How I Learned to Love My Skin, Flaws & All

When I turned 18 years old, my relationship with my skin changed. My skin had never caused me much trouble before, so as a senior in high school, I assumed I was in the clear; the perils of puberty and growing up were officially behind me. I wouldn't have to worry about unwanted pimples, blackheads, or sporadic break-outs again, right? 

Wrong. Instead, I was only at the beginning of a totally unexpected journey with adult acne. 

As I prepared to graduate high school and transition to college life, I decided to start taking birth control. I met up with my physician, who gave me a prescription for the pill. After a few months of taking it, my body didn't react as expected. Not only did my menstrual cycle become extremely heavy and uncomfortable, but my skin broke out with acute acne and rashes that wouldn't go away. I visited my doctor once more, who confirmed I was enduring a severe hormonal imbalance. 

It took a whole year to readjust my estrogen levels and get my body feeling normal again. However, my skin never really seemed to bounce back. Every day, I struggled with a new cluster of pimples or an itchy rash. I was left with tons of acne scars and some seriously shattered self-esteem. 

Selfie of me when I was really struggling with acne to highlight to my skin positivity journey Original photo by Sarah Bradley I quickly became ashamed of my skin. I started to carry myself with less confidence and certainty, and became very timid. When somebody spoke to me, I struggled to look them in the eye because I was afraid of drawing attention to my skin. I could barely order a coffee at Starbucks without feeling paranoid that the barista was judging my acne. If I was feeling insecure about my face, I refused to hang out with my friends or go out in public at all. My skin totally controlled me and how I felt about myself. 

My battle with my skin is ongoing, but I'm slowly learning to not only accept it, but love it. There've been a few habits and practices I've used to help me embrace my acne and feel confident in the skin I'm in. 

First, I often push myself to go out without makeup on. While makeup can be a great outlet for creativity and expression, it can also be a crutch. Personally, I hated makeup. I dreaded wearing it, yet couldn't leave the house without it on. Eventually, I asked myself: why do push myself to wear something that I don't enjoy wearing? I realized that makeup had become my crutch—I had become totally reliant on it. I was using it to measure my worth. 

If I feel like I'm putting on makeup because I think I need to, not because I want to, I'll challenge myself to skip it altogether. Makeup should be used for fun, not to define your beauty.

Initially, going out with a bare face was really difficult. I felt extremely anxious, always kept my head down, and was convinced that everybody was making fun of me. As time went on and I continued to push myself, it got a lot easier. I recognized that people aren't actually judging me at all. In fact, nobody notices or criticizes my flaws as much a I do. Now, I feel much more comfortable with my bare face, and will usually even forget that I'm not wearing makeup when I go without it.

Social media can also be an awesome tool for practicing skin positivity. Tons of users have dedicated their accounts to documenting their personal journey with acne. 

Kali, or @MyFaceStory, on Instagram is the first acne-positive influencer I stumbled across during my skin journey. I had no idea thees types of online communities existed, and I suddenly felt so included and less alone. Watching Kali be so candid about her struggles with acne, and even post pictures of it, was super empowering.

Some other incredible influencers that I follow are Sophia Grahn, Christina Yanello, and Cotty.



A post shared by Cotty 🌴 (@skinnoshame)


They've all made waves in the movement to normalize skin texture and scars, and remind everybody that acne is totally natural. If these influencers can share photos of their insecurities with thousands of followers, then I can find that kind of confidence and strength within myself, too. 

Being skin positive is a practice that takes time and effort. Some days I love the skin I'm in, and others I just want to bury my face in a pillow and keep it there. Either way, I continue to teach myself that the journey I'm on with my acne is completely normal, and I'm not on it alone. Each morning that I wake up and feel a bit unhappy with my reflection in the mirror, I remind myself that a couple of pimples or scars do not change my inner beauty, worth or value.