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Acne Activist Em Ford Speaks up in the Name of Positivity

Photo: Courtesy of MPS Media

Leader of the #SkinPositivity movement, British beauty blogger and global acne activist Em Ford is no stranger to negative comments online. She uses her platform to empower women across the world to stand up to unrealistic beauty standards.

 For those who may not know, how did you get your start on social media? What is your commitment to your hashtag #SkinPositivity?

I started My Pale Skin in 2014 as a safe space and a community where I and others could make friends and share our love of makeup. Later that year I was [laid off] and with the encouragement of my followers started blogging full-time.

Later on my YouTube journey, I developed adult acne in March 2015. At first, I would try to hide my blemishes the best I could, I felt ashamed, not worthy, ugly, and embarrassed to be an adult with acne — and then I broke. I couldn’t hide it anymore. The stress and effort I was going through to hide something so natural didn’t sit right. If I was feeling this way, surely plenty of other people were. I began posting more natural-faced pictures on my social media and things soon took an interesting turn.

I wanted to share my journey with others who were going through, or had been through, the same thing. I was always nervous about posting online and how people would react, but I was even more nervous about posting makeup-free selfies and showing my acne to the world. 

I was horrified by the thousands of negative comments I received on my more natural and less makeup-heavy pictures — it was overwhelming. 

You Look Disgusting” was born from those comments and the way it made me and others feel. Released in 2015 the short film displays some of the negative comments I got from strangers attacking me for my makeup-free selfies and acne. I wasn’t sure how people would react to it, but I did it for myself and for the thousands of people around the world who were reaching out to me and telling me that what I was doing was helping them. 

With the mounting pressure of social media, common medical conditions, like acne, can cause mounting insecurities. What do you think needs to change about the way we talk about acne on social media?

The issue with social media is that we’re so used to scrolling through and seeing unrealistic beauty standards set by brands that it makes it impossible for us not to compare ourselves and put ourselves down. We need more brands to champion and spread the message that everyone is beautiful no matter what, rather than implying that acne is a disease that needs to be airbrushed. I refuse to let people feel unrepresented. 

How do you use social media to effect change?

I use social media to help empower and give those with acne a safe space and a community; to live their lives without the fear of being judged for their appearance. On my mission to discover whether the standards set by social media are responsible for how we feel about ourselves, I filmed “Redefine Pretty” — a campaign which looks at women’s relationship with their appearance and challenges what society defines as “pretty.” 

What is your advice for those who may feel insecure about their skin?

Acne is normal — so many people have it and it doesn’t mean you are any less beautiful. Beauty is all about how you feel and not about the way that you look. No matter how you feel or how upset you may about the way you look, believe in yourself! Never let you or anyone else put you down.

I’ve learned that the people who write hateful comments online don’t have an issue with me, or you, but with themselves. Don’t let their negativity win, and if you or anyone you love is affected by this, then talk about it, support each other.

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