Why we need to normalize acne

Acne and the scars it sometimes leaves are a part of people’s lives. 50 million people in the United States who are experiencing flare-ups. It can happen at any age or anywhere, from the classroom to the boardroom. So why is only fair skin – that which is not too oily, not too textured, and certainly not acne – considered “normal?”

At one point, the American Medical Association urged advertisers not to use Photoshop because it portrays an unrealistic portrayal of beauty, but very few actually exhibit the common skin condition in all its complexity. It’s time to dismantle unattainable beauty standards and normalize acne, from teenage breakouts to adults with pimples.

For many people, acne is a major source of insecurity. The media can play a major role in normalizing rashes and helping us all to accept and embrace the skin we are in. Unfortunately, it’s extremely rare to come across an advertisement, TV show, or movie where the model or actor has a fault. Even though “perfect” skin does not exist, the illusion that it does exist perpetuates the idea that skin can only be healthy or beautiful if it is unblemished, which in turn increases the stigma surrounding acne.

Fortunately, that is changing, but at a snail’s pace. Some brands, including CVS, Spktrm Beauty, Squish Beauty and Olay, have issued “Photoshop-free promises” and use unretouched photos in ads and social media campaigns. Acne is slowly making its way onto the screen thanks to TV shows like Euphoria, which features real teens with real acne like Barbie Ferreira. Saoirse Ronan’s visible escapes in Lady Bird were celebrated for the standardization of the experience. Skin realism is a step in the right direction in helping those with acne feel represented and less embarrassed by their blemishes, but it only scratches the surface.

We are so inundated with perfectly weathered, filtered, and edited skin that looks clear and flawless that when we post our photos on social media, many of us are hesitant to show our real skin when we sweep through the filters until we do. let us find the one who stains and scars. We submit to the illusion of perfection because it is the norm represented in all forms of media. It’s no wonder that people are still hesitant to show their real skin on social media.

Isn’t it shocking enough that society considers an act of courage to show something so incredibly normal?

Some influencers do their part to normalize acne with positive skin messages, but when an influencer, actor, or even a friend posts an unfiltered photo with blemishes, they’re often hailed as “brave.” Isn’t it shocking enough that society considers an act of courage to show something so incredibly normal?

Even acne-focused products aimed at acne-prone people rarely show actual chronic acne in advertisements. Retouched skin in acne campaigns is not only misleading marketing, it is also unreliable for target consumers. This would allow consumers with acne to start seeing genuine advertisements for acne products with real blemishes.

It’s time for the influencers we follow on TikTok to take down Facetune and the producers of our favorite sitcoms to show the real skin of the actors. Only then will society begin to truly understand that acne is nothing to be ashamed of.


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About Sally Dominguez

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