What About Acne Acceptance?

acnotabs-stop-pimples-adBy Heather Roberts at Wise Grrrl

The feminist blogosphere has buzzed with fat acceptance, which is great, but I wonder what about acne acceptance? I have zits, pimples[1], and rosacea; all three plague my face, arms, and back. Every day, I am consumed with conscientious feelings. I always think that someone is going to find me ugly. High school was a place of hurt for me. Everyone, especially my friends (who were all boys at the time) would tell me that I had “personality” and what I deserved was a body like (insert name of pretty girl here) and that she didn’t deserve her body. But I did because all I had was personality; apparently I wasn’t sexy, pretty, and beautiful because I had personality. I needed a “great” body to match it.

Now I wonder, what about the other girls who have a face like mine, are they being told that they are ugly? Are they being told that they don’t deserve such a cursed face because their personality really shines through? Are they being told to wear makeup, to go see a dermatologist, or to use some acne product that is supposed to clear up that nasty face? How does it make her feel? Is she hurt like me? Or does she actually seek “help?” Female beauty is something that a lot people talk about and perpetuate in our culture. If a girl doesn’t look “right” we tell her how she can.

People ask me about my face and what I should do about it. For the most part people try not to be rude and go on about what kind of makeup or treatment I should use. But on some level I can’t help but be a little offended. It’s like a skinny person telling a fat person what kind of diet they should go on to lose weight. I hate it when someone tells me that chocolate or coffee causes acne. I was once asked if I washed because apparently acne is just caused by bacteria. Acne is actually caused by your skin oil and your genetic makeup. I am not ashamed of the way I look, but I was because random acquaintances and family members would tell me I should use this or that new product out on the market. People also told me that my acne was really ugly, so I constantly used makeup to cover it up (and sometimes I still do for the redness).

My friend, who happens to be male, had just has much as acne as I did, and he was never told to wear makeup nor has anyone told him what he should use for it. I am female so that automatically makes me worried about my appearance. Does this seem odd to ask a young woman to clear her face up but not a man? Women in our society are supposed to want to look “good” and that’s where all the money is. Advertisers make women feel bad about the way they look so that they will buy their product. Maybe acne acceptance can lead to facts about acne, as well as how pop culture poorly portrays the female body, and how beauty lines are making a quick buck off our low self-esteem.

Like most people who have bodies that don’t fit society’s beauty (or handsome) standards, people who have acne are a minority; women who have acne are a minority within a minority. People on T.V. don’t have acne; beauty is clear skin, skinny, and white; cisgendered, straight, able-bodied, and tall (keeping in mind little people). I also have noticed that women and girls with acne are more stigmatized than men and boys who have acne.

Personally, I gauge whether someone is ugly (or not) by the way they act, not by their physical looks. I do feel bad about myself when I watch T.V. for and about people with clear complexions. I feel ashamed when someone points out my acne and tells me that I should use something for it. I feel bad about myself when someone tells me I should stop drinking coffee or eating chocolate, assuming that my face is the way it is because it’s my fault. I am sure a lot more women young and old alike who have acne (or any other physical attribute society doesn’t care for) feel the same as I do when faced with society’s beauty standards. So, I am asking the feminist blogosphere to write about acne and how it can affect a woman’s life. It’s important to look at the whole picture of body acceptance, not just size. For me, it is too limiting.

Shouldn’t acne acceptance be a part of feminism just as much as fat acceptance, disabled acceptance, little people acceptance, LGBTQA acceptance, and race acceptance?

Here at Adios Barbie we completely agree. What’s your take on acne acceptance?

Be sure to check out more of Heather’s work at Wise Grrrl

[1] Editor’s note: The author differentiates between zits and pimples. In her own words, “little dots I describe as zits and huge mountains I call pimples.”

17 thoughts on “What About Acne Acceptance?

  1. Well I have acne as does one of my best friends, we’re both on anti-biotics which are clearing it up very well in combination with pescribed cream, and religiously keeping hair and grease off my face. I don’t think its a gender thing my father had acne like me in his late teens, early twenties and he felt terribly self conscientous about it, as did my partner when he had them. They both managed to deal with the problem in different ways successfully.
    Mainly acne can be cured with medical help…I would never judge anyone for having spots, why the heck would I? But I don’t really see it as something than can be turned into a positve.

  2. I still struggle with acne since I wrote this post. But I’ve accepted that my skin is a part of me and that I should take care of it. I’m glad that many people have gotten something from my one post. And I hope that this can be written about for long time.
    I agree, flaws are beautiful, Jen. I recently spoken with a friend who has sun-spots on her face. She thinks that their ugly, but that is one of the things that make her beautiful to me. I think that their cute 😉
    I found out that plain water works just as fine, too. While I’m at work I just keep washing my face and I usually don’t get any problems with my face.

  3. I am so glad you wrote this! I’m 19 years old, I graduated high school last year and I never suffered from severe acne but still it’s there, it comes and goes and it always bothered me and made me feel very unattractive. In high school I tried lots of stuff to clear up my skin, I tried some medicine that really did make the acne go away….but, it dried up my skin so badly I wanted to rip my face off to get rid of the discomfort. It wasn’t worth it. My acne comes and goes and I’ve noticed that when I DON’T put anything on it, I just wash my face with water, it clears up faster. I never see acne in others as a flaw and I don’t see it as a flaw in me anymore. I don’t hide it, I just say, yea, I have a pimple, it’ll go away and I’m still beautiful. The media might not want us to realize this, but EVERYONE has some sort of “flaw” and there’s nothing wrong with that, who’s to say those flaws aren’t beautiful too?

  4. I have never thought about acne in a way that maybe I can accept it. I have always been told, wash your face that’s the ONLY reason you have acne, which its not. Its in my genes, all my brothers and sisters have had acne, and its been a lot worse than mine.

    I constantly feel hounded by people about it, everyone else is clear and I always have those splatches. People tell me to fix it.

    Reading your article, I thought wow maybe she’s right. Maybe I don’t have to “fix it” I understand hygenie and the fact that it is good to take care of yourself. But I shouldn’t feel ashamed of my face. I shouldn’t have to load on the make-up and try to look pretty because society tells me to.

    I’m a human, I have flaws and not all flaws can be fixed. Not all flaws have to be fixed. Life is going to have problems, but in the end i can still smile and have fun so what if I have a zit the size of mount helena?

    So thank you, for cheering me up and actually making me smile about this. Because zits really aren’t the greatest troubles in my life, nor should they be in anyone else’s. 😀

    Love, Kay

  5. I didn’t have acne until my college years, so I didn’t have to deal with the trauma of bullying. We’re all judged by how we look…but not by the ones who really love us. And since all this high definition technology crap, I’ve been seeing a LOT more acne on-screen. Hooray for real faces!
    I would like to point out that when not genetic or hormonal, acne can be a physical sign of underlying health issues – mainly sluggish digestion. (This is the case with mine, for sure.) I don’t think any of us should feel pressured to have “perfect” skin (or “perfect” anything for that matter), but I do think we should all listen carefully to what our bodies are trying to tell us. So if, If, IF…you happen to have acne and aren’t pooping at least one impressively large poop each day…I would urge you to eat a diet higher in fiber…for the sake of having healthy bowels…not flawless skin. Ah, the wonders of body chemistry. 8|

  6. I agree with you that acne acceptance is not widely spoken about! It seems that a lot of people assume you ‘grow out’ of getting spots after your teenage years and, in the U.K at least, they just wait it out. When I started Uni a friend asked me if I had the measles and I had to respond that no, this is what my skin looks like. Many of my friends have been referred to their doctor for their skin ‘problems’ but I decided a long time ago that I couldn’t be bothered to change my appearance just so that other people felt more comfortable around me.
    I’ve written about this a couple of times; http://thatfuckinghippy.info/dotdotdot & http://thatfuckinghippy.info/hey-do-you-have-measles & I’d like to see more anti-anti-wrinkle posts as well, perhaps! Perfect skin is big business, unfortunately.

  7. As the blogger, I feel that acne has been the least talked about in feminist body acceptance, but we can change that. I am happy that acne acceptance has gotten some great feedback. I suppose it was my new and improved article!

  8. What a great article! I have an extremely oily face that I’ve been trying to get rid of for years, which is almost bothers me more than my moderate acne. People are always telling me what kind of makeup to wear, or the new oil blotting sheets, or even that I should eat less oily foods and wash my face more. I guess the last two comments are what have always hurt me the most because I know for a fact that they are untrue, and that the person infers that it’s ugly to have a face like mine – and it’s all my fault. People have just begun to make progress on treating people’s bodies equally – I don’t get why somehow acne still isn’t in the public equation.

    And if I don’t use concealer every day, people stare. Wordless swords.

  9. I still have acne coupled with excess body hair, and depending on which I’m trying to combat the other tends to become more extreme. How many frigging times have I been told I, “just gotta exfoliate! Use a sugar scrub! I swear that a little St Ives Apricot Scrub’ll clear that up!” 😀

    It sometimes makes me wish I had PCOS. Then I could blame my hairy, pimply, devastatingly ugly body on a chronic condition beyond my control, and people find it far more acceptable if you have a medical reason for not correcting the ways in which you deviate from the standards of a patriarchal society. The fact that it’s all down to my genetics is just an unforgivable mistake on my part. And I’ve just added to the crime of being incurably ugly by denying well-intentioned advisers the opportunity of solving all my problems by slapping the ugly off my face with their guaranteed remedies.

  10. I have had terrible acne my whole life. I’m 24 and it’s basically on my neck and back now. However, it used to cover my face, chest, etc. High school was torture… boys used to scream “Wash your face!” at me, and call me names like “zit face”. Complete strangers would approach me on the street and tell me what to do about my acne problem. Once, an elderly woman told me to put raw egg whites on my face.
    Also, a co-worker of mine has psoriasis over her whole body. She often talks about the terrible treatment she received growing up; hair dressers refusing to cut her hair, peers calling her names and spreading rumors that she had AIDS, etc.

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