According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S. and affects up to 50 million Americans annually. But acne is more than just dealing with annoying blemishes—it has also been linked to increased anxiety and depression in teens.
17-year-old Colorado resident and artist Hailey Wait said her skin started breaking out when she was about 11 or 12 years old "right around the time when puberty hit" and has been bullied because of her breakouts. "People would tell me everything from 'pizza face' to death threats, saying that anyone with as much acne as I had didn't deserve to be alive," Hailey said in an email.
The teen has been open about her acne struggles on her Instagram, but shared an important and inspiring message to her followers that said, "Reminder that acne doesn't make you ugly a heart full of hate does."
She continued her message in her caption, which reads, "Since being more open about my skin imperfections, SO MANY of you have opened up to me about your own struggles and I want to say that I’m truly moved, and incredibly thankful to be supported by so many genuine human beings."
"I decided to post selfies showing my acne because I just was so exhausted of hiding it all the time," she said over email. "I figured it would help my followers to know that they weren't alone."
When dealing with haters and bullies, Hailey ignores them to the best of her ability. "At the end of the day, it helps to realize that most people who bully others have their own insecurities as well, and a lot of times they're only projecting that onto you," she said. "There's so much more to a person than their appearance, and it's honestly so shallow to bully someone over their appearance."
Hailey (who looks incredible with a bold red lip!) truly has amazing confidence, but shares that it helps knowing she's not alone in her struggle. "I started surrounding myself with people who were a lot more loving and supportive, and my confidence sort of sprung up from that."
Commenters have shared their own stories on her posts including one user who wrote, "I had horrible acne in my teens and early 20s, I always felt like I had to hide my face to feel beautiful and to be accepted by other people. It was one of the hardest things I ever went through in my life. To just see you putting it on display for the whole world to see is absolutely amazing!"
And although the bullying hasn't stopped, Hailey says she's grateful for the positive responses.
"I hope my story regarding acne really helps people to realize that just because you have these imperfections doesn't mean you're not amazing, doesn't mean you can't be successful, doesn't mean you can't be glamorous," she says in an interview with Barcroft TV. "Beauty is so much more than your face."
Her confidence and story is so empowering, and she's continuing to prove that ALL skin is beautiful. You go, Hailey!
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.