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Body Empowerment

How Skin Positivity Blogger Em Ford Knocks Out Social Media Negativity

The influencer and creator of “My Pale Skin” talks adult acne, tackling the media trolls, and how to love the skin you’re in.

What are common misconceptions people have about acne, especially adult acne? 

There’s a real, negative stigma towards people with acne in general, but it’s much more intense as an adult. I developed adult acne in March 2015, and at first all I wanted to do was try to conceal my blemishes. I felt ashamed, unworthy, ugly, and embarrassed to be an adult with acne. It was ridiculous, but that’s the issue: we’re so used to scrolling through social media and seeing unrealistic beauty standards set by brands that it makes it impossible for us not to compare ourselves and put ourselves down for our imperfections.

Eventually, I broke. The stress and effort I was going through to hide something natural to me felt wrong, and I didn’t want to keep hiding it anymore. I thought, if I felt this way, then how many other people were experiencing the same feelings? I had to share my journey with others to reach those who were going through or had been through the same thing. 

We have to support one another and spread the message that everyone is beautiful, instead of implying that acne is a disease that needs to be covered. We need to feel represented!

Can you walk us through the emotions you experienced the first time you went on camera without makeup?

In the beginning I was scared. I felt intimidated and vulnerable about not conforming to the usual images we’re accustomed to seeing on social media. I was always nervous about posting online (mostly, for whether everyone would judge my filming techniques); but I was specifically nervous about posting makeup-free selfies and displaying my acne for all to see.

Initially, I was horrified by the negative comments I received on my make-up free pictures — it was overwhelming. So, I created my YouTube channel, You Look Disgusting, to showcase those comments and the way it made me feel. And I wasn’t alone. Hundreds of strong, beautiful women around the world shared their story of online trolling, and together we made a stand against the negativity on social media. 

What role does makeup play in your relationship with your self-confidence and skin?

My relationship with makeup has changed so much over the years. In the beginning I used makeup to hide, as a way to protect myself and to conform to the expectations set by others. Today, I use makeup to empower me; it doesn’t define me, I define it. It’s my armor if and when I need it, and I love playing around with all the different brands and products. 

For people who have tried every acne-fighting product under the sun and seen no progress, what advice do you have for accepting your skin as it is?

Be kind to yourself. There’s only one of you, and you are beautiful. You are more than your skin. Embrace it, own it, and don’t let it hold you back.

What do you do when you’re struggling to feel your best, but also feel the pressure to maintain your persona as a body-positive influencer?

I’ve accepted that some days are going to be harder than others. Some days I wake up and I feel perfectly comfortable in my skin (no new breakouts or flare-ups!). Other days are harder, especially when my skin has a major breakout. But now at least, I don’t let it stop me. I’ll happily grab my favorite dress, shoes, and handbag, style my hair, and hit the streets bare-faced. It’s the best thing for my skin and mind, and I work through it because we are more than just our skin!

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