Photo Editing Natalie Setareh

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The Invisible Scars of Acne

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Teenage Acne Scars Adult

About a week ago, I tossed and turned all night because I felt compelled to share my journey and struggle with acne. Although I do not struggle with acne to the extent I did in my youth, my pregnancy has discolored my skin and all my old acne scars have become visible, which has taken me to a dark place I haven’t been to in a really long time. (Add pregnancy hormones, weight gain, and the growing pains that come with pregnancy and you’ve got one hot mess!). During my pregnancy, I’ve also had several breakouts that just won’t go away ::ahem, acne:: Instead of hiding behind my hair, and loads of makeup, and staying inside, I’m coming out and sharing this with you.

Nobody sees your imperfections like you see your imperfections.


Everyone is more worried about you noticing their imperfection, so breathe easy!

I wish I had known an “acne survivor” when I battled acne as a high school teen but I didn’t. Fortunately for me, I know “acne” is a phase – it’s not going to last forever, I promise. Hormones go crazy into adulthood and skin changes, regardless of your gender identification or not.

If I can overcome acne and my acne scars, so can you.

It took me several takes to get through this video as I recalled exactly how traumatic it was for me (and my brother) during that time in our lives.

Not only did acne greatly impact my adolescence, but acne scarring continues to impact my life as an adult. I’ve put together  4 tips to help you cope with the visible and invisible scars of acne.

Please keep in mind that I am not a medical doctor or dermatologist. I like to consider myself an acne survivor.  In my lifetime, I’ve experimented with and found makeup and skin prep products that would disguise my acne as much as possible. As a makeup educator, I am always happy to offer advice based on my experiences and the experiences of those close to me confided in me.

If you are battling acne and/or acne scarring and want to learn how to wear makeup to feel confident (without making your acne worse), I would love to help you. Please check out all the educational resources I have here.

Four Tips To Help You Cope With Acne and Acne Scarring

1) Everyone’s Skin Has Texture

As a global society, we have become used to face filters, photoshopping, and unrealistic beauty advertisements. You can turn a beauty filter on your phone, your video calls, and easily edit photos without any expensive software. Therefore we aren’t used to seeing skin with texture.

However, everyone’s skin has texture and dimension. Our skin tells our stories. Think about it, the paparazzi loves capturing celebrities without makeup or disguises just to show the world what they really look like.

I especially admire the celebrities actually step out and show the world their acne or acne scars — so that we can be reminded that we aren’t alone and that acne doesn’t define us.

Check out this post on what makeup (artists) can and cannot do. I promise, makeup can be your best friend or your worst enemy. What’s important when it comes to covering up your acne or acne scars are realistic expectation.

And you aren’t alone in your struggle with acne or acne scarring

This one is a tough one because in my experience, I was seemingly the only one in my immediate group of friends during high school (and parts of college) who had acne.  Of course, they loved me for me, never brought it up, and were supportive knowing why I wanted to “stay in” sometimes. They loved me with or without makeup but at the end of the day, they didn’t really know how I felt on the inside.

I wish I had an “acne” friend, someone who knew what I was going through. 

It doesn’t have to be like, “Hello, I noticed you have acne too! Want to be depressed together?” No. Please don’t do that. Form a relationship, go out to coffee or sit at the lunch table together. Ask them how they cope. How they feel. Just having someone alongside you who knows how you feel and what insecurities you are struggling with is invaluable. Let me tell you, acne in adolescence is almost expected… acne in adulthood is taboo.

Acne is not gender specific — fortunately, women have a community (and industry) of support–in the form of new skin care products, concealers, foundations, spa treatments, you name it! Let’s face it, most men are not interested at all in cosmetics but I guarantee you they are interested in skin care, spa treatments, etc..the industry just needs to become more gender neutral. I see that changing a lot. If you are too shy to spark a new conversation, that’s okay.

Just google “celebrities with acne” and so many sites pop up.

2) Filters Are Free

Remember, most commercial beauty photos are edited (for good or for bad)

Like I said in the introduction, almost everything is edited or filtered. I used to easily identify photos that were edited, had filters applied, or professionall photoshopped but now, it’s almost impossible to tell (even with a trained eye). The crazy thing is that these tools are accessible on our smartphones! This means that anyone/everyone can touchup their pictures (and they do).

  • Celebrities like Kim Kardashian use FaceTune before uploading selfies to social media
  • Instagram influencers are often using filters and apps like FaceTune to blur (or light-blast) imperfections in their skin
  • YouTubers invest in lighting that blurs out imperfections in the skin (look for the ring lighting reflections in their eyes, it’s normally a dead giveaway)

Let’s not even get started on how much money beauty companies spend on their advertising campaigns and influencer relationships! I share in more detail about how this relationship works in my book, Be Your Own Makeup Artist (which is a great book, I must say)

I share about how the beauty industry uses influencers (big and small) to create free content for them, saving millions of marketing dollars.  could write an entire post on the superficiality of online images, especially those in the beauty industry. However, once you accept the fact the images we see as consumers that are constantly being fed to us are edited and not realistic representations of the individual, then it’s really not a big deal! Consider it art 🙂

Tip: Follow accounts where they intentionally post unedited/un-retouched photos of the skin, you’ll find so much comfort seeing real skin and scars and gasp, even acne!

Follow hashtag #gossuntouched to see real selifes & edited selfies here >

Like I said in my video, physical perfection is unattainable. I just love it! Here’s my before and after — would you have known it was edited had you not seen the before picture? And I did barely ANYTHING to my picture. I could’ve slimmed my face, widened my smiled, added blush & lashes, a dab of lip color, and it would’ve look realistic. I just got done with a Zumba class when I snapped this pic.

Natalie Setareh Unedited Selfie FaceTune Selfie Acne Scars Adulthood Bottom Line: Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. If you can’t beat them, join them! Edit your pictures if that’s going to make you feel better and DON’T FEEL BAD that you are editing your picture. Everyone else is doing it. Just be real with yourself… And just FYI — for my before and after, I used the Perfect365 App.

3) Research Your Genetics & Diet


First of all, find out if you inherited acne. You might be surprised that one of your grandparents or great aunts/uncles struggled with acne. Do some investigative journalism and study old family photos. If acne is in the picture, then you are fighting something that is more-or-less in your DNA.

Instead of trusting DIY skincare advice or culling blog posts (like mine even), spend that time finding a professional estheticain, dermatologist, or doctor that can help you treat your acne and/or your acne scarring. Generic advice, although well-meaning, could make things worse, keep things the same, or even create more damage.

Diet & Hormones

There aren’t good foods or bad foods. Good hormones or bad hormones. Drinking more water doesn’t necessarily clear up your skin. However, how our body reacts to food may have an impact on our overall health and organs. If our hormones aren’t balanced, this can have an impact on our skin. Our skin is our largest organ, you better believe acne could be a result of a food allergy, inflammation, and hormones.

The only way to know this is to get tested by an allergist, doctor, or even a functional medicine (naturopathic) doctor. There isn’t a blanket food to eliminate to Have you had your hormones tested through saliva and a blood sample. You’ll be amazed at what’s going on when you take a hard look at what’s going on in your body — this is normally done through a ND or homeopath.

4) Remember what makeup can and cannot do for acne/acne scarring

Makeup literally gave me the courage to leave the house when I had acne. Makeup to this day still gives me the courage to show up confidently now, even with my acne scars. I do schedule a basic facial quarterly and also never pick at my face.

Read: What Makeup (and Makeup Artists) Can and Cannot Do For You >

In a nutshell, makeup cannot change the texture of your skin, especially in 3D.

Using too much makeup or especially contour products to cover up acne scars may actually accentuate your acne scars.

Last but not least, please love yourself…

You can control how you manage the stressors of acne. You can get through this. If you are battling acne or the impacts of acne scars (both the visible and invisible ones), again please do not hesitate to reach out.  I am not a doctor or trained professional but I do know how to use makeup in ways where I feel more confident about my appearance. This post has been heavy on my heart and I just want you to know that I am here for you.

Stay Beautiful!

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Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can't put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you're doing it from a position of correction.

kevyn aucoin