As a teenager, I had savage breakouts. I’d aggressively slather my spots with salicylic acid by means of Oxy pads, dot them with toothpaste and was no stranger to popping and picking. As an adult and former beauty editor, I know better. Sort of … Now, I never dry out my skin with high concentrations of chemicals and don’t dare pick, though if things spiral I’m not above a satisfying extraction.
I’m not alone. Acne is the most common skin condition in the world, affecting 5.6 million Canadians. That’s almost 20 per cent of our population. Not only is it painful, but there’s also a sense of shame that comes from having the condition, making us feel like we should cover up and hide.
“I went on the pill at 19 and it destroyed my skin — cysts absolutely everywhere,” says Charli Howard, a model and activist. “It was painful and embarrassing and I didn’t want to leave the house.”
It’s a feeling I’m all too familiar with and the reason the acne positivity movement that emerged last year was such a breath of fresh air. On social media, it drove millions to be more open about their skin issues. In the beauty space, it led to the advent of new acne-positive skin care brands like Howard’s own Squish Beauty.
“I hate when brands use models with flawless skin to advertise their acne products,” says the young founder. “Squish is designed to put the fun back in your skin care routine and take the shame out of acne.” It’s a mission Julie Schott, former beauty director of Elle.com, also shares. She recently launched her much anticipated line Starface.
Both brands believe in treating blemishes by drawing attention to them rather than concealing them. How, you ask? With quirky, highly Instagrammable hydrocolloid pimple patches. They’re clinically proven to keep bacteria from reinfecting the area and also absorb fluid (a.k.a., pus), which helps speed up recovery time. Plus, they’re insanely adorable.
“I used hydrocolloid patches in the past and always found them quite clinical and boring,” says Howard. “I wanted something that was cute and fun and that took the medicinal feeling out of something that isn’t that enjoyable,” she says.
Her Flower Power Acne Patches are topped with a flexible coloured fabric with a rhinestone placed in the centre. Equally selfie-worthy are Starface’s Hydro-Stars, which come with 32 yellow star-shaped hydrocolloid stickers. They’re housed in a thoughtfully designed mirrored compact that resembles a slightly heftier AirPod case.
I’ve been following the development of Schott’s Hydro-Stars on her IG stories for months and their release couldn’t have come sooner. I broke up with my birth control this year, and my hormonal acne has since gone into overdrive. While it’s recommended to wear the stickers overnight, I couldn’t resist wearing them like an accessory during the day. I’m happy to report they survived a HIIT class, multiple business meetings (a surprisingly wonderful ice breaker) and a date night with my husband to Cirque du Soleil. I also wore them to my standing eight-week root touch-up appointment and swear the stars influenced me to spontaneously colour my hair blush pink. I strolled out of the salon looking like the second coming of Jem of Holograms fame.
Now down to brass tacks, did the star treatment work? Heck ya; my blemishes departed quicker, but most importantly the stickers helped me resist the urge to pop. They also had serious staying power; I didn’t notice any peeling or travelling around my face. But you know what the best part was? I no longer felt the embarrassment associated with a massive throbbing blemish. That alone deserves a gold star.
Note: Starface and Squish Beauty do not ship to Canada — yet! Both brands are working hard to bring their products north of the border and are hoping to do so before the end of the year.
Get some good advice in your inbox
Get expert advice on life and relationships with the Star’s Advice newsletter.