By Gareth Shoulder @GarethShoulder
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Videographer / director: Marcus Cooper
Producer: Gareth Shoulder, James Thorne
Editor: Pete Ansell
It was a devastating moment for Emily Keel, from Portsmouth, UK who spent her early twenties living with cystic acne, a condition that caused aggressive boil-like spots to erupt across her entire face.
Although in recent months her skin has cleared drastically, the 25-year-old hopes sharing her story online will raise awareness about the impact acne has on people’s mental health.
The emotional stress of living with the skin condition had previously led the personal trainer to quit her job at her local gym.
Emily told Barcroft TV: “Working in the gym when my acne was getting worse, I think I was really conscious I wasn’t being a good role model.
“I was so self-conscious, I didn’t want to teach classes anymore, I didn’t want to be in front of people all the time.
“I felt like people were judging me and thinking that I wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle.
“It was a vicious cycle… especially when you have the pressure of thinking you should look a certain way in the job role as well.”
Emily visited dermatologists seeking treatment for her skin – it was at one appointment when she was told by a doctor she had the worst skin they’d ever seen.
The tactless diagnosis, Emily confesses, was her lowest point and an unshakeable experience.
She told Barcroft TV: “It was really hurtful coming from a medical professional; I was really disappointed.
“I thought you should be able to handle situations better or know that it’s going to affect someone’s mental health.
“I think at that point, I just felt really, rubbish about my skin.”
Emily attended the appointment with her father Stephen Keel, something he admits was shocking to be told.
He said: “That was quite hard to hear.
“Through the worst time and everything I really just felt that we’d lost her and lost the personality that she had.”
When Emily’s acne flares up, hard boil-like lumps can form underneath the skin on her face.
Passing comments about her appearance have upset her in the past, she urges people to approach the conversation around acne with more sensitivity.
She said: “Somebody said to me, ‘what’s wrong with your face?’, I knew it didn’t come from an unkind place.
“It felt very insensitive and I was taken off guard. I got quite upset about it.”
A pivotal moment in Emily’s life was when she first posted a picture of her acne on social media.
Overwhelmed by positive comments and support, she now devotes her time promoting skin-positivity and challenging misconceptions surrounding acne.
“Skin-positivity is massively important to me because it’s something I’ve struggled with at times,” Emily said.
“There’s times where I’ve hated my face and hated the way I looked.
“The response I got from everything that I’ve posted has just been incredible.”
Like most people who suffer with skin ailments, Emily has searched the internet for miracle cures.
She tried a plethora of home remedies with disappointing degrees of success.
Emily said: “I definitely used the internet a lot when I was growing up and Googled how to cure acne.
“I think on social media and on the internet, there’s a lot of home cures like putting celery juice and apple cider vinegar on your face.
“I’m sure they work for some people, but not for me.”
Although these days Emily’s acne appears calmer and less aggressive, something she attributes to contentious acne drug Accutane.
Documenting her skin journey has given the 25-year-old a platform to help other people struggling with the condition too.
Emily added: “I am posting photos online and just trying to document my journey, no one’s perfect we all have our struggles – I’m trying to be honest and open about those times online.”