By Kate Harrold
SINCE posting a candid makeup-free selfie, online trolls have told this woman her skin is ‘beyond help’ but she refuses to stop promoting her bare-faced skin positivity because Instagram ‘lacks authenticity’.
Yoga teacher, Jessica Mackenzie (25), from Edinburgh, Scotland, miraculously managed to spend her teenage years acne-free but over the past four years, her skin has suddenly taken a turn for the worse.
Reaching its worst stage in June of this year, Jessica’s acne is concentrated on her cheeks where it causes the skin to become hot, itchy, and inflamed. The cysts – which are both achy and painful – mean that Jessica struggles to hold a phone to her face or sleep on her side.
When Jessica first started to develop acne, she became very anxious about the sudden change in her appearance. Online trolls would remark, ‘that is unhealthy skin,’ and ‘your skin is beyond help,’ and Jessica would find herself crying most days.
More recently, a security guard told Jessica that she didn’t need to wear a face mask – in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines – due to her ‘skin condition,’ causing her to feel shameful after having her biggest insecurity pointed out.
Jessica has tried various acne solutions including vitamins, spot patches, skin peels, facials, and several skincare products. Jessica is now on a course of Roaccutane – a retinoid medication – which privately costs £1,600 for a six-month course.
The biggest revelation in Jessica’s skincare journey though was the discovery of the skin positivity community. Through Instagram, Jessica was able to connect with others like her and whilst for years, women with acne have been pressured to hide behind thick layers of make-up, Jessica is now encouraging others to embrace their bare-skinned beauty – acne and all.
“Make-up on top of acne can be very uncomfortable. One day, I got home from shopping and took it all off one side of my face,” Jessica said.
“The person staring back at me was the perfect split image of how I see myself vs. how others see me – the glam girl caked in make-up and the natural, bare face complete with spots, pigmentation, pores, and scars.
“For the first time ever, I thoroughly thought my natural side was more beautiful so I posted the picture to Instagram. I definitely hovered over the ‘post’ button for a long time, but as soon as I sent it, I felt a wave of release.
“It was a weight lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t have to be someone else on Instagram anymore. I could just be me.
“I had clear skin all through my teenage years so the acne came as quite a shock and I became really anxious about my skin.
“When I’m having a flare-up, my skin is really painful so I lie on my back to sleep and keep my phone away from my face when on a call. I use ice packs most nights to treat the inflammation.
“I’ve definitely had nasty messages from trolls telling me I have ‘unhealthy skin’ and that it’s ‘beyond help,’ and those messages hurt – but I’ve learnt not to let it ruin my day.
“Just last week, a security guard told me I didn’t need to wear a face mask due to my ‘skin condition.’
“I believe he said it from a place of kindness but I had make-up on and felt pretty good that day. The fact that he still noticed my biggest insecurity through that – in front of people – made me feel anxious and shameful.
“The thing that I find to be the most challenging is the unsolicited advice. By giving someone advice, you’re suggesting that they have a problem they cannot handle.
“I really try to promote self-love and acceptance so the advice can be upsetting because it suggests that I need to change.
“Thankfully, I have really supportive friends and family. Even if I’m feeling really insecure, they’ll never let me turn down a gathering or party because of skin.”
Whilst Jessica continues to try different acne treatments and solutions, this message of self-love has been incredibly healing to her in the meantime. After posting her bare-faced selfie on Instagram, Jessica received an outpouring of supportive comments.
“My perspective changed earlier this year. I was feeling very down and a friend showed me a picture of a model with acne and she looked amazing,” Jessica said.
“I’ve spent so long trying to treat my acne. I’ve changed my diet, taken vitamins, used spot patches, and done skin peels and facials. I’ve been prescribed five different topical treatments and every possible skin antibiotic.
“I’ve spent hundreds on skincare brands. Last year I got skin peels quite regularly which did really help my skin settle but at sixty-five-pounds a treatment every two weeks, it wasn’t feasible long term.
“I’m now paying for my Roaccutane treatment through a private hospital which costs sixteen-hundred-pounds for a six-month course.
“Seeing that model with acne sparked a sudden interest in promoting real skin which is when I took to Instagram to search for #acnepositivity. I scrolled for hours with goose bumps in shock at how big and beautiful the community is – I had no idea.
“People commented on my bare-faced selfie saying that I was inspiring, looked beautiful, and that my words were powerful.
“People personally thanked me saying that they needed to see real skin on their timeline that they could relate to – something authentic. I knew at that point that that’s what Instagram lacks – authenticity.
“Living with any skin condition is challenging but you’re not alone. Please confide in your friends and talk about how you feel. Find your acne community on social media.
“Unfollow any accounts that make you feel anything less than you are and start filling your timeline with real skin. Authenticity will always be beautiful.
“I will continue to document my journey – including my experiences with Roaccutane – posting the highs and lows as well as the before and afters. I’m always happy for people to talk and reach out.”