Hello love! Tell us a bit about your story.
Hi! My name is Sofia and I run a skin- and acne positivity page on Instagram
. I am 25 years old and I currently live in Gothenburg, Sweden. I created my page when I was due to start an oral prescribed medication to treat my severe persistent acne. I have dealt adult acne back and forth in various degrees of severity from my early 20's. But it wasn't until I decided to start my page that I felt like my skin condition affected my quality of life in a really debilitating way. Starting my page in 2018 was really an act out of sheer desperation, by that point my acne affected my mental, social and physical wellbeing in such a negative way that I felt like I needed an outlet to cope. Of course, one purpose of the page was to document my process with the medication by taking pictures of my skin and keeping track of various side effects. But more importantly my page was a way for me to connect with people online that, much like me, had dealt with the difficulties that follows living with a visible skin condition.
One of my main concerns about dealing with acne was how awfully isolating and lonely it felt at times. I really had no one in my close circle that had had acne to the severity that I did, so finding a source of emotional support felt difficult at times. Dealing with acne is kind of one of those things that if you haven't gone through it yourself, it can be hard to grasp how difficult it can be. So when I found a community on instagram I felt compelled to create an account of my own, so that I could correspond with people who could relate and understand what I went through without feeling the need to explain myself. Sometimes you need a sense of community and that is what I longed for when created my page.
My thought was never to attract a larger audience, on the contrary I was terrified of anyone finding my page in the beginning stages. Down the lines I found the skin- and acne positivity movement and I sort of a had a revelation. Since then my page is more so about finding acceptance in your skin, no matter what state it is currently, more than documenting my progress with my skin. My philosophy is that a great deal of people could benefit from the message of acne positivity as it is such a common skin condition. Therefore I find that the difference and the impact that I can make with my page and my content is to take pictures of my acne flares and scarring in positive contexts, so that hopefully people can feel a little bit better about their own skin. My instagram bio says "trying to normalize acne one selfie at a time" and I think that's a good summary of what I try to accomplish with my content.
Your IG is SO INSPIRING - how do you stay genuinely true to yourself (and your fans) on such a competitive platform?
Thank you! I think the comparison game is always something that I always have to work consciously on not falling in to. To me personally it's really important to take time to return to my roots. I love to be inspired by other people's content, but it's really easy to start comparing yourself to someone else and subconsciously try to be something that doesn't feel authentic to yourself. I think people tend to pick up on what feels authentic and not. And more so, people really tend to tune into what is delivered with passion and sincerity. Often or not when I force something, it doesn't get as much as appreciation as something that comes to me without me having to force anything. Therefore I find that it's so important to disconnect once in a while. Most of my original ideas I have found come to me when I take quiet time for myself. I love to walk in the forest, read and flick through various magazines. I grew up on the country side, so I think that's partly why I love to incorporate flowers and nature into my shots. But I also have a great love for fashion and makeup and I think that's where my editorial take on taking pictures of my skin really shows. I also love to write. So it really is it's a mix between my various passions and things I am wholeheartedly passionate about having dealt with acne. And I think that passion shines trough.
You highlight a number of products that have helped you along the way on your beautiful skin journey, has diet played a role at all? Or what are some of the other factors?
For me I have not found a correlation between my diet and my acne flares. More so has my diet has been something that has been affected through having acne. I think I'm not alone by saying that I have tried countless of diets to try to get some relief in my skin. Personally I have only found that altering my diet back and forth caused a lot stress and a rather strained relationship to food. I went through periods of time where I excluded far too many food groups that supposedly caused acne, but if anything my skin only flared even more despite my efforts.
I have found that my main trigger for my acne is stress, and more specifically emotional stress. When I am struggling and feel bad mentally you can really tell by my skin, which is unfortunate since it's really hard to manage how you feel emotionally. But I guess you can say that my skin sort of communicates with me in that sense, that something is off and that I really need to take a step back and ground myself. Another huge factor is also my menstrual cycle, I always tend to get breakouts at different points of my cycle. So it's really an unfortunate mix of different factors that are hard to manage, so it's good that I have found a lot of acceptance in having skin that isn't clear and that it doesn't affect me to the negative degree that it used to.
What are some serious mood-enhancing activities in the name of self-care for you?
I love to take walks in nature. I grew up on the country side, so being close to nature is very grounding to me as well as it is my biggest source of inspiration. I have also found great relief in my yoga practice. I started doing at home yoga a few years ago and I seriously don't know where I would have been without it. I also just generally love being creative, and that can be everything from creating a colorful eye look to writing in my journal.
Tell us about your activism with the tag #SmilingWithAcne...
My idea with the hashtag is to trying to shift the narrative that acne has to be associated to not liking yourself and being unhappy. I would say that the majority of the time traditional media portraye people with acne as unhappy, or simply as a before and after picture where the person with acne is only smiling once their skin is clear. I'd like to shift the narrative and show that it is possible to smile with acne, but more so that it's possible to live your life to the fullest with skin that doesn't fully align with traditional beauty standards. The hashtag is also about bringing awareness to the difficulties that one might face due to having a skin condition, so that people don't have to suffer in silence. My mission is that everyone is able to get the tools to enjoy and live their life to the fullest, no matter what their skin looks like. I believe that seeing people smiling with visible acne can positively shift how you view yourself, feel less lonely and in the best case scenario inspire them to go out into the world and claim their place, acne or not.
WHEN & WHY did you decide that you were going to make what others' may deem as 'flaws' your strength?
I think it was a gradual process for me as I really started to question beauty standards on a broader perspective when I was a few months into my treatment. Sometimes life and the things you're faced with aligns in a funny way. By that point in my treatment I had started a course at university where we delved deep into body image and beauty standards. However, I noticed that skin rarely ever was spoken about. I think that kickstarted a frustration in me, and from that frustration sparked an inspiration to defy what I and society has told me that I had to obtain in order to be happy about myself. Empowerment came to me as I realized that I didn't need to look like anything to have a voice and to exist fully. Sometimes your greatest strength is sourced from your greatest insecurities, that is what makes it powerful, because you feel so empowered you're able to shift that negativity into something positive.
Have you ever felt on the verge of giving up? What keeps you going?
Yes! Every now and then I do question if what I do is worthwhile, if it make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Especially since I have a full time job as a caregiver on side of running my page, I often times have feel like maybe it's too much for me to take on as I don't make a living off of my page. I have long history having put a lot of pressure on myself to be 100% present in the comment sections, to answer every direct message and so forth, and I have felt I guilty when I have failed to do so. But I have found that is out of utmost importance that I take time off of being online. If I don't find time for myself I can't show up fully for anyone else. Removing that sense of guilt has helped me greatly, although it's something that I always consciously have to work on. Of course I wholeheartedly love creating, writing, taking photos and just being creative in general. But the core of my "why" has always been my desire to help anyone who might have, or is going through, what I went through because of my skin. I know how deeply acne can affect you, so if I'm able to help anyone feel a little bit better or less alone in their struggles, then that is beyond rewarding in all ways.
What do you believe is your 'Soul Purpose' & what advice would you give to someone pursuing theirs during this trying time?
I'd like to believe that my soul purpose would be to help. Whether that being through going to my work as a caregiver or advocating for skin- and acne positivity. My absolute vision would be that I could play a part of shifting the negative narrative of people with acne, and help de-stigmatize common skin conditions. I dream about future generations not having to deal with that trauma, bullying, mental illness, social isolation and body image issues that associated to having acne.
As far as advice goes I would always advice someone to stay true to themselves and really dig deep what you're truly passionate about. It's so easy to tag along for any trends or current waves that is going through society, but what do you really care about? As I've mentioned before, I believe that passion really shines through and will attract the right people into you life. Sometimes you have to go through some really tough stuff to find what you're really passionate about. My passion came from going through one of my lowest mental states and not wanting anyone to feel that way about themselves. So drive can come from a difficult stage of your life, perhaps this trying time you will find something that you're eager to change, explore that and be true to yourself.
Follow Sophia on Instagram! @isotretinoinwiths
SHOP WHAT'S CURRENTLY IN SOPHIA’S COLLECTION:
Even Keel's Moroccan Face Mask
Thayers' Cucumber Toning Towelettes
Polished All Over Shimmer
Love Me Pink
Pomegranate Lip Scrub
Jane Lip Gloss
Flat Top Brush