Is the flawless skin you see online real?

Struggling with acne or other skin conditions is hard enough, but when all you see on social media and TV is flawless skin, it can make you feel even worse. But is any of it real?

Just scrolling down your Instagram feed can leave you thinking you’re the only person in the world without perfect skin. It can really affect your self-confidence and give you a distorted image of what’s possible.

Many social media influencers and celebrities may appear to always have immaculate complexions, but is that really the case?

Emma Stone recently revealed that she struggled with severe acne when she was 17 and a lot of her spots were digitally removed from the film ‘Easy A’, unbeknown to viewers.

The on-screen and online obsession with flawless skin is not just harming people’s self esteem, but it’s not a true reflection of real people. It’s estimated around 95% of people in the UK will suffer from some form of acne in their lifetime. Of course, some people suffer with acne more severely than others, but being bombarded with perfect images isn’t helping anyone. 

The dangers of image editing

It’s no secret that many of the photos you see in advertising campaigns are airbrushed, but we often think of social media as a closer reflection of reality. In truth, there are loads of apps where you can easily airbrush and edit your photos.

Just like Emma Stone’s acne, airbrushing is also used in films and video footage. Spots, scars, moles and wrinkles are just some of the imperfections that can all be digitally removed from footage and images, but it’s just not spoken about. Take a look at this video to see just how easy it is.

The YMCA have recently started a ‘Be real’ campaign, encouraging young people to avoid filters and image editing, instead choosing to post real photos. They are in the process of trying to make it a legal requirement for companies/ influencers to label photos as digitally edited, when posting them online.

Liam Preston, who is head of the campaign, said “Images should show people as they are in real life. Social media has a huge impact on how people feel about their bodies. Young people especially are on social media constantly and they are bombarded with airbrushed photos that aren’t attainable, causing low self-esteem. But if people see an image that has been labelled as edited, they will know it’s not reality.” 

Their campaign also found that over 67% of young people edit photos of themselves before uploading them on social media, so you should really think twice when comparing yourself to images online, even if they’re photos of people you know.

The importance of showing real images

The YMCA research found that more than two thirds of young people worry about the way they look. They suggest that a large reason behind this is being exposed to a constant stream of edited images, giving them unrealistic expectations about the way they should look. Celebrities and influencers have a responsibility not to encourage this distorted view of body image.

Some influencers and celebrities are starting to tackle this, but the vast majority are not. Until celebrities and brands stop editing images or make it clear when they have, it will continue to encourage this unrealistic view of flawless skin and perfect bodies.

What can you do? 

It’s easier said than done but try not to compare yourself to other people. Remember that your blemishes will always look more noticeable to you and so much of what you see online may look great, but just isn’t real.

Try to limit your time on social media or think about unfollowing celebrities whose images always make you feel inferior and replace them instead with people who post more realistic images of themselves. See a list here of influencers who post realistic, positive images of their acne and skin issues.

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