While the body positive movement is taking the world by storm, it’s time we also started talking about the stretchy stuff that covers it.
Earlier this month cosmetics giant L’Oréal came under scrutiny for dropping an offer to work with beauty blogger Kadeeja Khan (@emeraldxbeauty) because of her “skin issues.” Khan, who suffers with acne, has amassed over 140k Instagram followers for openly documenting her struggles with the skin condition. “Gutted” to have been let down by the brand, who were later forced to apologise for retracting their original offer, Khan told The Sun: “It just shows that L’Oreal only wants to work with people with perfect skin, but that isn’t real.”
She’s right – that shit ain’t real. As someone who suffers with severe eczema, the reality of a skin condition is both physically and mentally strenuous. From covering myself head-to-toe in creams every night to shaking my bedsheets free of skin every morning (seriously), it seems the beauty industry is unable to accept the idea that skin conditions like these exist.
According to the British Skin Foundation, 60% of Brits suffer or have suffered from a skin disease. Considering it’s our largest organ, it’s unsurprising most of us humans aren’t blessed with perfect skin, so why is it we’re still inundated with images of flawless faces and bodies? With acne as the world’s most common skin condition, you’d think we’d see at least a (real) pimple or two in an advert for skincare... but low and behold, there’s never a spot in sight.
As Amy Tuck, a Digital Marketing Executive who suffers with eczema, says, “our confidence can be knocked by the simplest of things, like skincare ads that depict models with a flawless complexion which, for those suffering with a skin condition, does not reflect our everyday.”
Let’s consider beauty brand Neutrogena. Remember that advert we all tried to copy but failed miserably? The one where Hayden Panettiere splashes water onto her perfectly pore-less face? Or how about their moisturising cream that turns the model’s smooth skin into even smoother skin? Like, dude… where are the crusty scabs? Where are the blackheads?
Considering it’s our largest organ, it’s unsurprising most of us humans aren’t blessed with perfect skin. So why is it we’re still inundated with images of flawless faces and bodies?
Luckily, though, things are taking a turn and we’re starting to realise that perfect skin is pretty much a myth. Remember when Kim Kardashian told the world she had psoriasis? Thousands of people turned to social media to announce that they too had psoriasis. And just this year, possibly for the first time EVER on cinema screens (or at least on a young, female face), we saw acne scars. Real ones. Saoirse Ronan graced our cinema screens barefaced in coming-of-age film Ladybird, a story of a teenager’s journey through adolescence. According to Saoirse, Director Greta Gerwig asked her to embrace her real-life complexion and bare it to the world.
While the beauty industry has a long way to go in terms of skin positivity, social media has welcomed it with open arms. Individuals from around the world are opening up about their skin conditions and proving that their epidermis doesn’t define them. Poppy Challinor, 22, suffers with psoriasis and has recently turned to Instagram to share her skin story. She said: “Social media platforms such as Instagram have a huge community for skin disorders. It’s become a norm to see girls and boys with skin conditions on social media supporting each other.”
Embracing your (perceived) flaws can be hard. It takes time and a hell of a lot of strength. Meet the beauty activists who are embracing the #skinpositivity hashtag, and inspiring others to feel more comfortable in the skin they’re in.
Maya Spencer-Berkeley has Epidermolysis Bullosa, a rare genetic skin condition that affects around 5,000 people in the UK. Since modelling for the ‘Behind the Scars’ project by photographer Sophie Mayanne late last year, Maya has gained over 12k followers and is using her social media to raise awareness and empower others.
Diagnosed with rosacea at 13, Lex Gillies aka Talonted Lex, now 33, is an award-winning beauty blogger. A self-proclaimed skincare addict, Lex shares beauty tips with her followers along with a personal insight into life with rosacea. These days she’s also an ambassador for the British Skin Foundation, and inspires skin-sufferers from around the world.
Youtube star Em Ford found fame in 2015 thanks to her tear-provoking ‘You look disgusting’ video which has now reached over 27 million hits on YouTube. After developing adult acne at the age of 25 Em began sharing photos of herself both with and without make up to help others also suffering with the skin condition. Since going viral Em is now a full time beauty blogger, and Kylie Jenner is one of her biggest fans.
Zainab Danjuma is currently going through something called topical steroid withdrawal, a condition caused by the overuse of corticosteroids for eczema. After her creams eventually stopped working and she saw her eczema worsening, Zainab knew the only thing she could do was wean herself off the drugs. Her Instagram is an open diary into the life of someone withdrawing from a drug – sometimes painful and upsetting, but Zainab always has a beautiful smile on her face.
Bullied at school for his vitiligo, Curtis McDaniel is now a magazine model. Scouted by an agency after posting an online selfie, Curtis said having his picture taken used to be a no-go. But now he uses his skin condition to help and inspire others and boy, does he look good. Featured in MTV’s True Life, Curtis is also making a name for himself beyond the world of Insta.
Eczema sufferer Nicole Mackenzie has been inspiring thousands since opening up about living with the itchy skin condition. Sharing her day-to-day regimes, honest photos and daily reminders to smile, her Instagram is basically an online skin diary that her followers can’t get enough of.
Diagnosed with vitiligo at 12, Ash Soto has learnt to embrace her skin by turning it into art – like tracing patterns with a marker pen so it resembles a gorgeous globe. With a strong selfie game, a fierce range of swimwear and a nice line in motivational captions, this account is serious Insta inspo gold.
When her psoriasis first developed in her early teens, it took Poppy Challinor years to come to terms with it. Now, nine years later, she loves the skin she is in. Currently studying photography at university, her most recent project based around skin conditions features individuals with birthmarks, scars and blemishes. Documenting her experiences with psoriasis, Poppy’s positive attitude is inspiring. Psoriayaaas.