I’ve had acne on and off since I was 14. I’m now 27 and still breaking out, so I know exactly how acne can melt away your self-confidence.
I know what it feels like to look in the mirror, see a face full of angry spots staring back at you and want to cry. I know how it feels to have social plans and have to make an excuse at the last minute because you feel ashamed of your skin. And I know how it feels to constantly compare your face to all your clear-skinned friends and wish, so badly, that your skin would just calm the fuck down.
But one thing I’ve learnt over the years is that while I have little control over my acne-prone skin, I do have an element of control over how I let it make me feel.
After letting acne control my life for years, I decided to use my experience as a springboard to build up my confidence and feel good about myself whether I have breakouts or not.
And even though I still struggle some days (don’t we all?) reminding myself of these tips and mindset hacks really does help get me through.
How to feel more confident with acne
1. Remember that acne doesn’t define you
Sure, you’ve got acne, but your skin is just your outer layer – it’s like your shell.
A bad skin day, week or month doesn’t impact all the other amazing qualities, talents, attributes and quirks you’ve got to offer the world.
Maybe you’re an amazing friend, maybe you make everyone laugh, maybe you’re a creative genius, maybe you’re empathetic, maybe you’re super sporty or maybe you’re totally excelling at school, university or in your career.
These qualities and achievements are still there and they’ll never change, no matter how many spots you have. Plus, they’re so much more important than your outer appearance.
And even if you don’t consider yourself any of the things above, know that you are super worthy just for being you and doing your best at navigating life with acne. That takes strength and resilience – and you should be so proud of yourself for that alone!
2. Keep saying yes to opportunities
Picture this: you’re meant to be going on holiday with your friends, but it’s the day before the trip, your skin has broken out and you’re feeling crap about yourself.
A: Make an excuse, cancel the trip and spend the week feeling down in the dumps.
B: Tell your friends how you’re feeling, go on the trip anyway and have the best time ever – yep, even with acne.
I know you know what the better option is.
Look, I know how tempting it is to want to curl up in a ball and hide away when acne erupts. But cancelling plans or opportunities (maybe it’s a new job, a new class or even a date) because of your skin is letting acne win.
You deserve to go out, meet new people and live your life to the fullest whether you’ve got acne or not. You’ve already let acne take hold of your confidence – don’t let it take over your life too.
If your main fear is what other people will think of you, here’s the honest truth: real friends do not care about the clarity of your skin. They just want to spend time with you and have a good time!
3. Join the acne community
Getting involved in the acne community on Instagram was a major game-changer for me.
I went from feeling like I was the only girl in the world with stubborn acne, to realising it’s so damn common – and nothing to be afraid of.
Even better, I went from assuming that acne was ugly, to seeing girls with acne who looked insanely beautiful despite their skin condition.
And that made me realise that I was still beautiful too, even if I didn’t always feel it.
I even started posting photos of my bare skin for the whole world to see. It was scary, it was empowering and it literally changed my life for the better.
So if you’re feeling alone and want to hear or speak to girls and guys who know exactly what you’re feeling, follow a few acne accounts and join the community.
Here are a few of my favourite accounts to get you started:
- Izzie Rodgers
- Emma Taylor
- Acne And Memes (for an acne-related laugh)
- The Blemish Queen
- Me (casual self-promo…)
4. Open up to your friends
One of the best things I ever did was open up to my friends about my acne and how it made me feel.
I remember going on holiday with some of my oldest girl friends. The night before we went, I got a major breakout and was terrified of taking my makeup off in front of them.
I stood in the bathroom on the verge of a panic attack and decided to come out and tell them exactly how I was feeling. One of my best friends instantly said “well, it’s okay, because we don’t care! It really doesn’t matter!”.
It was probably a tiny moment to them, but a huge deal to me. It made me feel so much more comfortable around them. Ever since that moment, I’ve spoken to them more openly about my skin troubles.
Moral of the story? Tell your friends how you feel and ask for their support. It’ll be a huge burden off your shoulders!
5. Recognise that everyone has insecurities
This isn’t me being like ‘omg other people have it worse’ – nonono girl, your feelings are totally valid.
But what I am saying is that most other people have insecurities too. And they’re probably too busy focusing on those to even give your acne a second thought.
We’re all our own main characters, but no one else’s. Read that again and remember it.
No one is noticing, thinking or caring about your skin as much as you are.
Next time you’re out in the world and feeling like every passerby is staring at your skin, take a step back and realise that in reality, everyone’s too busy thinking about themselves.
6. Put makeup on if you want to – and don’t feel ashamed of it
I know how judgemental people get when it comes to acne and makeup.
I’ve had the “If you didn’t wear so much makeup, maybe you wouldn’t have acne” and the “Why are you putting on concealer just to go to the shop? That’s vain” and “Why are you taking so long to get ready?”.
My take on this? If make-up makes you feel more confident, you’re entitled to wear it. It’s your face. Wear it daily if you want to. Wear it with pride and don’t ever apologise. Take as long as you damn need and if anyone judges you for taking time to get ready, judge them right back for their lack of empathy.
On the contrary, if you don’t want to wear make-up and prefer to go bare-faced, do that. Never ever ever let anyone tell you that you need to cover your acne for work, school or even an event. You don’t.
Either way, it’s your face. It’s no one else’s business. Never forget that.
Do whatever you need to feel confident and live your life – whether that’s wearing a full face of makeup or throwing your foundation in the bin and never looking back.
7. Put sticky notes on your mirror… yes, I’m serious
When you’re struggling with acne, the mirror isn’t a happy place. It’s all too easy to stand there, over analyse every spot, mark or scar, end up picking and then regretting it. I know that because I’ve been there too… many, many times.
That’s why I suggest buying some sticky notes, writing out some notes and reminders and sticking them on the edge of your mirror. It really helped me when I was feeling low about my skin.
For me, it was things like:
- You are not your skin.
- It’s going to get better.
And stupid little reminders like:
- Stop picking. It’ll make things worse and you’ll regret it.
- Step away from the mirror. Right now.
But only you will know what you need to hear. Write them down, stick them up and read them over and over when you’re having one of those moments.
I know it sounds so stupid, but it was like a little hit of reality that encouraged me to keep going every time I stood there feeling crap about myself.
8. Remember that acne isn’t your fault
One of the worst things about acne is the stigma that comes with it.
If you have acne, you’re ‘unhygienic’. Or if you have acne, you’re ‘unhealthy’. I know exactly how horrible the unsolicited “you should just drink more water” and “I take care of my skin, so have never had acne” type comments can make you feel.
The truth of the matter? Acne is not your fault. It might be caused by an underlying hormonal imbalance or food intolerance, but mostly, it’s just genetic.
The truth is, some of us are just acne-prone and others aren’t. I have friends who could sleep in their makeup for a week and not get a single spot, whereas I’d be rewarded with 5 new spots by morning. I have friends who can eat anything they want and have clear skin, whereas I always break out if I drink at the weekend or eat too much chocolate.
So when you have a bad skin day and your confidence takes a knock, try to remind yourself that it’s not your fault. You shouldn’t punish or isolate yourself for it because it’s totally outside of your control, just like any other skin or medical condition.
9. Seek professional help if you need it
Look, I know a few tips from some girl on the internet might not be enough to feel more confident with acne. It’s deeper than that. I get it.
So this is just a quick reminder to seek professional help if you feel that acne is negatively impacting your self-confidence or mental health. I know it can be daunting to make that first appointment and open up to your GP or healthcare provider, but it’s their job to get you the help you need. They’re not judging you – they want to help you. Plus, you deserve the help. Make the appointment. Make it now!
If you are having a really bad day and need to speak to someone urgently, you can get in touch with one of the following UK organisations for free:
- PAPYRUS: 0800 068 4141
- Samaritans: 116 123 — 24-hour helpline
- The Mix: 0808 808 4994
- SANEline: 0300 304 7000
- Anxiety UK: 03444 775 774
- Mind: 0300 123 3393
10. And lastly, be proud of your strength
Has anyone ever told you how strong and resilient you are for simply carrying on when you’re struggling?
The fact that you get up every day and continue to live your life, despite the negative feelings going on inside, is so admirable.
It takes so much strength to face the world when you’re feeling insecure or socially anxious because of acne or another insecurity.
You might not see it right now, but these experiences will make you tough. They’ll make you brave. They’ll make you resilient.
So if there’s one thing that should give you an instant confidence boost, let it be that. Acne feels like your worst enemy right now, but the lessons it teaches you might just become your greatest strengths.