These women are normalizing acne on social media to help others: ‘It can be a very big insecurity’

·5-min read
Nazhaya Barcelona went viral after sharing her acne journey online. (Photo courtesy of Nazhaya Barcelona)
Nazhaya Barcelona went viral after sharing her acne journey online. (Photo courtesy of Nazhaya Barcelona)

All skin is good skin.

This can be hard to remember in a digital landscape where such phrases as "poreless finish" and "glass skin" are the ultimate in praise. The standards for what good skin is on social media has helped to enforce anti-acne stigmas for years.

It has become standard practice to edit out a pimple before posting a picture to Instagram or to "smooth" out skin imperfections before uploading a selfie. Most people prefer to conceal and cover. Posting a photo of your skin during an active breakout? Forget about it.

But these social media creators have taken a different approach.

"I was tired of being this person that was insecure and hiding from everyone," Nazhaya Barcelona, a full-time content creator who went viral after sharing her acne journey on YouTube in 2019, tells Yahoo Life.

"I didn't want to stress about it any more, because it was causing me such a headache just going outside every day and being insecure and not wanting to be in front of a camera, not wanting to look at myself," she says of her decision to stop letting her acne hold her back.

Barcelona received many supportive responses from viewers who saw themselves in her candid videos.

"I think that because I was so honest with myself, that honesty was able to resonate with a lot of other people that watched the video," she says.

However, not all of the feedback was positive. Barcelona found herself the subject of a viral tweet, comparing her skin to the texture of a crunch bar. But even in the face of such scrutiny, her newfound confidence allowed the unkind words to roll right off her back.

"The comments didn't hurt," she says. "I was actually really excited to go viral."

Mean comments online are par for the course, but for these brave people, the prospect of helping others feel comfortable in their own skin eclipsed the fear of ridicule.

"There's so many other people like me that have just looked at themselves in the mirror, and they're like, 'This is what defines me,'" TikTok user Alison Grygo tells Yahoo Life.

Alison Grygo beams with confidence before she even started her acne treatment.
Alison Grygo documented her Accutane journey on TikTok. (Photo courtesy of Alison Grygo)

The 23-year-old started opening up about her Accutane journey on TikTok. She's received 6 million likes in her videos, in which she shares with her nearly 140,000 followers what it's like to take medication for acne.

Her videos showcased the nonlinear process of starting Accutane, a prescription drug for treating severe cystic acne. As difficult as the cutting remarks can be to read, they didn't stop Grygo, who says she never let fear stand in her way.

"If worse comes to worst, I'm just going to get mean comments — and I'm like, 'I don't care about that,'" she says. "That's just people on the internet. People who stoop that low aren't worth my time."

While Grygo says she wouldn't change a thing about her experience, she does admit that building her confidence was not easy.

"It took until I was about a sophomore in college to really stop feeling bad for myself and feeling bad for all of the acne that I had," she says.

Dealing with the isolating reality of acne can be overwhelming, but considering the big picture can often be a source of solace and inspiration.

"After having my daughter, I was like, 'I want to show people the journey of who I am,'" Cassy Jean, a mother of one, tells Yahoo Life.

Cassy Jean is pictured in the driver's seat of a vehicle.
Cassy Jean decided to share her experience with acne after years of feeling ostracized. (Photo courtesy of Cassy Jean)

After spending years covering up her acne with makeup — often refusing to even sleep without it — Jean decided to share her experience on TikTok after finding a few acne products that worked for her.

"I became so obsessed with covering my face I didn't go anywhere without makeup on. I went to sleep with makeup; I wore it 24/7," Jean says, adding that a few well-intentioned but drastic steps her boyfriend took helped her start to accept her skin.

"We were watching a movie on Netflix," she recalls, "and he went to my bathroom, got baby wipes and wiped my face," removing her makeup. "I was in total shock."

She adds: "He was like, 'It's just acne.'"

At one point, her boyfriend went as far as to hide her makeup from her. "It was just the most uncomfortable thing for me, because I'm so used to wearing makeup and just feeling like I look pretty. And just me with my natural skin, I'm like, 'I look ugly,'" she says. .

After some trial and error, she found products that began to clear up her skin, and she decided to share her before and after pictures on social media.

"I was like, let me go ahead and just showcase how my skin looked before, because I know how hard it is to operate with acne, especially being a young woman," she says. "It can be a very big insecurity." As for those still working through the problem? Self-acceptance is more important than any acne cleanser or treatment, says Jean.

"This might sound cliché, but once you accept yourself for who you are and what is going on in your current situation, other people will begin to do it, because they see you doing it yourself. … Words can hurt you but they can't break you," she says.

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