Speaking from experience, I know how hard it can be not to depend on makeup when you have problem skin. Whether you have acne, rosacea, or any other kind of condition that mars your complexion, it’s easy to feel exposed and insecure sans the comforting veil of foundation or concealer — especially when by society’s standards of beauty, skin afflictions are seen as flaws.
The silver lining is it seems these days more and more people are saying “fuck it” to society’s absurd expectations of beauty and using their platforms to preach the importance of self-love and accepting the skin you’re in. Hailey Wait, an artist and photographer who battles cystic acne, is one of these people. The 17-year-old’s story is currently going viral because of her inspiring message and the vulnerability she’s shown to her supporters.
Wait tells Allure that she decided to start wearing less makeup six or seven weeks ago, which is right around when she posted her first makeup-free selfie on Instagram. “I had always wanted to be as genuine and real with my followers and supporters as possible since the beginning, but I felt like I wasn’t practicing what I preached,” she says. “Every day I would pile on makeup and pretend I didn’t have any flaws, and it was kind of a toxic way of putting myself on a pedestal, looking back.” Wait is quick to explain that she’s not saying everyone who wears makeup is putting themselves on a pedestal, but she personally realized she wasn’t wearing it for the right reasons.
She continues, musing that when she would take her makeup off at night, she would feel horrible about her appearance. “I felt that I was lying to my supporters, in a way, so I decided that it was time for a change — I shared the foundation-free selfie in October as a way of showing the world and myself that it’s completely normal to have acne,” she says. “It wasn’t something I had to feel so alone in.”
Since her initial post, the amount of positive feedback she’s amassed has been staggering. One photo in particular — a screenshot of a side-by-side photo of herself wearing lipstick, liner, and nothing else that she first posted to Twitter and reads, “Reminder that acne doesn’t make you ugly 💖 A heart full of hate does” — has garnered nearly 60,000 likes. The comment section is rife with messages of praise and support. “You are beautiful. Thank you you inspired me a lot,” wrote one user. “I seriously needed this kind of positivity today. My acne has been getting worse so my self esteem has been slowly withering away. But this just brought it back up! Thanks –,” wrote another. And those are just two of myriad similar messages.
Wait tells Allure that she’s been struggling with acne for quite a few years now (she first started breaking out badly when she was 11), and now, at almost 18, the pesky pimples are still persistent. “It’s frustrating because I always thought it would just go away, and now that I’m almost an adult it feels weird that I still have acne, which is false,” she says. “I’ve now learned that it’s not weird, that even adults still struggle with acne too.” (And let’s not forget dermatologists.) Thanks to people like Wait, who is doggedly fighting the stigma against skin issues, we might just see a day where repping your acne is as mainstream and accepted as showing off a new lip color.
“At the end of the day, no matter what your insecurities are, you are still so much more beautiful than you know,” says Wait. I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
Now check out more badasses fighting acne stigma:
Done reading? Learn how to properly treat cystic acne: