Sales advisor and criminology student, Abigail Collins, 19, from Glasgow, Scotland, was only 10 when she started noticing breakouts on her face.
Over the years her occasional breakouts became more frequent, and by 2014 Abigail was dealing with severe cystic acne – a form where the pores in the skin are blocked, leading to inflammation and infection.
When she was at school, getting ready took over two hours as she spent so long doing her makeup to ensure that her acne was completely covered.
She explains: ‘I was often late because I had to make sure everything was covered, so it would take me one or two hours to get ready.
‘Growing up, it was very difficult to accept my skin and do normal teenage things. In school I felt as if nobody wanted to associate themselves with me because of the way I looked, this meant I had very few friends and a poor social life at this point in my life.
‘I tried to avoid school sometimes as I felt ugly and like the elephant in the room, which took its toll on me socially as I struggled to make friends since I wasn’t always there. Even now I struggle to make friends as I’m self-conscious over the way they see me.’
Abigail endured years of cruel taunts, negative comments and frequent staring due to the severity of her acne.
Being the only person she knew of with acne made Abigail feel like the ‘elephant in the room’ and her low self-confidence made it difficult to make friends.
She admits she avoids dating because she doesn’t want people to think she’s hiding her true appearance.
She said: ‘I’ve struggled to get into relationships as I was so self-conscious about my skin and how it looked, especially to someone romantically, so I tried, and still do, to avoid this.
‘I don’t date purely because I don’t want anyone to think I’m a catfish or that I’m not being honest about the way I look. It’s so difficult to understand and see how another person interprets you.
‘I was bullied for years about my skin and the way I looked, mainly because nobody else looked the same as me.
‘My friends sometimes had negative things to say and would use my skin against me, which has left me with major trust issues when it comes to meeting new people.’
Abigail tried a few acne remedies, but nothing helped heal her skin that well, so she continued to cover it with makeup regularly. Abigail currently uses a gel called Treclin, which is a form of Accutane, to help with her acne.
When she first started studying Criminology at the University of West Scotland, Abigail skipped lectures because she didn’t want to leave the house, but over time she became more comfortable as she realised that nobody cared how she looked.
As a student, Abigail had less time to spend doing her makeup and eventually started leaving the house without any makeup at all. Now, it’s rare that Abigail wears any makeup to university as she prefers to save it for going out.
‘I struggled with the concept of having to move away for university as I was scared I would get a bad reaction from people I would be living with. I was very self-conscious at first and skipped lectures when my skin was bad, but when I went into second year, I realised nobody cared,’ said Abigail.
‘I realised that none of the people around me noticed my skin to a great extent. Also, being a student doesn’t leave you with a huge amount of time to get ready in the mornings either, so I made myself skip makeup some mornings and then it became more frequent. Now, it’s rare I wear any to university.
‘If I’m going out somewhere nice with friends or family, then I will wear makeup, but if it’s just to do something casual like going to the supermarket, then I will skip it.
‘Going out bare faced doesn’t bother me too much anymore. For the most part, I can decide if I want to go somewhere and just go without having to do my makeup and cover my back with my hair.’
Abigail began sharing her journey on Instagram because she felt underrepresented in the media and this created a way to connect with others going through the same thing. After years of feeling ugly and unworthy because of her blemished skin, Abigail wants to show others that acne doesn’t define them and that they aren’t alone, as she once believed.
She said :’I have a few close friends from school who support me unconditionally and help me in any way they can, but I still often feel alone as I don’t know anybody first hand who has similar experiences to me or who looks like me. This made my self-acceptance difficult.
‘Instagram has helped me so much as I’ve seen so many other people who look like me and made me feel less alone. It’s nice to be able to chat to people about how I’m feeling or how our skin is doing that day, which is something you can’t discuss with most people.
‘I hope to show others that acne doesn’t define you and that you’re never as alone as you feel. There are always people out there who can relate and understand what you are going through and can support you.’
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