‘Skin positivity’ confronts acne stigma

A new movement on social media is trying to change the way we think about acne.

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Kiana Wallace is a part of a new movement on social media called ‘skin positivity.' (Rachel Ishikawa/For The Pulse)

Kiana Wallace is a part of a new movement on social media called ‘skin positivity.' (Rachel Ishikawa/For The Pulse)

When Kiana Wallace is on Instagram she’s not just keeping up with what her friends did last night or looking at viral videos. Wallace, 20, meets people she can relate to, people who also struggle with severe acne.

She’s a part of the skin positivity movement, which is about shifting the way we view acne. Only about a thousand people follow her on Instagram, but there’s a woman in London with nearly a million followers. Em Ford whose Instagram handle is @mypaleskinblog gets tens of thousands of “likes” when she posts barefaced pictures of her red, inflamed skin. Others online say they’re “pro-pizza face” or they call their acne scars “fierce A-F.”

The movement is similar to the idea behind body positivity and fat positivity — a push to change cultural perceptions of beauty and health.

Wallace sees a real need for community because having acne can be isolating. When she gets flare ups, her skin is bumpy and uncomfortable.

“Like the feeling of if you was to rub your fingers across of like a Crunch bar,” Kiana said. “It was painful.”

Kiana Wallace during an acne flare up. (Image courtesy of Kiana Wallace)

Strangers stare at her and offer unsolicited advice. But the skin positivity community offers an alternative.

“I can text someone in Germany, ‘I’m having a crisis’ and they’ll be there to take my call,” Wallace said. “It’s like a whole family.”

Now that Wallace has found a skin regimen and diet that work for her, she wants to give back to the skin positivity community.

But there’s a glaring aspect that bothers her. Wallace says she’s one of the few black people who posts on the topic: “I said, why don’t I do something for my black girls, you know?”

Wallace wants to be a resource for people with more melanin, who are more prone to dark spots, or hyperpigmentation. She doesn’t give out medical advice but uses her account to share her experience with acne and the natural remedies that have worked for her — encouraging followers who struggle with their skin.

“It’s very heartwarming,” Wallace said. “It’s nice to know that I’m actually here for somebody, knowing that I grew up feeling alone,” she said.


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