Barefaced beauty

Being a content creator has become synonymous with portraying the perfect life online through an airbrushed filter.

Isabella Matthews is redefining what it means to be an influencer today; ditching the filters and photoshop and instead choosing to embrace her natural skin. Despite having thousands of followers now, creating her Instagram account was a spontaneous move.

“It was very random,” she says. “I was sick of hiding my skin from people I knew, so I just posted a picture of my skin unedited and unfiltered online. It got a lot of attention so I just kept posting.”

The 23-year-old has had acne since the age of nine and has tried various medications and diets, including Accutane, in the hopes of combatting it. Now Matthews chooses to embrace her natural skin and manages her acne through a solid skincare routine.

“Over the last couple of years I’ve decided to just accept and love my skin as it is,” she says.

Matthews' Instagram @spottylittlething has played a crucial role in helping her achieve this self-love. From posting skincare advice to inspirational quotes, the influencer says the main aim of her page is to help people feel more comfortable in their own skin.

"I get to connect with people every day who have shared their life experiences and hopefully get people feeling more confident and less alone," she says.

Isabella Matthews spottylittlething
Photographer: Kaye Ford

This feeling of isolation is something Matthews has felt on a personal level, having not seen anyone with skin like hers before on social media.

“It sounds so silly but I genuinely didn’t realise other people had visible large pores. I’d never seen anyone with them so I just thought it was something I should be ashamed of and hide,” she says.

As there is so little representation for natural bare skin online, this can perpetuate the idea that skin features such as hyperpigmentation, texture and fine lines don’t exist.

"Over 80 per cent of women will have acne at some point in their lives, it’s just so bizarre to me that this isn’t shown online," Matthews says.

Like many others, Matthews believes that Instagram’s influencer industry plays a huge role in affecting self-worth, whether it is about skin, body type or lifestyle.

“It’s a cut-throat industry based on selling a lifestyle that is largely unrealistic and unattainable. This makes people feel like a failure for just having a normal life and they judge their real-life relationships by over-orchestrated online relationships,” she adds.

In 2015, the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that viewing edited images online leads to increased rates of depression, body dissatisfaction and lower self-esteem.

“It’s so dangerous. There are so many studies that highlight how detrimental it is to our self-esteem to see edited images. When we edit our own pictures, this can also greatly affect how we view ourselves. It gives us a misconception about what skin actually looks like,” Matthews says.

Matthews understands that embracing your natural skin isn’t something that will necessarily just happen overnight, it can take years of work and persistence.

"It took me so long to embrace my skin, and I’m still working on it. Largely, it’s about getting used to seeing what your real skin looks like," she explains.

When it comes to normalising acne and all skin types, Matthews believes that positive media representation is key. “Just by showing acne not in a negative context. It’s really simple, someone’s skin doesn’t define them,” she says.

By empowering others through her Instagram, Matthews has been able to empower herself and find confidence in her own skin, regardless of what others may think or say. "Of course there is the odd troll or rude comment but the positives far outweigh the negatives,” she says.

Matthews’ attitude towards her skin has changed over the years and she now sees her acne as a reminder that there is more to a person than what is on the surface.

“As I grew older and my acne didn’t go, I found the biggest comfort in it,” she says. “It made me realise how unimportant our appearance is and how crucial it is to be kind and that we can do anything regardless of our insecurities.”

This is from the Kindred. Identity issue, out now. Purchase the copy through the link here.