An estimated 80% of people in the world get acne at some point in their lives. A large misconception in the beauty industry is that bad hygiene, poor dietary habits, and overall unhealthy lifestyle choices are the only causes of acne.
The skin-positivity movement has made massive strides over the past few years; as brands and people have started to realize the importance of restructuring cultural perceptions of beauty. Skin positivity embraces skin in its natural state and hopes to normalize acne-prone or “imperfect” skin, whatever that may look like.
In 2014, Aerie, American Eagle’s intimate apparel brand, began it’s Aerie Real campaign — using diverse models and pledged to stop airbrushing in all of their promotional materials. And they were not alone; digital creators with social presences continue to shine more light on the realities of all skin types and the personal experiences that come along with them. They encourage their audience to let go of unattainable beauty standards. For example:
Kadeeja Khan is a beauty influencer with cystic acne, with a goal to inspire others in embracing their natural beauty and loving their natural complexion. When she went public with her natural skin in 2017, she immediately experienced hate and judgment from online users. Instead of airbrushing her photos and continuing to showcase her skin with makeup, she confronted the criticism by continuing to upload photos and videos on YouTube that showed her acne and scars.
Peter Devito is a New York-based photographer and artist that turned to social media when he realized the disproportionate representation of models in the media. He began a digital initiative titled “More Than A Trend” where he showcases gender inclusivity, racial diversity, body image, and skin positivity in his work. His images continue to celebrate and highlight these diversities; in hopes that he can demonstrate that this movement is not a trend.
Although there’s been progress, there’s still a long way to go. The beauty industry still continues to use clear-skinned models and airbrushing as the standard; no skin condition is well-represented in the media and advertising. Grammy award-winning singer Lorde has received criticism and unsolicited advice from her audience regarding her skin. Activist and model Adwoa Aboah spoke out about her experience “obsessively scrutinizing” her face, shedding light on the battle and relationship she continues to have with acne.
People continue to face pressure to achieve perfect skin, feeding into beauty culture perpetuated by unrealistic expectations. It’s clear we have a long way to go before we reach true skin neutrality. Our society and mass media needs to recognize the importance of embracing different skin types and conditions.
But until they do, here’s a list of icons helping change the narrative around what makes skin beautiful.