Social media—we love and we hate it, right? I mean, where else can we get news about JLo and A-Rod, tips on the latest spring fashion, links to an article on “How to survive virtual school,” and a 25% coupon on a candle that says “Fuck everything” and makes our house smell pretty—all in a five-minute scroll on our phones?
It’s how we connect to the world, especially other moms, but also get recipe ideas, read about a new wedge sandal everyone’s buying, and find out where we can get a COVID vaccine.
Like or not, social media runs the world these days.
But some days, we really, really don’t like it. In fact, for all the good stuff we find as we scroll IG late at night when we finally get an hour of me-time, there’s just as much bad. There are the pics of friends traveling maskless during a pandemic and making us stabby while we haven’t even taken our kids to the park in six months. There are the ads for $300 purses that make us cry because who TF can afford a $300 purse when so many Americans can’t pay their rent?
And there are those “perfect” influencers with professionally-done makeup and hair, designer clothes and accessories, tiny waists, and immaculate houses with white couches that don’t have ketchup smeared on them. You know, the ones with a blanket haphazardly draped across a chair in the background. The ones who don’t have greasy fingerprints on their mirrors and who always know how to stand with one foot out and hold their phone at the optimal angle. (Seriously—does someone teach them this shit?! How come I always look like a tree slightly leaning to the left with a terrified smile like I’m about to fart in church or something when I take a selfie?)
So yeah, seeing these perfect “influencer” images can make us feel envious, less than, and defeated as we’ll never in a million years look like them.
But thankfully, it seems there’s a movement happening. There appears to be a real desire for those on the other end of those accounts (those of us at home, at 11 p.m., laying on our stained couches in 20-year-old sweatpants with Dorito crumbs on our shirts, scrolling social media) to see real images. Real bodies. Real messes. And real skin.
Now, rather than perfectly clean white rugs and couches, we’re seeing messy houses. We’re seeing dirty dishes in the sink and piles of laundry on the furniture. The idea that we can only post “perfect” pictures online has been turned on its head. Now, rather than only sharing smiling pics of happy, well-coiffed kids in matching flannels, influencers are posting real images of their kids melting down, refusing to wear said matching flannel, and ripping out their pony tails.
Also, social media is full of a diverse range of body types now, more than ever. The body positive movement changed the landscape of IG and Facebook and TikTok as well—showing women everywhere that all of our bodies are beautiful and encouraging us to love ourselves just as we are.
So it only makes sense—as social media seems to be embracing “realness” of #momlife—messy houses and loving our real bodies without filters or sucking our stomachs in—that we do the same with our skin.
And that’s how the skin-positive movement was born, and frankly, it’s refreshing AF.
So what’s changed? Well, for one, influencers who are showing off their “real” skin aren’t wearing makeup. Even if that means they’re showing their acne, or scars, or anything on their skin that society deems an “imperfection.” In fact, they’re embracing these bumps and lines, as they are part of what make them … well, them.
“Behind all these unfiltered photos and videos is a massive community that operates the skin positivity movement,” a Cosmopolitan article explains. “Fellow influencers hype each other up in the comments section, swap stories and experiences with followers over DM, and even walk each other through the heavy emotions that come with having skin conditions. It’s essentially a virtual support system.”
Because the truth is, how many of us actually have completely clear skin with no blemishes, no pimples, no scars, and no wrinkles? Ummmm … pretty much no one.
And these influencers aren’t necessarily out there loving their acne. (But if they do, more power to them!) They’re just normalizing loving themselves—pimples and all. In the same way the body positive movement encourages women to love their bellies and their legs and their butts as they are, so does the skin positive movement.
One skin positive influencer, Costanza Concha writes this honest, refreshing post:
“Real bodies do have body hair.
Real bodies do have skin conditions.
Real bodies do have scars
Real bodies do have stories.
Don’t magnify your false ideal of a real body as the one an app can only create.
Don’t let someone’s lies make you believe these things are abnormal on a human body just because they don’t want to have/accept them.
Whether you like it or not…this is how a real body looks like too.
Influencer Oyintofe Oduyingbo shares this important reminder: “Ps: this is a friendly reminder that pores are normal, #skintexture is normal, acne is normals and acne scars are normal too. Do not let it limit you ❤️
And yet another skin positive influencer, Monique Schreiber, reflects on her personal journey, saying: “I always thought that I needed flawless skin to wear a bold lip, but I absolutely loved doing this red lip look💋It’s crazy how I have conditioned myself into thinking that I need perfect skin to feel a certain way. Yet the scars on my skin represent my incredible journey of healing and self refinement.”
Also, it’s important to note that being “skin positive” isn’t just about acne. Native Floridian Deena Lang shared her “real skin” on IG recently and commented that she lost some followers over it—because apparently some people want fake, filtered pics over authenticity. So, rather than whining about losing fans, she doubles down and shares more pics of her reddened skin, to raise awareness about skin cancer and the importance of sunscreen, as she said she’s spent most of her life “wearing sunscreen when it was convenient, rather than when it was crucial, which is everyday.”
And, she goes on to offer this valuable advice: “PLEASE get your skin checked by a professional dermatologist and if the results don’t feel right get another opinion and another. PLEASE wear proper sunscreen every single day. Make it part of your routine. If you can dedicate time to eyeliner you can spare the time for something that could save your life. More importantly, PLEASE apply sunscreen to your children every morning.”
Skin positive influencers hope that by normalizing showing their “real” skin, they’ll help others feel seen, feel valued, and have the confidence to come out of the shadows, rather than hide their acne in shame and embarrassment. Influencer Sofia Grahn reflects on the value and importance of acne-prone skin showing in people’s social media feeds. “After spending so many years feeling alone and seeing your skin type represented only through before-and-after photographs in commercials, it’s a pretty amazing thing to see yourself represented in your feed,” she shares in Cosmopolitan.
Even big brands and companies—like Target and Girl Scouts—are reflecting this new trend of loving your authentic self. Target model Jeyza Gary, who has now become a skin-positive influencer in her own right, has a rare skin condition called ichthyosis, which makes her skin frequently shed itself and take on a scale-like texture.
And the Girl Scouts included a model named Nicklya Brantley, who has vitiligo, a condition that causes patches of skin to lose their color, in their advertising. Because they, too, see the value and benefit of inclusion and skin positivity.
The impact of this movement is huge—as it empowers children and adults who might feel insecure about showing their skin to the world. When they see influencers like Costanza Concha, Oyintofe Oduyingbo, or Deena Lang, or when they see ads with models like Jeyza Gary or Nicklya Brantley, they see themselves.
In an article entitled “Skin Positivity Influencers Helped Me Accept My Acne For What It Is,” writer Shelby Cooke reflects on the positive effect this new form of representation has had on her mental health.
“Acne is just like any other body issue: it makes you feel like a monster, wanting to hide away so no one has to see how disgusting you are. Acne is a form of body dysmorphia, and acne sufferers have declining mental health because of it,” her article reads.
But then she found skin-positive influencer Lou Northcote, and that changed everything.
“I’ve suffered alone for 12 years with my acne, feeling like I was the most disgusting human on the planet,” Cooke writes. “I’d never met someone who had the same severity of skin issues like me. And there she was – on Instagram, in a magazine. I couldn’t believe it.”
We can only hope this tendency to normalize real life—real houses, real bodies, real skin—continues. There’s nothing wrong with showing your clean house, or your clear skin, or even your skin with makeup. But as much as we see skinny women, we need to see women of every other body type too. And as much as we see blemish-free skin, we need to see skin that’s not. This is how we lift one another up and validate all our unique, beautiful differences.
Keep it coming, skin-positive influencers. You’re changing the world.