In 2018, clear, glowing skin has become a twisted status symbol, implying that those of us without a flawless complexion just aren't trying hard enough. Looking to dismantle that illusion and break down the stigma around skin conditions like cystic acne, psoriasis, and rosacea, London-based photographer Sophie Harris-Taylor shot and interviewed makeup-free women from across the U.K. for a series called Epidermis, in an effort to highlight and celebrate the variations in our skin.
"I wanted to create a series of work that empowers and allows women to love the skin they’re in, regardless of what condition they have," Harris-Taylor explained. "Suffering from severe acne throughout my teens and 20s left me incredibly self-conscious, and I longed for 'normal' skin. Normality is defined by the images we see all around us. We are led to believe all women have perfect flawless skin — they don’t."
While we know that overexposure to a certain type of image can alter your perception of reality, Instagram is arguably more pervasive and sinister than billboards and magazine ads. The 637,540 (at the time of writing) posts tagged #FlawlessSkin make us feel just as bad about our faces as painfully thin, hairless models do about our average, hairy bodies.
"Whether not shown or simply disguised, many women suffer from conditions such as acne, rosacea, and eczema, and most of these women feel a pressure to hide behind a mask of makeup, covering up what actually makes them unique," Harris-Taylor says. "Here, these beautiful women proudly bare their skin.”
While makeup can work wonders for your confidence, and is a joyous way to express your individuality, heavy coverage shouldn't be the only option for those battling skin conditions. We need to normalize and salute skin that isn't "flawless" — otherwise we'll just continue to pressure women into hiding their true selves and delivering their appearance in a neat little package. Let's question what "perfection" really means, and remind ourselves that glowing, clear skin is not beauty's end-all and be-all.
Ahead, we've selected eight women from Harris-Taylor's series, who show us their skin in all its natural glory, and talk about how their relationship to it has changed over time.