Forget the filters, skin-clusivity is taking the beauty world – and Instagram – by storm. We discover why it’s time to embrace your imperfections – acne, scars and all.

If you’ve been on Instagram lately, you might have noticed the selfie landscape has shifted slightly. A backlash against hyper-filtered images coupled with the growing influence of the global body positive movement have conspired to create a perform storm of realism on the social media site that was once synonymous with perfection, airbrushing and photoshopping.

The upshot? Bloggers and even celebrities are getting seriously truthful about everything from their stretch marks to the angles they use to fake the perfect abs. And one issue in particular that has come to the fore in this body issue amnesty, is acne.

The Valencia filter has been stripped back and we’re now seeing spots, whiteheads, pimples, redness and scars in all their raw glory.

Case in point: an empowering new photo series by photographer Peter DeVito which features models with untouched skin with slogans such as ‘acne is normal’ and ‘I’m so sick and tired of the photoshop’. The images have been endorsed by countless Instagram followers, including model Cara Delevingne – regarded by many as the benchmark for millennial cool.


Then there’s Australian model Belle Lucia, who recently shared a throwback image of her acne-plagued teenage self, confessing: “I struggled with acne for many years as a young girl, not only was it isolated to just my face but it affected my chest and back. This severely affected my self-esteem and I had to stop modelling as a result.

“I’m posting this to hopefully help those out there suffering with acne or anyone worrying about the way they look because when I was young I wish someone would have told me that your looks don’t define you and even the ‘models’ you see on advertisements aren’t perfect.”

This new era of #skinpositivity comes as a welcome antidote to years of white-washing problem skin behind glossy, manipulated images. Now, it seems bloggers and celebrities alike are ready to get real. And the results are refreshing, never mind inspiring.

There’s been an explosion of people sharing acne selfies online recently, but the movement has been steadily growing for a few years. One of the first to smash the acne taboo was Em Ford of @mypaleskinblog, who developed adult acne in her 20s. After revealing candid photos online, Em subsequently shared some of the nasty comments she had received as a result. Of the 100,000 comments on her bare-faced selfies, words like ‘gross’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘revolting’ were commonplace.

The viral video exposing her trolls that followed received 27 million views and kickstarted the #skinpositivity movement, with everyone from Kylie Jenner to Ruby Rose joining the revolution.

It’s hardly surprising that the push-back against a less-than-flawless complexion has gained such momentum. After all, acne is so common that it’s the eighth most prevalent disease worldwide, affecting almost one in 10 people, according to the British Journal of Dermatology.

In the Middle East, acne is so common that it affects 60 per cent of adolescents and young adults, according to research jointly conducted by the Dubai Health Authority and United Arab Emirates University’s Faculty of Medicine. At Dubai Derma 2018, the UAE’s annual dermatology conference, adult acne was a major subject, with experts claiming it is on the rise in the region.

Em paved the way for an Instagram insurgence by the thousands of others who were hiding their skin insecurities behind flattering, filtered feeds. The new army fighting the spot stigma range from fellow bloggers such as Kali Kushner from @myfacestory – who documented her battle with cystic acne through make-up free selfies – to beauty industry insiders such as model Brianna Lopez, who shared snaps of her acne at its worst.

“To be a model you basically need to be ‘perfect’,” Brianna wrote, “I’ve struggled with [my skin] so much, and I feel like I need to stop pretending like I haven’t. Especially in this industry – it can be very deceiving about body image and skin.”

With the floodgates open, celebrities including Orange is the New Black‘s Ruby Rose and My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s Rachel Bloom are proudly putting their acne on full display. And social media users – starved of realism by the high-glam, poreless beauty mould made popular by the Kardashians and beauty bloggers such as Huda Kattan – have been quick to embrace this new wave of honesty.

A common condition so taboo we’ve been forced to cover it up – literally – is suddenly out in the open. The ultimate honest beauty boost came earlier this year when Kendall Jenner was pictured with blemishes at the Golden Globes. As one fan tweeted: “Ok but @KendallJenner showing up and strutting her acne while looking like a gorgeous star is what every girl needs to understand.”

The model responded: “Never let that stop you!”

It’s positive comments like this that have inspired others to follow suit. Instagram star Hailey Wait admits her confidence has been buoyed by the feedback she’s received from her bare-skinned selfies.

A post shared by hailey wait ⚡️ (@pigss) on

“Since being more open about my skin imperfections, so many of you have opened up to me about your own struggles and I want to say that I’m truly moved, and incredibly thankful,” she wrote.

“I’ve heard your stories and seen more and more of you embrace yourselves for who you are, and to me, that’s the most beautiful thing in the whole world. You aren’t flawless, and neither am I. None of us are.

“We all have imperfections and we are all capable of greater things beyond our appearances #thankyou #spottyandcute.”

That pretty much sums up the mood of the movement. And long may it continue.

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Words: Aoife Stuart-Madge
Main photo: Peter DeVito