Em Ford is a globally recognized acne activist, YouTuber, and powerhouse behind the #SkinPositivity movement. The 29-year-old British vlogger and activist uses her YouTube channel, My Pale Skin, as a platform to empower women with the confidence to live their lives without the fear of being judged for their appearance.
For “Teen Vogue,” Em shares a list of the things she wishes people knew about dealing with acne.
1. Your Skin Doesn’t Define You
I’ve accepted that some days are going to be harder than others. Some days I will wake up and be comfortable in my skin — there’s been no-flare ups, breakouts or soreness, it’s a mild day — and I’ll instantly feel more confident because of this. Other days, if I have a major breakout, I’ll just want to hide because I’m worried about what other people will think and say. But I’m more than my skin on a good day and a bad day; your skin does not define you as a person.
2. You Need the Patience of a Saint
It’s been an ongoing battle for years of my life, and it takes up a lot of time. It’s so easy to lose patience with your acne, and lose track of what’s important. I know some days will feel harder than others, but you have to learn to love the person you see looking back at you when you look in the mirror. Rather than focusing all of your attention on the things that you don’t like, embrace all of the things that you do! It isn’t going to happen overnight, but once you begin to love yourself you will feel so much happier in yourself.
3. It Can Impact Your Social Life
Acne can impact so many aspects of our lives, and I would often cancel plans and avoid social situations because I was self-conscious that people would notice my skin before they noticed me, especially if my skin was particularly bad that day. I was convinced that people couldn’t see past my acne and I couldn’t go out and enjoy myself because they would be focused on my flare-up, bad blemishes; even just general glances felt like hate. So I stayed in. But don’t let them win. Stay strong. And if you’re reading this and you can see this happening to a friend, reach out, check in, and be there.
4. There Is No Magical Cure
Unfortunately, as many skin-care experts will tell you, there is no one size fits all for acne treatments. Everybody is different. I’ve spent so much money on products and treatments that have been recommended to me by others because it has helped their skin, but made my skin break out even more. It takes time to find what’s right for you and your skin.
5. Find What’s Right for You
Don’t get discouraged when things don’t work right away. Before spending a lot of money on expensive treatments, I recommend booking an appointment with a dermatologist who can sit down and talk you through some of the best options that could work for you.
6. You’re Going to Want to Pick, But Don’t
The temptation can be overwhelming, but picking at your acne is one of the worst things you can do, and your skin is going to pay for it. Flare-ups might seem bad, but the scarring that is left behind is often worse, because the skin on your face takes a long time to heal. Picking can cause permanent scars, and red marks that are hard to get rid of.
7. You’re Not Alone
Receiving thousands of extremely kind and personal messages from people on social media has really helped me get through my worst days. Knowing that the feelings and emotions I experience daily because of my acne are felt by so many others is the reason why I wanted to open up about it. The confidence I’ve gained through sharing my experiences and hearing about my followers’ experiences is what I hope to bring to others. We’re all in this together. Just take a look at the #SkinPositivity hashtag, where you’ll find a community of people waiting to embrace you.
8. Be Mindful of Everyone’s Journey
In 2015, when I decided to open up and share my story on social media with #YouLookDisgusting, showing the real me in makeup-free images, my life changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined. My content was being viewed by millions of people around the world, but the negative comments that came with that weren’t something I could prepare myself for. In the beginning, I found this really hard to deal with and the negativity definitely got to me. What enabled me to carry on was the support and messages I received from thousands of others who were going through similar struggles, who reached out to me and let me know that my videos made them feel less alone on their journey.
9. We Don’t Feel Represented
Social media and some beauty brands put out a stigma that you shouldn’t have bad skin and those that do need to fix it. If only it were this easy. Someone who suffers with acne shouldn’t be made to feel any less beautiful than people who don’t. Beauty comes from the inside out. We need more brands across the beauty, fashion, and lifestyle spectrum to change the way they look at acne and promote the message: It’s okay not to be perfect. I’d love to see a campaign with women who don’t have perfectly airbrushed skin. We’re owed it.
10. There Is Nothing Wrong With You
No matter your age, moment in your life, or time of day, acne is one of the most common skin conditions. It’s natural. There’s nothing wrong with you. It can feel like the worst thing in the world, but you’ll find your way to own it.