Ladies First highlights women and girls who are making the world better for the rest of us.

All throughout middle school, Leia Immanuel, a 14-year-old eighth-grade student from New York, has dealt with hormonal acne. She always knew that her acne was natural but, like so many teens, she struggled to feel confident in herself and her imperfect skin. As a way of coping, she started @artdr3am, an Instagram account where she could start documenting her skin struggles.

“It was supposed to be an account for just my friends,” explains Immanuel, who says she didn’t think much of it at the time. Except people caught on. Now, just over a year since making her initial post, the teen has nearly 90,0000 followers.

PSA: to all my girls n guys acne, all of the hormonal preteen monsters and all of the adults with acne and EVERYBODY in between that's been insecure of their acne, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! With all the people speaking out w their experience in the petty fight, I wanted to address this. I'm a teenager and I have acne! Non inflammatory, mild acne. I've had it so far for 3 years. I've had ups and downs with it, but every day I learn to accept it a little more. Acne would take over my mind and stress me out to the point where I was in tears! I would be afraid to look people in the eye, and even talk to my best friends. It took a toll on me physically and psychologically, which completely destructed my self esteem. I don't even have it so bad, but as someone who's dealt and is dealing with it, it does have great affects on me. If I had to list all of my knowledge on products and remedies that I've gone through, it would go on forever. Acne still frustrates me for obvious reasons, but instead of tearing myself down for it, I had to realize:its normal! I'm in that 'age,' and that's okay! If you're 20 and you still have it, that's okay,! If you have cystic acne, tons of whiteheads, blackheads, papules, nodules, the list goes on and on, it's okay. You are beautiful. For those people that have tried everything and their skin still won't clear, it's okay! For those of you that were lucky enough to clear your acne, congratulations!! Seriously. A big part of dealing with this is realizing that it is not the only thing about you. Realizing that you are still resilient and incredible. As for me, I'm taking care of my diet, hydration skin and overall health. It'll take time, but its okay. Acne has made me understand myself and others better believe it or not. I feel like after dealing with it I am more open minded and understanding of people going through it or any other sort of condition. Dismiss anyone insisting that you are less than you are for it. They don't understand what you have gone through, they are in the wrong for being ignorant. So this was what I have to say. Disagree or agree. If you want, comment your story. To everyone with acne- You are beautiful.

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For years, Immanuel’s acne had been an up and down journey and constant battle with dermatologists. “I used to put on SO much makeup just to cover it up,” she recalls. Though she quickly realized that layering on concealer and foundation didn’t help her skin, walking around with the tiny red bumps on her face made her feel “as if I was a monster.” She knew she had to do something about it.

Thus, her Instagram account was born. She explains in an email interview to Brit + Co that for teenagers especially, social media can provide an avenue to connect and reach out to others who are going through the same struggles. For her, this has meant connecting with others via the photos she’s shared and realizing that her acne was, indeed, a normal and common part of growing up.

“I’ve grown more comfortable in my skin and body, and it’s changed the way I’ve seen people and the world,” she says.


Posting to her account daily made Immanuel realize that she was just a teenager who needed to live her life without dwelling on superficial details.

“The energy we spent stressing about body image is insane,” she says. “It could be saved or used for other things. Beauty is subjective and does not define you as a person; you define yourself.”

Each of her photos is usually captioned with something motivational or a bit about her day. The impact it’s had on her audience has been incredible. Since her launch, Immanuel notes that she’s had Instagrammers from around the world direct-message her with their own experiences and comment about how much she’s inspired them to embrace their own bare skin.

“Most of the times people say that they look back on my posts if they need a reminder on how to feel confident again,” Immanuel says. “That, in every possible way, just warms my heart!”


We love that Immanuel’s message of self-love and self-acceptance is spreading and we hope that more follow her lead in embracing their own acne and imperfections.