In a world of filters and photoshop, there’s a growing community online encouraging people to love the skin they’re in #skinpositivity.
Ever felt like you didn’t want to leave the house because of something on your skin? You’re not alone. Most of us have, at one point or another, experienced self-consciousness over blemishes or skin imperfections. That’s where the skin positivity movement comes in, not to change your skin but to help you think differently about it.
Though it sometimes feels like everyone has Instagram-perfect skin, the reality is that conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and a host of others are actually very common. Much like body positivity, the skin positivity movement aims to fight against unattainable (and dangerous) beauty standards by creating a community of people online with similar experiences who can lift each other up. In a world of skin-smoothing Instagram filters, we need this more than ever.
Why We Need Skin Positivity
Skin shaming occurs with an alarming frequency, especially on the internet. In 2015, Em Ford went viral with her video “You Look Disgusting,” which drew attention to the extensive bullying she’d experienced online for her adult acne. When Kendall Jenner walked the red carpet at the Golden Globes in 2018, her skin was critiqued across the internet. That same year beauty blogger Kadeeja Kahn (@emeraldxbeauty) was dropped from a shoot with L’Oreal for having “skin issues,” and since then, we’ve continued to see celebrities like Lorde and Lili Reinhart shamed for having visible acne. Not only does this kind of treatment affect the person it’s aimed at, but every time another celebrity or influencer is shamed for their skin, it only increases the risk of someone watching feeling bad about theirs.
Extensive research has been done in recent years on how skin woes can negatively affect a person’s mental health and self-esteem. No different from body shaming, skin shaming perpetuates unrealistic beauty ideals that do little more than threaten people’s sanity and sense of self-worth. Millions of Americans deal with acne, rosacea, and psoriasis. How is it reasonable to continue placing people under the pressure of clear and blemish-free skin when the reality is so far off?
Skin positivity is all about reminding us that breakouts, texture, pores, and hair on the skin are all completely normal. What isn’t normal is that we’ve tried to erase it, and even worse, we’ve attached shame to it. Kadeeja Kahn, the model L’Oreal dropped, now has an “acne model” in her Instagram bio. She’s turned what the beauty brand saw as a negative into an opportunity to promote skin positivity. Just because the big beauty brands or online trolls have a problem with your skin doesn’t mean you need to. We all deserve to feel beautiful and worthy in the skin we have.
Instagram’s Where It’s At
The skin positivity movement came alive online through the “#skinpositivity” hashtag, especially on Instagram. Search “#skinpositivity” on the app, and you’ll immediately see the thousands of people who have used the hashtag to share raw, unfiltered images of their skin without shame. It’s being used to bring light to just how much pressure there is to airbrush our skin away and how liberating it can be to let that pressure go.
The often candid nature of Instagram makes it easy to forget just how staged things are on the platform. If you’re looking at an Instagram post wondering how the person in it got their skin to look so perfect, chances are it has more to do with a filter and good lighting than anything else. Much in the same way that photoshopping people’s bodies creates unrealistic beauty standards, so to do the face tuned photos and skin smoothing filters on Instagram bend our ideas of “good skin” to an impossible standard.
Since skin representation on social media has become such a center point for people’s insecurities, it’s also been the perfect place to challenge the norm. Some Instagram influencers like @tomatofacebeauty and @myfacestory have dedicated the majority of their presence online to skin positivity. Both approach it from the acne positivity angle, showing unfiltered photos of their skin, even when they’re dealing with their worst breakouts. They speak openly about the confidence struggles they’ve faced over their skin and ultimately show that it’s possible to overcome.
More and more beauty influencers like Samantha Ravdhal and Katie Jane Hughes choose to skip the filters on Instagram and show their skin as is. It’s a simple action, but posting unfiltered photos (and owning them) realigns our view of reality and real beauty. One of the most important parts of the skin positivity movement has been its push to normalize normal skin. Your skin does not need to be filtered or flawless to be beautiful. It’s YOURS, and it’s real. That’s beauty enough.
It’s Not Just for People with Acne
Though acne positivity is often at the forefront of the skin positivity movement, it extends far beyond it. We often only think of skin troubles in terms of breakouts, but many of us struggle with rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, vitiligo, and other conditions. These deserve the same degree of normalization as acne and are even more under-represented in the media.
For anyone with rosacea, Lex Gillies (@talontedlex) needs to be your next follow. She has been a vocal skin positivity advocate and uses her Instagram and blog to showcase her rosacea, challenge myths, and misconceptions about the condition, and promote general awareness. The Instagram account @getyourskinout does something similar but is focused on psoriasis, @thevitiligoman focuses on his vitiligo journey. There are dozens more, each creating communities online where people can let go of the stigmas so often associated with visible skin differences.
The Instagram page @behindthescars_ features beautiful portraits of people with scarring and skin issues and their stories. The entire account is a reminder that beauty exists far beyond society’s tight regulations. It’s a great place to look for some inspiration for your #skinpositivity journey, and with the many people featured on the page, you might just find someone dealing with a similar condition to you.
Struggling with your skin, whatever condition it may be, can be an incredibly isolating experience. There hasn’t always been a space to discuss the impact a skin condition can have on your mental health. Still, skin positivity accounts and posts uploaded with the hashtag have all helped to form a community online where it’s now possible. Skin positivity is difficult to practice alone, but hopefully, with more people sharing their journeys online, more of us can get inspired to drop the filters and embrace the skin we’re in.