Just like the body positivity movement embraces the reality that we are all unique and our bodies come in all shapes and sizes, the skin positivity movement is about illuminating and normalising skin ailments that many of us are affected by, such as (but not limited to): acne, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea; and natural skin attributes such as freckles, moles and birth marks. Just like our height, body shape, hair and eye colour - our skin appearance is down to our DNA; whilst diet and lifestyle can certainly have an impact on the health of our skin, the nature of that impact is determined by the canvas you are working with.
Acne arguably carries one of the most stigmatized titles. Most people understand that eczema or psoriasis are associated with an uncontrolled reaction to your immune system, or that freckles are natural pigmentation enhanced by sun exposure; whilst acne is still often wrongly assumed to be a result of poor hygiene, bad diet and something associated with being a teenager. These assumptions are far from true. Acne affects approximately 20% of adults aged 20-50, and is a symptom associated with numerous complex conditions involving the hormonal and immune systems (and often the digestive and nervous systems are implicated too - its complex!). Whilst it can be aggravated by diet and lifestyle factors there are more complex underlying issues at play – and still proves to be a challenge for medical professionals to find long term solutions as there is no singular cause. People with acne are a large driver behind the #skinpositivity movement, but not without friction.
Body shaming is bullying or humiliating someone in relation to their physical appearance, including skin appearance. The internet and social media platforms has given people with this tendency a titanium bubble of protection to inflict cruelty onto others using words that would ordinarily in a face-to-face scenario at least lead to a third party mediating the situation or maybe the inflictor getting a couple of teeth knocked out. These people drop comments on public profiles like bombs, and walk away unharmed behind the protection of their private accounts. If yourself or someone you care about is a victim of body shaming (or bullying in general) it can cause immense psychological stress. If you haven't already seen the video below by Em Ford @mypaleskin "You Look Disgusting" then it is essential you watch it!
Make Up & Phone Apps
After watching the video above, can anyone honestly blame people for wanting to wear makeup? The only thing ugly or disgusting about that video is the horrible things that humans say to other humans. But one thing Em also demonstrated was with the right tools and skills, how makeup can be used to effectively disguise skin troubles. Whilst makeup can be a great tool to disguise skin troubles and help boost self-confidence, there is a ‘tool’ that is becoming a serious problem: Apps. Photo editing and filter apps such as Facey and Facetune enable you to “retouch” photos. These “retouching” features are more like a complete digital face-lift and include: facial re-shaping (reshape your nose, chin and forehead), remove blemishes, smooth wrinkles, enhance contours, whiten teeth, widen eyes, adjust skin tone, and if you can’t be arsed with spending money on makeup or learning the skills of make-up artistry, then don’t fear there are makeup filters too! All of these features also work on video recordings.
What is real and what is ‘normal’ anymore?
Real life celebrities – the Hollywood kind - often have their flawless beauty debunked by those pesky paparazzi, who then cruelly and shamelessly display them on the front cover of magazines that we see as we’re going through the supermarket checkout. People buy these magazines because as much as we are obsessed with the pursuit of perfection we are equally drawn to what validates our flaws and makes us feel acceptable. It’s as if somehow seeing someone who is adored and usually flawless with imperfections, makes us feel more acceptable. We get to see unsolicited snaps of the celebs walking their pooches in their trackie-dacks, sipping over-sized star bucks with frizzy hair and minimal make-up, looking like regular people. In contrast when we see brand advertising and self-made ‘influencers’ on our social media feeds; does anyone really know who these people really are or what they really look like?
The true prevalence of what is normal is being concealed by false advertising and fake reality. Plenty of what you see is not real, hence why the skin positivity movement is an essential movement right now. Below are a few images from accounts promoting #skinpositivity.
Social Media Detoxing & Algorithms
For someone to have ‘influence’ over others there needs to be people receptive to these influences. To put it simply: for things to change we need to stop enabling and start taking control over what kind of influences we want.
The answer isn’t turning into an influencer troll, but to make smart, healthy choices for yourself such as:
- Unfollow accounts that make you feel crap or if you suspect their images are false.
- Detox your feeds. When we accept what we see as we are scrolling, we are telling the computers what we like, which then use algorithms to feed you more of this same content. You don’t even have to “like” or click on an image, simply pausing to look without even actively interacting with the video or image gets picked up by artificial intelligence.
- “Hide” images and ads not suited to you. Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram all let you "hide" posts and ads that do not appeal to you which then helps set the algorithms more customised to your personal tastes. My current Pinterest feed is pretty pimpin’ right now with feminist riot grrrl images from the 90’s, poetry, collage art and kids craft ideas. I still get creepy adds pop up with fake eyebrow extension products or active wear featuring models with unrealistic figures (very obviously edited with body editing apps) – so I make sure to “hide” these pins and click the option “not for me”.
- Set boundaries for how much time you spend on social media. The most simple, yet the most challenging. Reaching for our phones has become a toxic and habitual. We all know this, so I am not going to harp on about that.
Love Thy Self #Skinpositivity
Skin positivity is more than just a hashtag. It is about people sharing their skin troubles openly and bringing a bit of reality to a society that has become detached from what is real. Skin positivity is about breaking the conditioning we have been brainwashed with about beauty standards and redefining what is accepted as normal within the paradigm of this new era of online socialisation. It is about learning to be kind to yourself, and learning to look upon others with kindness and empathy also. It is about removing stigma and respecting people’s choices for their own bodies. It is about choices: wear make-up if you want to, or don’t wear if you don’t want to. It is about separating health from beauty – they are not interchangeable. It is about finding confidence and reassurance when both may be suffering in the face of expectations.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best version of yourself, but there is more to who we are than just the way we look.
Here are a few Instagram accounts to get you started if you would like to see more content endorsing the #skinpositivity movement.
Thanks for reading!
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