When you have adult acne, it’s easy to feel alone, as if you’re the only one getting breakouts past the age of 18. However, anywhere between 12% and 22% of women ages 26 through 44 experience acne, and that number is increasing by the day (on the other hand, only around 3% of adult men experience the condition). In our new series Acne Diaries, we’re asking influential women who happen to have acne about their relationship with their skin, and the products they use to keep it happy. Next up: author and advocate Blair Imani.
Sharing comes naturally to Blair Imani. In addition to her signature “Smarter in Seconds” videos, the author, advocate, and influencer’s Instagram page welcomes open discussion on tough topics like mental health and sexuality. So when she started severely breaking out for the first time in years over the pandemic, there was no question about sharing her experience with her 449,000 followers.
“I’m more visible than I’ve ever been, and my skin is in the worst shape it had ever been,” she tells Glamour. “That was really daunting. I’m not prepared enough as a person to put a full face on and then get on camera. So I was like, ‘You know what? Y’all are going to see my acne.’ And then I started to see that people were really encouraged. I was getting so much commentary from people who were just like, ‘Oh my goodness. You have acne like me and you’re not using the filter or you’re not putting makeup on all this time.’ And my thing is, if Instagram’s supposed to be a window into my life, then my life doesn’t always involve me having a full face of makeup on. It involves me having blemishes, having acne scars.”
Imani didn’t struggle with acne growing up, other than the occasional zit she could knock out with some spot treatment. It wasn’t until after college and she had her first “adult job” that she broke out in the way she does now. However, she was able to put together the pieces that her skin and stress levels were directly correlated: “The smallest stress would give me a whole rainbow of acne.” She could clear things up by upping her water intake. And things stayed clear until the pandemic, when the combination of stress, masks, and lack of routine wreaked havoc on her skin.
“By the end of 2020, I made full peace with the fact that I’m just getting acne in my adulthood,” she says. “And there’s nothing really I can do. This whole time, though, I’m using the harshest face masks. I’m using a lot of stuff that’s just not great for my skin.” It wasn’t until the acne brand Face Reality sent her some products and offered her a facial with Zaida Gordon—who she’s been working with since—that she got back into a routine, and her skin started responding positively.
But treating things topically was only part of the solution. Imani wanted to get to the root cause of her acne, and that meant thinking internally. After ruling out a gluten allergy and a new birth control, Imani figured out that she has higher levels of testosterone, and paired with high stress levels, was kicking her acne into high gear.