Why I'll Never Hide My Acne With Makeup Again

For some, a lipstick is just a lipstick. But for others, it's a source of strength, creativity, and expression. In our series Power Faces, we'll explore the relationship between strong women and the makeup they choose to wear — or not. Our latest subject, Leia Immanuel, is an Instagram influencer going to high school in New York.
I got acne really early, when I was 10 or 11. None of my friends had breakouts yet, and I felt really weird about it, so my initial reaction was to cover it up with as much makeup as I could find. At first it was one pimple, then more and more started coming, and I'd end up caking my entire face in makeup, which didn't look good at all — but I thought it looked better.
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Around a year ago, I just got tired of covering my acne. I didn’t want to put any more makeup on and I thought, This isn’t good for my skin anyway, it’s just making it worse. I felt like I was feeding into it, too, because I’d cover up my entire face with concealer, and I would get Instagram comments saying, "I wish I had perfect skin like you, I wish I was as perfect as you." And that made me feel bad about myself because I was like, That’s not true, I have really bad skin, I’m just covering it up.
Photographed by Lia Clay. Designed by Louisa Cannell.
Photographed by Lia Clay.
Baring It All
One day I just posted my face with no makeup, and I was like, By the way, I have pretty bad skin, and I think that’s okay, and I think you should feel okay with that, too. I had no idea it would happen, but that totally blew up. I got so many comments and messages saying how that post had helped people. I’m not trying to say that I shouldn’t cure my acne because it looks pretty or something. I’m trying to say that, as a teen, it’s just a part of growing up, and it shouldn’t take over people’s lives or be at the forefront of what people judge them on.
The attitude toward acne is definitely getting better because of all the online forums that work toward accepting skin no matter what it looks like, and all the campaigns that I've been fortunate enough to participate in. There’s still some underlying work to do, but I really have noticed a change in how people behave because of what’s online. I don’t want to say that I started an acne-acceptance movement, but I do think I took part in making it bigger after my initial post.
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I’ve definitely gotten comments saying like, Oh, ugly girls are trying to convince us otherwise, or calling me "tomato face" and things like that. Surprisingly, it doesn’t really bother me; it’s a skin condition, and if people are willing to judge you based off what you look like rather than who you are, it says more about them than it does about you. People make rude comments, but it doesn’t degrade me because it’s not the truth. It’s just their ignorant opinion, and I should pity them, not feel bad about myself.
Photographed by Lia Clay. Designed by Louisa Cannell.
Photographed by Lia Clay.
Show Who You Are
I don’t cover up my acne anymore, unless I’m doing a really intense makeup look — then I’ll cover it up because I’m not trying to look like my natural self, I’m trying to look like something else. Makeup is such a useful tool for self-expression. You can let your face be the canvas and make yourself look like art. It's more of an art to me than something that’s a necessity.
Change is really important for me — not just internally, but externally, I’m always trying to find a new makeup look or a new hair colour. It’s really fun for me to see all the different possibilities of who you can be physically. It helps you find out who you are, and what your identity really is. The way I see it, there’s no limit.
Photographed by Lia Clay. Designed by Louisa Cannell.
When I first started using Instagram, before I started with the acne thing, it was just something I’d do on the side — I'd post a photo hanging out with my friends or doing a new makeup look. After I saw the impact that people said I had on them, that’s when I realised I really have power. If you have the opportunity to have a platform and a community that you built, why not use it and show who you are?
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Photographed by Lia Clay.
Instagram For Good
My acne is getting a lot better, so it’s not like I can post every day about a new breakout or something. I definitely know that I’ve had an impact, and I’m never going to stop spreading what I have to say, even if I don’t have acne anymore. I have a lot of people that direct message me, and I try to answer as many as I can.
I’m just trying to find the balance between living my life and putting what I want out there. It’s really important for me not to get caught up in what I look like for one day or how many followers I have. I want to put out the most raw, unfiltered content so that I can be my truest self and help others.
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