By Thomas Midlane @goldenlatrine

A 'skin positivity' advocate is trying to end the stigma around acne by sharing untouched, un-made-up pictures of her outbreaks on Instagram

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Videographer / director: Marta Iwanek

Producer: Stephanie Stijkel, Thomas Midlane, Ruby Coote

Editor: Beth Angus

Mariia Bilenka, 23, from Kiev in Ukraine, had struggled with acne since the age of 13 but by the summer of 2019, after intensive treatment, her skin was the clearest it had been in years. But after moving to Germany in September 2019 to be an au pair, her face broke out in angry red blotches - leaving her with a deep sense of shame. Mariia said: "I started to get bad acne after maybe a month in Germany, my skin was getting worse by the day.” Her acne also spread to her chin and the left side of her face, then to her forehead. Mariia says she would stare in the mirror looking for blemishes, then scratch the acne with her nails, leaving her face bloodied and skin damaged. Mariia said: "It's a vicious circle: you're stressing because of having acne and the result of this stress is you get more acne. From work, from living alone, with no family support, and then the stress of acne, I basically had a nervous breakdown." She moved back to Kiev in December 2019 and soon after began posting on social media about her skin condition. Mariia said: "It’s very important that people started to talk about skin positivity because I think before that Instagram was just perfect pictures of people with perfect skin and perfect bodies. And it was so stressful for most of us." Mariia is now regularly contacted by acne sufferers sharing their own stories. She said: “It’s so nice to read people saying 'I didn’t dare to go outside because I was so ashamed of my skin, and you showed me that I’m not alone.'”