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Conversations with Hayley Wester

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hayley Wester.

Hayley, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Growing up I had pretty great skin and high confidence. In 2014 everything felt like it was crashing down when I started developing severe cystic acne at 17 years old. I tried every product, dermatologist, acne treatment you could think of including the ‘acne diet’ among other diets trying to clear my skin. My confidence took a huge hit and I felt the need to hide my skin from others out of embarrassment and shame of the lesions on my face. I wore heavy makeup to hide the spots, redness and acne bumps. I did this for years until I was 26 years old. At this point, I’ve had severe acne for nine years with no product to help so I decided I wanted to take back my power and confidence. I then started a second course of Isotretinoin (otherwise known as Accutane) and I started an acne page on Instagram to track my progress throughout the nine months course. I hated taking pictures of myself and seeing my acne which is why I started the page so I didn’t have to keep the photos of myself in my phone. I had no idea that so many people would end up relating to my story through IG. I didn’t expect to gain more than a couple of hundred of followers, so growing to over 10k followers was a huge surprise!

I found that as I continued posting about my progress, mental health was a huge part of the acne journey for almost every person who has to deal with acne. I’ve made so many friends, I’ve felt heard and within a year my confidence is back where it used to be, pre-acne, however, my skin still hasn’t cleared. It’s incredible to have myself back, loving myself and giving myself grace even with acne in my adult years. As my page continues to grow, I have had sponsorships working with brands like CoverGirl, Neutrogena, Dr. Dennis Gross, etc making my hobby page into passive income! I am very proud of what I’ve accomplished, but more than the brands, I’m so very proud of contributing to a fantastic online community to help others with their acne, confidence and mental health. The amount of personal growth I’ve had since starting my IG page journey has been nothing short of incredible. Who knew that taking unedited, raw, unfiltered pictures of my skin and showing it on IG would in return provide me the healing I needed all along.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has been a struggle to get to where I am with the acceptance of my skin. I still have bad days and days where all I do is focus on my acne but overall it’s something I don’t put attention towards, I’ve just accepted it at this point. Most of the struggles I’ve had are hearing comments about my skin when people think I can’t hear them, the amount of unsolicited advice like “have you tried washing your face?” Which is met with admittedly an internal eye roll… as if it were that easy. People mean well when giving advice, but often times I forget about the acne until someone gives unsolicited advice and I’m reminded once again of my acne. It’s been a tough journey but it’s taught me kindness and grace is needed towards everyone. You don’t know what someone might be going through.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am first and foremost an advocate for mental health, acne, skin conditions and body positivity. I focus my content around these areas because in the day and age of social media and the pressure to be “perfect”, I take pride in being as unfiltered and real as I can. There are so many accounts on IG dedicated to being perfect 24/7 and I want to break that type of popularity on social media. It’s unobtainable and damaging to the youth, and no one wants to feel the massive pressure of not being good enough, I’m most proud of the way I have been able to personally connect and relate with others all around the world who also struggle with skin or body image issues. I take pride in having educational and positive content that makes others feel good about themselves.

What matters most to you?
What matters most to be is being inclusive and helping others to feel heard and seen. This is important to me because for so many years I didn’t get that from other people, I had to give it to myself which was challenging because I didn’t even believe the things I told myself like “you’re beautiful even with acne” when no one else was saying it. I make it my goal to make others feel beautiful regardless of what they’re struggling with because everyone deserves that love and grace. Self-love is so very important and while looking to others for validation can be seen in a negative light, when someone is struggling with themselves, they sometimes need that external validation from others to build their own confidence.

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