Meet the woman who founded the Free The Pimple campaign. Lou Northcote is a 22-year-old skin positive activist, working in the fashion industry. Her empowering movement makes us want to delete Facetune, go filter-free and embrace our *imperfect* skin.
Lou published a photo with the caption #FreeThePimple on Instagram. She started a hashtag that has become an online community. It’s now a way for people to share their breakouts, acne journeys and skin positive selfies. We have seen an uplift in body positivity, now it is time to embrace skin positivity.
So, a bit of background…
Lou grew up in Dubai, before returning to the UK to attend art college. She was a model from the age of 10, fitting in shoots around her school routine. When she hit 16, she developed acne and it changed her whole life.
Hi Lou, tell us a little bit about yourself…
I currently live and work in London as a wholesale assistant for a fashion tech company. It’s my first full time job out of uni and I love it!
When did you first notice the effect that your skin was having on your life?
Obviously it was sore and uncomfortable for a long time, but I really felt the impact when I got turned away from modelling jobs. I would go to castings and they would tell me to come back when my skin was clearer. There is only so much rejection you can take and it was a real knock to my confidence. I pretty much stopped modelling altogether after that.
What made you return to modelling?
I had just turned 18 and I was in a pretty bad place, my skin was having a big affect on my mental health. I was scrolling through Facebook and spotted an ad for Britain’s Next Top Model auditions, it just felt like a sign. I hadn’t modelled in two years, so I really didn’t expect anything to come from it. I refused to tell anyone that I had applied, not even my boyfriend that I lived with.
They called me 5 months later to let me know that I had made it on to the show. It was before the first episode aired that I posted my #FreeThePimple makeup free selfie.
What motivated you post THE photo?
We were filming for the first episode of BNTM and I was in a room with all these strangers. They were all beautiful models, so it was intimidating anyway. The first task was to dress down to a bodysuit and take off all of your makeup.
I’d never taken my makeup off in front of anyone other than close friends and family, it was so scary. I was very aware of my skin being on camera and how it would look. All I could think about was people trolling me on social media, so I decided to take control.
Just before the episode aired, I posted a makeup free selfie with the caption #FreeThePimple. I was ready for all of the negative comments to roll in, but it was the complete opposite.
What was the reaction to your photo?
I got such a positive response from so many people, lots of them suffering from acne too. It was eye-opening to see how many people with skin-related insecurities had been so afraid to post about it or speak out.
Did you intend #FreeThePimple to be a movement?
A few days after I had posted the Instagram, picture my dad woke me up to say that I had been featured on a Japanese publication! It just blew up, in a way that I really didn’t expect. I got the opportunity to a piece for i-D magazine and they even made a Youtube documentary on me.
Have you seen a change in the industry since your movement started?
I have and I haven’t. I see a lot more body positivity, which is amazing, but not necessarily much more skin positivity. I was in Boots the other day though and I saw makeup campaigns with unedited models. You could see their pores, I mean it wasn’t acne, but at least it means we are going somewhere. I think we have come a long way but I still don’t think the modelling industry is there yet.
What advice would you give someone who is struggling with confidence because of their skin?
Use social media. It can be a horrible place, but it can also be an amazing way to find people like yourself. It makes you realise that you aren’t alone. Using hashtags such as #acne and #freethepimple, you can discover a whole community of people going through the same thing as you.
What’s your long term goal for the Free The Pimple campaign?
My goal is have a girl with acne on the front cover of a high fashion magazine or on a billboard. Growing up, I didn’t know of any celebrities or models with acne, so I want it to be more seen.
More babes using #FreeThePimple
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Do you have a mantra that you live your life by?
Whenever you feel low, just take yourself away from your own company and get out with friends.
Who is your style inspiration?
Lara Worthington, she is so cool, I’ve been following her on Instagram for quite a while and I love her sense of style.
Who are you listening to on repeat at the minute?
Billie Eilish, alll day long
What are you binge-watching at the moment?
13 Reasons Why. I think it’s so important to have those conversations and tackle the stigma around talking about mental health.
What are your Missguided top clothing picks?
From a single spot to an acne breakout, our skin deserves a bit of love. Give it some pampering, with top picks from the Missguided beauty and skincare range.