Beauty isn’t skin deep, which is why one Instagram influencer is determined to change the way we view acne. Seventeen-year-old Hailey Wait has been struggling with breakouts for a few years now, and while her skin hasn’t changed much in that time, her attitude about it has.
The blogger recently posted two selfies on Twitter in which her inflamed cheeks were makeup-free. “Reminder that acne doesn’t make you ugly a heart full of hate does,” she captioned the photos. She then shared that post on her Instagram page, which has over 80K followers.
“I just really want to thank you guys. Since being more open about my skin imperfections, SO MANY of you have opened up to me about your own struggles and I want to say that I’m truly moved, and incredibly thankful to be supported by so many genuine human beings,” she gushed in the caption. “You aren’t flawless, and neither am I. None of us are, and you don’t need to be flawless to be loved and accepted as a human being. We all have imperfections and we are all capable of greater things beyond our appearances .” That post has over 58,000 likes.
Scrolling through her feed, you’ll notice she rarely wears makeup over her acne — mostly lipstick and eyeliner — but that wasn’t always the case.
“I used to think I was disgusting for having it, and a lot of my peers would constantly point it out to me as if I didn’t already know it was there, and it was frustrating,” Wait tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I didn’t really know what to do in the beginning. I knew the basics of face washing and drinking a lot of water, but nothing really seemed to work for me no matter how hard I tried to get rid of it. When I looked at images of girls in magazines, all I would see was clear and glowing skin.”
That obviously added pressure. “Like many young teens, I placed a lot of value on my appearance,” she says. “I looked toward the media for guidance on how to wear makeup and how to dress and how to act so that I could please other people. It was toxic. I covered my acne with makeup and hoped no one would notice, and in the meantime, my self-confidence plummeted.”
While Wait tried to promote positivity on social media, it didn’t feel authentic. “I’ve always tried to spread a positive message on social media, even before I had a large following,” she says. “I would tell my friends and followers to love themselves for everything that they are, every ‘flaw,’ because that’s what makes them unique. But something felt missing. While I was telling other people to love themselves, I wasn’t really setting that example. I still felt so ashamed of my own imperfections. I would edit my pictures so that they looked almost nothing like me. I wasn’t happy with the way that I was.”
Then, her followers started asking for makeup and skin care advice. “My skin just wasn’t clear like I was leading people to believe,” Wait says.
About six weeks ago, she took the plunge in a way most teenagers — or adults — would never have the courage to do. Wait explains, “I knew that my followers were struggling as well and I no longer wanted to be a reason for their skin insecurities. I decided to post a selfie on my Instagram page, on a day where my acne looked particularly inflamed. In a way, the photo was me just kind of playfully poking fun at myself, even my expression was a little lighthearted. It was the first photo I had posted where my acne was the main focus, and while I was happy to be honest about the state of my face, I was also terrified.”
But it was worth it. “Much to my surprise, the response was overwhelmingly positive. People were happy to see someone being open about something that’s usually covered up or edited out.”
On her most recent Instagram post, one follower wrote, “I have acne I I used to hate myself because of it. But seeing your page makes me realize I’m so much more than a little skin imperfection. Thank you so much for being an inspiration to me and many others .” Another said, “i never fell so inlove to acne before. can i marry your acne. just your acnes, not you miss. haha. just kidding. but seriously though, I’ve never fell inlove to flaws before until I saw how beautiful you look with those acne.” A third wrote, “This is everything ❤ gives me the power to be more confident about my skin too.” Where was Wait when we were teenagers?
These comments have proved to Wait that society’s disgust with acne is worse than she had thought, and she “wanted to help change that.” Which is why since then she hasn’t been doctoring her photos or wearing nearly as much makeup. “Now I just fill in my brows and I wear a little bit of eye shadow and lipstick when I’m feeling fancy. No more foundation or face makeup,” she says. “I started being a lot more real.”
Unfortunately, vulnerability like that leads to negativity. “Naturally, I do get a lot of hate now, and it does hurt,” Wait says. “People aren’t really used to seeing acne on social media in such a positive light. People tell me I’m gross and unhygienic, which isn’t the case at all.”
She continues, “So many factors contribute to acne, from genetics to hormones to diet, etc. It’s like people assume acne is simple to get rid of, when really, it’s not. The world would have clear skin by now if it was that way.”
But she has thick skin. “At the end of the day, I can take the hate. The most important thing to me is that I inspire people who are struggling with acne to love themselves. You aren’t gross for having it, it’s a completely natural part of life for most people. So why be ashamed? There’s so much more to people than their skin, and real beauty truly does come from within.”
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