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Lou Northcote Free The Pimple Movement Interview

The Hashtag That Started a Community of Acceptance

When you think of things that make you feel good (like, really good), there's nothing quite like resting in the absolute comfort of being in your own body. But, if you are someone who suffers from breakouts or acne, you'll likely relate to the power your pimples can have in leaving you feeling uncomfortable in your skin.

Personally, I'd love to say that on days I'm not sporting my best skin that it doesn't bother me. But the truth is, sometimes it can leave me not feeling my "best self". But why does my "best self" have to have perfectly clear skin? My best self is happy, kind, smart and loving, so many good things that are certainly not impacted by the presence of a pimple, but, yet I still feel that way.

It's this social norm that skin should be "perfect" that Lou Northcote is looking to challenge with her #FreeThePimple movement. Exhausted by the stigma of breakouts and the pressure she faced feeling like she had to hide her pimples, she posted a photo to her Instagram with the caption #FreeThePimple, and as they say, the rest is history.

Below, POPSUGAR contributor, Tom Farrelly-Rodgers, interviews his friend and fellow model, founder of the movement, Lou Northcote on behalf of POPSUGAR Australia. Read on to learn more.

We all get them, some more than others. I once had a blind pimple so bad that my lip swelled up to twice it's size - a cheap alternative to filler! It was so painful I tried to cancel a shoot later that week (my agent told me to stop being so dramatic). Luckily, pimples for many of us come and go. But for some, acne hangs around, and it can becomes a strong source of insecurity. Lou Northcote, who I am lucky enough to call a friend, has lived with acne for years. She remembers it first becoming first bad when she was 15 - coincidentally when she moved from Dubai to the UK to go to boarding school.

As happens with many of us, the insecurity of dealing with chronic acne built up a wall around Lou. "I spent a lot of time in my room on my own." When everyone was using the first days at school to meet new friends and get to know each other, Lou kept to herself in her room and would even go to the canteen on her own or eat in her room. She never wanted to be seen without makeup, especially when she started dating a boy in her year.

"I was so insecure and I wore Mac Studio Fix makeup to bed every night. I just couldn't take my makeup off in front of him… I had to put on makeup so it became my complete wall, a complete mask."

I'm sure to many people reading this, Lou's story will sound all too familiar. Many of my friends who had acne growing up simply took it as writ that you had to cover it, and this is where the problem lies. Covering sensitive, often painful acne with makeup is simply not good for it. As has been the case with mental health, for example, one problem has been the lack of dialogue around a problem that affects many of us, leaving people feeling more isolated and lonely suffering through it on their own. Lou understood this and, after appearing on Britain's Next Top Model, she wanted to change the dialogue around acne, or at the least liberate herself from feeling so self conscious
about it.

This is when she decided to post a makeup-free, filter-free selfie with the hashtag #FreeThePimple. She wanted to take ownership of her acne rather than hide it. Immediately it touched a nerve online and started gaining attention from loads of young girls and media alike. Lou admits it is surreal being at the front of what has turned into a movement. "All these girls are messaging me saying 'you're an inspiration, what you're doing is amazing' and I'll message them back, which they find surprising but I'm just thinking 'oh my god, you messaged me!'" Lou is keenly aware that this is a community, and each girl she has helped by initially posting that first #FreeThePimple selfie is helping her too, simultaneously reinforcing her mission and adding to the revelation that it's OK to have acne. "It's normal to have spots," says Lou, "it's part of life, but it's been hidden till now." Indeed, one can only wonder why it took so long!

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