Show Me Something Real: An Ode to the Anti-Acne Beauty Industry

From the time that most of us were able to comprehend the concept of an advertisement, it seems like young women (and men) have been consistently targeted into a marketing scheme that is dedicated to making our faces and bodies nothing but flawless.  Everywhere from the aisle at a drugstore with severely photo shopped faces plastered onto the plastic counter with a brand name written across the top to the covers of high fashion magazines, the illusion of perfection is all-consuming within our society thanks to the anti-acne beauty industry.

Nowadays, the culture of acceptance is something more and more people are willing to grasp and adopt into their lives, whether that be from a social, political, or economic perspective.  However, it seems like the beauty industry puts on a hypocritical front the majority of the time when it comes to issues of acne.  Brands will come out with their latest Instagram campaign preaching cliché slogans like “love the skin you’re in” as a caption under a photo of a model with no acne, no scars, no blackheads, and a perfect glowing complexion.  The counter-productivity of advertisements and social media posts such as this is almost just as harmful as if you just said outright “you’re not good enough if you’re skin doesn’t already look like this.”

It boggles my mind as to why more beauty brands specifically don’t seem as accepting of natural “flaws” that most people have as the fashion industry has.  Granted, the fashion industry is plenty guilty when it comes to body-shaming and all that comes with it.  But in recent years, drastic improvements have been made with plus-size models like Ashley Graham breaking barriers on all levels, companies like Aerie choosing to leave their photos unretouched, stores offering more vast size ranges, brands specifically created for plus-size women, and the overall inclusion of women of all shapes and sizes in ad campaigns.  The change is visual, noticeable, and tangible.  The beauty industry, however, is largely refusing to progress by remaining in a state of perpetual manipulation.

Every beauty-related article I come across always has solutions to any type of “skin-problem”, whether it be pimples, scars, large pores, or sometimes problems you didn’t even know you had.  Is my skin bright enough?  Moisturized enough?  Am I naturally glowing? Am I wrinkle free? Even if acne isn’t your main problem, there always seems to be some higher standard that you haven’t yet achieved.  In my eyes, this seems to be driven by nothing other than a society that is constantly pushing for a newer definition of perfection, which is an ideology that thrives in 2018 because of the hyper-capitalistic conditions of the world we live in.  We are conditioned to buy these products sub-consciously, and half the time they aren’t even making a real difference.  In some cases, they only further irritate your skin and you’re sucked into another endless tautological cycle of buying creams and lotions and makeup to cover it all up.

The beauty industry has always thrived off of the insecurities of people.  Despite the phony new-and-improved-yes-we’re-woke-too attitudes that companies are trying to cling to, the overall message being sent is the same.  You’ll never see a beauty advertisement for the newest high-coverage foundation on a model who has cystic acne.  You won’t be able to see what it looks like on a real person, only on someone who has clear skin, natural or otherwise.  Brands make a major mistake when doing this because they are projecting an extremely false image, which leads to real-life people becoming ultra-obsessed with their appearance, and not in the positively confident way.  The problem goes beyond people face-tuning their selfies, it messes with people’s sense of reality.  The reality about themselves, their apparent worth in a world that shames any type of blemish.  This is especially true when it’s something that won’t go away no matter what method you use to try to fix it, through medication or makeup or cleansers alike.

It is also incredibly discouraging, disappointing and yet utterly telling that a major beauty mogul like Bobbi Brown would tweet “If you think you need foundation you really need a health coach …”  This assumes that people who feel the need to wear foundation have some sort of health condition that prevent them from going without.  That’s not always the case, and it’s appalling that someone who has that type of platform would say something so degrading and insulting to her customers.

The effects of deceptive marketing in the beauty industry is one that has real life consequences.  If beauty brands really wanted to make a change, they should do just that.  Make changes.  What does that look like? Hire models with acne and scars and imperfect skin.  Stop photoshopping every image that gets put out under your brand’s name.  Be authentic with what your product will look like on over 90% of the people who are buying it.  Write articles that show people actually embracing the skin their in. That is how you start to change people’s minds on what is beautiful, what is natural, and what they should be proud of.  So I say to beauty brands and beauty editors everywhere, show me something real.

Written by Jenna Curcio

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