If you meet someone who hasn't dealt with acne, consider them a unicorn and put them in the Smithsonian. It's a rite of passage for many people, and as we age, we're learning that due to our hormones, adult acne is commonplace. And frankly, it's nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.
Acne does not mean you aren't clean. It doesn't mean you haven't tried everything you can to get rid of it. There are so many factors now when it comes to blemish-prone skin: it can be as simple as changing your laundry detergent or as complicated as the medication you're taking. The point is that for most of us, acne is normal. It might suck, but it doesn't make you different. In fact, it makes you human.
When it comes to social media, though, you'll see nary a blemish, a scar, a mark, a bump. Smooth, mannequin-esque skin is rampant thanks to photo-editing apps like Facetune — a built-in form of Photoshop for your phone. It's been reported that people are getting surgeries and treatments to look more like the edited and filtered versions of their photos. And of course we see poreless, perfect photographs for campaigns. One could argue that for professional images, retouching is commonplace, but when it comes to scrolling through Instagram, it seems like we should be a little more realistic.
Which leads us to Kendall Jenner at the Golden Globes in 2018. She looked stunning. Kendall is undeniably gorgeous: she's tall with striking features; she's a model, for god's sake. But it's hard to get through any type of big event without a woman enduring intense criticism, so many chose to emphasize something she probably would have rather been ignored: her skin.
The fact is that Kendall had a breakout. Shocking! A woman with real, uncontrollable skin! Normally this isn't something we'd call attention to, but seeing how people went after her for something completely normal, we felt this photo was important to discuss for a few reasons.
Kendall had a great response in regard to the criticism she was receiving about her skin at the Globes. It's worth noting that she is also an inspirational standard of beauty for many. She is tall, and she seemingly has the perfect body, hair, and face. As for her acne, Jenner recently announced a partnership with Proactiv Solution at the 2019 Golden Globes, claiming the products are responsible for clearing up her skin.
As a normal person, it can feel overwhelming to see perfect images online because it's feels like you're not living up to a particular standard when it comes to beauty. You place the blame on yourself. How many times have you looked in a mirror and wondered why your lips weren't bigger or smaller? Your skin not smoother? Your eyes not more cat-like? Your hair not thicker or straighter? Your complexion not even-toned? Your waistline not thinner? Where did these lines come from? We all have something that, whether we realize it or not, bothers us because of the images we are fed each day online.
This picture, however, reminds everyone that Kendall is in her early 20s. She has hormones and bad skin days, just like the rest of us. She's human. It's also a reminder that editing is just as commonplace on social media as it is in magazines. You can't trust every image you see.
You might not realize it, but many of the top influencers online are editing their photos with precision. It's not just a filter change anymore — things can be removed, plumped, lifted, and enhanced. Instagram account CelebFace has made an impact in the beauty community by posting extreme close-ups and before-and-after photos of celebrities. The people behind the account also post GIFs to demonstrate how they've been edited — sometimes extensively so. Some of the page's content can be gossipy at times, but in general, it's creating a dialogue about how far we'll go on social media to look our best. (CelebFace did not return POPSUGAR's request for comment.)
Many of those featured on CelebFace change the size of their already-tiny waists, their jawlines, and their eye shapes. The account also showcases filler and plastic surgeries, which is nothing to be ashamed of. These are not taboo topics in 2018, although it feels like everyone would rather ignore the sometimes-obvious elephant in the room. The changes become an issue when it's clear that a celebrity has done "something" but portray it as natural or as if it's makeup.
"We need to know the truth behind beauty to stop dysmorphia issues," said Andrea Berk, founder of digital beauty agency HDN. "If we don't love something about our physical appearance, we can change it, and that's the beauty of modern science. But not acknowledging the changes made causes so much confusion and inner struggle about our perceived flaws."
That said, one could argue that it's nobody's business what you do or don't do to your face and body. And that's true. But when you're influencing a large demographic of impressionable women and men, it's fair to want transparency, especially when body dysmorphic disorder starts as young as 12-13 years old. Because it's near impossible to know who and what's been edited or changed, it's important to make sure you keep a realistic perspective when it comes to beauty. And part of that is as simple as curating your Instagram so that you only see images that make you feel your best.
"I'm a strong advocate of responsible social media usage," said Daniel Lyman, LCSW. Lyman works with a variety of actors in Los Angeles who are experiencing body dysmorphia at the hands of the media. The celebrity is scrutinized for his or her appearance and feels pressure to look a certain way, which leads to cosmetic procedures or edited images. This all feeds into the unrealistic beauty culture that's been created online.
"It is more important that you follow the right people than it is to follow everyone," Lyman said. "What you see online is about controlling the content you subscribe to. If certain websites regularly body shame people, then don't continue going to that website. If certain Instagrammers make you feel worse about yourself, then it's important to unfollow them. Taking control of your internet usage means taking control of the content you allow yourself to see."
Whatever side you're on, we all know that more than ever, there is an unfair pressure to look perfect, regardless of what you're doing: with or without makeup, at home or at a party. But nobody is without flaws. Everybody, including celebrities, has bad days. This photo of Kendall, and others like it, should not encourage you to pick apart how someone looks. It should inspire empathy.
When looking at a photo, think: what if that were me? How would you want people to react and respond? This photo should remind you that you are beautiful regardless of what your skin looks that day or how a certain image made you feel about yourself. It should remind you that social expectations typically do not meet reality. That you are enough the way you are. And if you want to change something about yourself, go for it. Just make sure you're doing it for you, not anyone else — especially the pressure to look a certain way through typically inauthentic online images.