled my life- every interaction I had was controlled by my throbbing skin. I didn’t want to raise my hand during university lectures because I was afraid of drawing attention to myself. I was nervous to have sleepovers with my friends because I was afraid of waking up with a thousand new spots. My partner at the time cheated on me, and even that was ruled by my skin. I always wondered if that would have happened if my skin was clearer. Without realizing it, I had made my self-worth synonymous and dependent on the condition of my skin. Even after my skin healed, the emotional damage of having acne followed me for years.

Have you overcome these challenges or are you still facing them today?

When I experienced acne about 6 months ago, I felt the emotional pain once again take hold of me – just as I was starting to feel fully healed both mentally and physically. This time however, I had a completely different experience, although I cannot pinpoint exactly what has been responsible in shifting my rhetoric from one of insecurity to one of total empowerment. 

One of the biggest things that has helped me make this shift is communication. When I struggled with acne the first time, I kept it in. Noone knew how insecure I was because I didn’t open up to anyone- not my partner, my friends, nor my family. I suffered in silence and internalized every single bit of pain I was experiencing. This time however, I opened up to my current partner and friends- the people who I know love and support me no matter what. It was so hard at first, as I was embarrassed to discuss something that they all obviously knew I was dealing with. 

One night, my partner came outside and found me sitting on the sidewalk crying. He held me, let me cry, and when I was ready, despite my reluctance, I told him about my struggle- every hateful thing I was feeling and thinking about myself, my anxiety about talking to or meeting new people, and how acne was disrupting every facet of my life. Opening up to the right people can be extremely reaffirming- within minutes of talking I felt entirely validated in all of my suffering; I felt heard, and most importantly I felt so wholly and deeply loved despite my imperfections. I cannot stress how important a good support system is for any mental health struggle, including the struggles that come when dealing with acne. Once I opened up to one person, it was easier to talk to my friends, family, and eventually a whole group of strangers on the internet about something that once was my biggest insecurity. 

How does social media affect you?

Social media is another thing that has helped me to make this shift in rhetoric. Before it was something that would reinforce my insecurity as I would scroll through Instagram and see models and my beautiful friends with perfect skin, all seemingly much happier than myself. This time, however, I stumbled upon a community that made me feel accepted, worthy, and even beautiful despite my angry skin. I truly believe that social media can be a positive and powerful tool if we use it correctly. I had let social media gain power over me. It had convinced me that I was supposed to look different than how I actually am. It convinced me I should be taller, skinnier, have a better body, and finally, have clear skin. Finding a community that celebrates differences helped to redirect this subconscious conditioning that I had undergone. It was scary at first- I wanted to make an account that depicted my journey with acne for so long before I actually committed and started my Instagram page @Emmas_Acne_journey. It was a huge leap for me- posting raw, unedited, clear photos of my skin. It was a way of gaining control over my thoughts again- a bold statement to reinforce that I am strong enough to love myself despite my skin, and I’m not going to be ashamed or embarrassed anymore. I am tired of hiding. 

What steps have you taken to try and improve your acne and did they work?

When I had moderate acne, the drug spironolactone worked wonders for me. Now that my acne is back, and worse than ever, I’m on spironolactone again. This time it has worked well in lessening my active acne, but I still have new spots that come in everyday. I get suggestions all the time to try accutane, but that isn’t a route I’m willing to take- at least not yet. I have struggled for so long with mental health issues, they are prevalent in my family, and I know that accutane can often exacerbate these issues. This is an internal battle I often have with myself. Accutane, and many other acne medications, can create or worsen mental health issues and yet so many people already struggle with depression and anxiety because of their skin, appearance, and the unattainable standard of beauty that the media reinforces. This is why the acne positivity movement is so important- it redirects the focus on self love and acceptance instead of “attaining perfection”. I, along with  most people in the acne positive community, still want to have clear skin, however my main focus is to have confidence and love for myself. There is another option- we no longer have to choose between hating ourselves for our appearances, or taking medications that might prove harmful to some.  

On average, how much money did/do you spend per month on over-the-counter acne treatments – as well as any prescription medication for acne –  and do you believe they worked/are working for you? Does your insurance cover acne/acne scar removal treatments or do you have to pay out of pocket?

A huge problem that arises when people try to treat acne is paying for medical bills. Because I’m 22, I’m still on my parent’s health insurance which is quite good. However, our dermatology related prescriptions are still considered extremely expensive. The average cost of accutane, which again I have not tried, is just under two-hundred US dollars monthly, but can be much more if an individual is uninsured. Because a lot of insurances do not cover dermatology, many people who have severe, painful cystic acne cannot afford to treat their skin. 

During the last six months, when my skin started to develop acne again, I was backpacking through Europe and had stopped in Spain to volunteer at a hostel. I didn’t have travelers insurance, and I knew I desperately needed to make a dermatology appointment. After working up enough nerve and practicing how to say “I’d like to make an appointment for my acne” in spanish, I called a dermatologist who informed me that it would be one-hundred euros just to be seen. Luckily I had the support of my family, and together we paid for an appointment as well as the subsequent prescriptions. 

As far as treating scars go, I haven’t looked into professional treatment. I’ve been using bio-oil twice per day, which I paid around ten USD for. This is just a fraction of what I spend monthly to take care of my skin. I also pay for Cerave or Cetaphil cleansers and moisturizers, and a spironolactone prescription, which together is quite an expense. 

What are some things you wish people knew about what life is like living with acne/acne scars?

I wish that people would be more gentle when they talk to others about their appearance. When you’re living with acne and scarring, your skin is constantly on your mind. People often tell me to “Just ignore it” but I’m constantly aware of my face as my painful and throbbing spots hardly let me forget them for a second. I get unsolicited suggestions and advice about how I should be treating my skin all the time. At first, when my battle with acne started, I didn’t realize how harmful these comments were, and I took the advice eagerly because I was so desperate to get rid of my spots. However, now that I am feeling more confident, I can see these comments for what they truly are- intrusive, disrespectful, and invalidating. Firstly, it is extremely ignorant to assume that anyone who has suffered from acne wants this advice. It’s so important to understand that most people with persistent acne have tried everything- and I mean everything- diets, face washes, homemade masks, spot treatments, serums, excessive water intake, seed cycling, changing your pillowcase case every night, probiotics, facials, celery juice- and  so on. It’s extremely invalidating when someone tells you to “drink more water” or “go to a dermatologist” when you’re feeling defeated because you’ve tried absolutely everything, and nothing is working. This rhetoric also implies that your skin needs to be “fixed”- it negates acceptance and acne positivity and instead perpetuates and stigma that surrounds acne. Lastly, it is absolutely unacceptable to bring up food & dieting. If someone asks me for skin advice, I have no problem divulging my choice to adopt a vegan diet, and share my skincare routine because both parties are consenting to this conversation. However, giving unsolicited advice about what foods to avoid & cut out can be extremely triggering for anyone who has suffered with their body image, weight, or disordered eating and is therefore off limits. 

Did you have a dream career that you did not pursue because of your acne?

Having acne hasn’t deterred me from pursuing a certain career, instead it has been one of many factors that has pointed me in the direction of a career in healthcare. I don’t necessarily handle patients with skin issues, however having acne has taught me how to be nurturing and understanding to patients suffering with a wide variety of ailments. Although I struggled for so long, I feel now that having acne has softened me, made me more human, and has allowed me to understand that many physical conditions also take a toll on mental health and self esteem. This has allowed me to extend empathy to many others that I have encountered since I began working in the medical field in 2017. 

How has acne/acne scars impacted your self-esteem overall?

Having acne has been both an emotional and physical rollercoaster ride for me. I have felt the full spectrum of emotions. At the beginning of my journey, I felt completely powerless and victimized by this condition that I seemingly have no control over. I felt bullied by my skin, and eventually I started bullying myself. I fell into a vicious, destructive cycle and my mental health plummeted. I feel like now I’m experiencing the opposite end of the spectrum- I feel empowered and confident in my bare and natural skin. However, some days I still feel insecure as negative, anxious thoughts about my skin creep in. I often tell myself that healing, not only of my physical body, but also of the emotional damage and insecurity that once crippled me, isn’t linear. I try to humanize myself and validate what I’ve gone through because often I am my own harshest critic. 

Are you currently working on your emotional health? How so?

Truthfully I am always working on my emotional health. When I first suffered from anxiety and depression, I didn’t know how to handle these challenges because I never had experience with this type of mental health issue before. Now that I’ve experienced these things, I know how to recognize when my mental health is slipping, and more importantly, I know how to ask for help. 

My friends have been my biggest support system in the struggle I have with mental health. Our relationship is not stunted by these hard conversations, but instead they make us much closer and solidify our bond. One of the underlying issues when facing anxiety and depression is the feeling of being utterly alone- like I said earlier, opening up to the right people can be so rewarding and even transformative for mental and emotional health & wellbeing. 

Some other things that I have been actively engaged in to promote mental health is journaling or blogging. Writing about your feelings is a great way to unload while tracking your progress. When I first started journaling, my pages were filled with paragraphs highlighting my insecurity and disappointment, and now, when I look back on these entries I’m able to truly see how far I’ve come.

 I’ve also learned to balance my alone time with my social time in a healthy way. This is an important thing to do if you struggle with codependency or if you’re prone to look to other people for validation, which I did when I was at my most insecure. 

Lastly, I make sure that I have time to nurture myself when I need it. If I’m feeling defeated, anxious, or stressed out, I make sure that I take time to do things that make me feel whole again- journal, do a face mask, take a tub, watch movies, clean my room, create art and music, or confide in a loved one. These may seem like small actions that don’t play a huge role in mental health, but showing up for yourself makes a huge difference. It’s one of the first and most basic steps in taking care of yourself. 

What are you doing with your life today? Your career, emotional health, new goals, etc? 

Ah this question comes at a particularly strange time. As I’m writing this, we’re in the middle of the novel coronavirus outbreak. As I mentioned previously, I was backpacking Europe for seven months, and my final month was spent in Mexico, where my partner and I were volunteering in a tiny hostel on the beach. We’ve had to separate and go back to our families when borders began to close as the virus worsened. Right now I have about a million ideas in my head of what to do next- I want to go back to school and further my education, I want to work and save money, travel more, focus more time on creating art and music, I want to start a podcast eventually, and finally my partner and I have even loosely talked about opening up our very own hostel one day. 

What advice can you give people who are currently struggling with their acne, acne scars or the emotional scars left behind?

Be vulnerable. Everyone who has suffered with acne needs to know that they are not alone, and things do get easier when you find the courage to speak up about your mental and physical battle. I guarantee that every single person who has suffered with this skin condition has felt isolated and hopeless during their worst moments. 

Surround yourself with people who accept you and get involved with the acne positive community. This community has helped me to fully accept that I don’t have to be perfect to feel beautiful. It’s a place where vulnerability is encouraged and differences are celebrated. If you find that you cannot open up to friends or family, message any one of us from this amazing community. Message me. Message anyone who has decided to share their acne journey in a public space. I started my account to instill confidence in myself, but also so people who are going through the same thing would feel less alone. We have strength in numbers- an unspoken solidarity as we know exactly how eachother feel without having to vocalize anything. If you are currently struggling with your skin, no matter the state, know that I have felt exactly how you’re feeling right now. I want you to know that despite what I went through with my skin, and what I’ve continued to go through, I’ve turned my single greatest insecurity, that once crippled me, into something that empowers me- and everyone has the power to do that.

Their Story

Yuki’s Story

I’m Maria, but the nickname I go by is Yuki (long story short, I was pale & anime was in, and Yuki – jp. snow). I’m 24 and I live in Bucharest, Romania. I’ve worked in many places over the years and I’m currently a social media digital marketer (and I love it). In my spare time, I love to write, I am an avid reader, I listen to music like it’s my main drug of choice, I love to run and research on nutrition and skincare so one day I can start a business that will focus on the link between the two and help as many people as I possibly can.

I started having acne when I hit puberty, nothing much really in the beginning, but I was a picker (dermatillomania), and receiving the wrong advice and care my acne got progressively worse. I have had depression since I was about 7 (diagnosed professionally, both parents have it) so I cannot place a causality relationship between my acne and depression, but in my low points, I do see that my acne can aggravate if I let myself go.

Due to my natural predisposition to depression I have unfortunately gathered over the years a multitude of body issues and self-esteem issues due to my acne and body – my whole world revolved around my acne and my skin. I have tried pretty much everything in order to get rid of my acne except Accutane – diets, products, sports, treatments, you name it. Once, I hoped to become an opera singer, but due to my socio-economic situation at the time I could not pursue this, and neither my acne helped – when I watched all the girls around me looking like fairytale princesses I renounced completely any dreams surrounding this topic and decided I will become better at something else. I still wonder at times how my life would have been if I wasn’t afraid in those moments.

I have not truly lived my teen years due to acne – I’ve avoided social gathering, I was embarrassed to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, I’ve questioned why they liked me at all seeing myself only as my acne and defects, I have starved myself into thinking that “clean” eating might get rid of my acne, I have spent almost half of the money I have ever made on acne products and to no prevail. 

It is not easy, it is not vanity, it’s just me trying to keep on living as a normal person even if my own skin might not be considered “normal”. 

Recently I’ve been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, an auto-immune disease that linked a chunk of my symptoms together – depression, irregular cycles, pain, sensitivity to food, products, memory loss, acne, etc. The acne community has been a blessing to me in these past months in which my acne has worsened & got at its worst. I am still battling my own inner demons & depression, but with this community, to put it simply, I do not feel so alone, and this is one of the best feelings in the world to me, something that still seems unreal to me as I’ve felt deserted almost all of my life even if I was surrounded by people. I definitely feel more at peace with myself since I joined this beautiful community of people and I am sure everything will keep on getting better in the future. One of my main goals in this community is to bring awareness to many conditions & facts that people misunderstand such as depression, stress, nutrition, misophonia, and dermatillomania.

What I’d wish people to know about acne is this – it is not easy to ignore the looks that people give you and your own thoughts that break your mind when your self-image is so fragile that you can’t even take a single look in the mirror. It is not easy, it is not vanity, it’s just me trying to keep on living as a normal person even if my own skin might not be considered “normal”. 

Their Story

Vlad’s Story

My name is Vlad, I live in Romania and I am 21 years old. Right now I study Marketing & Communication in Business. In high school, I had acne but wasn’t something bad, just some blemishes that would heal within 2-3 days. The moment where my skin literally exploded with deep cystic acne was when I started college, at 19 years old when I moved to our capital to continue my education. 

At that time, I wasn’t aware of how severe it would get and how much it will impact my life. I thought it is going to be something that is will pass easily, just a few visits to a dermatologist and I will go back to living my life like nothing ever happened. Eventually, I ended up going to see one and I was prescribed antibiotics (doxycycline, without telling me to use probiotics) and a topical cream. Her treatment worked at first but the antibiotics destroyed my digestive system, I could barely eat anything, lost a lot of weight (went from 72 kg to 60 kg) and the acne eventually came back even worse, that is when I found out about the gut-skin connection. At the same time, I was overwhelmed with moving to another city, I was focusing on my acne 100% of the time and I wanted to drop out of college, my girlfriend at that time broke up with me and I had some family problems back at home. I felt like the whole world was falling apart for me in 2017 and 2018.  

I love sports and nutrition. I think skincare, focusing on my gut health through nutrition, supplements, and gratitude helped me the most. Acne and scars dropped my quality of life tremendously. I forced myself to get through college, to go to many social gatherings because I love being with people and I am trying my best to not let acne take that away from me. I think the moment where I said enough is enough, is when my dad told me my mother was crying because I was suffering. As far as I know, she is not aware that he told me this. My main motivation is making my family and myself, proud of me, despite the things I’ve been through.

…joining the acne community is the best thing that I did for my mental health…

After 1 year, I decided to start my page where I talk openly about my skin journey. I was so afraid to do it at first, but now I’ve set a mission in my mind where I want to motivate others who struggle, especially with skin and remind them they are not alone in this journey. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, I tell myself that to spark me up daily. I always said this and I will keep saying it: joining the acne community is the best thing that I did for my mental health, besides seeing a psychologist. 

If you are struggling with acne and scarring, I want you to acknowledge that it is okay to suffer, to feel down sometimes, because we are humans and we can’t be happy 100% of the time. Don’t forget that you’re unique, beautiful, and stronger than before! Don’t let acne steal that from you, show up with confidence and make others wonder how can you still stand even after what you’ve been through. I suffer from anxiety and depression induced by acne and I have sleeping problems, saying this I want to emphasize the impact that acne has on your mental health. Another major tip is to seek help, acne can drain your energy and your soul. I had suicidal thoughts and I felt like I didn’t belong to my body anymore, that is when I knew I had to see a psychologist. So please, never be ashamed of being vulnerable. Stay strong, stay beautiful!