Not-so-clear Pin-Up Skin

When you see other pin-up/vintage gals on social media, they no doubt have flawless skin. In fact, women of the 1950’s era in particular were famed for their porcelain, beautifully smooth skin, without a pimple in sight. But for most women, they don’t have such perfect skin naturally and can feel pressured to cover it in layers and layers of make up.

Whether you suffer from acne, such as myself, have scarring or freckles etc. that aren’t typically ‘part’ of the vintage and pin-up look, it can all make you feel like you’re not a true vintage girl or that you’re not as committed to the pin-up life, as others. 

Sure, you can use make up to cover up any ‘imperfections’, but why should we?


I’ve been suffering with acne since I was aged eleven. I was one of those girls who developed quite early on, with a growing bust and hips much ahead of their friends and pimples to boot.

Going in to my teen years, the pimples raged on and I had what I guess you’d call normal skin for a teenage girl, whose hormones were still trying to sort themselves out.

But as I approached twenty years old, my skin wasn’t getting much better. And as I tried numerous brands of facial cleansers, toners, exfoliators, moisturisers etc. I was just having bigger and more break-outs. At this time, I was also having other suspicious symptoms plague me, such as on going, heavy fatigue, migraines, depression, leg cramps and muscle aches and pains. Aged twenty-one, I was eventually diagnosed with hypothyroidism; an underactive thyroid. I blog about this, here. I soon learnt that the thyroid gland, part of something called the endocrine system, is delicately linked with other glands in that system, such as those that produce sex hormones.

As I dug even deeper, I discovered that being on an oestrogen-containing contraceptive pill can in fact cause or trigger hypothyroidism, and it can also throw off your hormones, as you’re putting extra, synthetic hormones in to your body. I was beginning to wonder if being on the contraceptive pill was such a good idea.

Six months after my hypothyroidism diagnosis, I decided to come off the contraceptive pill and, just like that, the migraines stopped and my mental health began improving. I still get migraines occasionally but they’re not as frequent. Not at all.

I was also expecting my skin to clear up, since so many people said that coming off the pill helped their skin, but for me, this was the opposite.

My skin broke out even worse. You can see in the photos below.

The doctor told me it was severe cystic acne, which is a very deep kind of acne, that will scar and typically bruises. Well, my face was bruised A LOT. It was SO tender to the touch and whenever I spoke, even the acne around my mouth hurt. It was ridiculous!

Aged twenty-two, I was so embarrassed to have skin worse than most teenagers. Worse than my skin had ever been before. As someone who was so ashamed of their adult acne, and who followed and admired the pin-up style, I desperately tried countless concealers, primers, foundations, powders, setting sprays etc. to fully cover the horror on my face. I would spend 30-60 minutes every single morning, even if I was staying in the house all day, just on covering the acne. Let alone mascara, eyeliner, filling in brows etc. Every time I caught myself in the mirror with them on show, I felt disgusted and ashamed.

This isn’t normal for a twenty-three year old, I thought.


I was spending time throughout the day touching it up with powder or concealer and my face felt really gunky. I needed so many products to conceal how bad it was, that my face felt so heavy and covered in paint. It actually made my skin extra oily.

On the plus side, I got much better and knowledgeable in applying make up and found out the better brands for my skin. But on the downside, I was looking at my acne as something to be ashamed of, so ashamed that it must not be detectable at all times. So ashamed of it that I was likely making the problem worse by covering it so drastically. I was too bothered by what people may or may not think.

Will they think I’m dirty? That I don’t wash my face? Will they think I have a bad diet? That I don’t look after myself?

But I was adamant not to go back on the pill, as I didn’t like the thought of putting anything else synthetic in my body. Plus, by this time it was confirmed I had oestrogen dominance. So, after trying multiple acne lotions and potions from my GP, with only Roaccutane left (I was dead set against trying that), I decided to give a dietary change a go.

Many people cite going dairy-free as their ‘cure’ for their acne. For me, it was gluten.

I chose to go gluten free as many thyroid patients claim it helps manage their condition. Just a month in to going gluten free and my skin was noticeably less sore and bumpy. Gluten sensitivity is commonly linked to hypothyroidism, and in my case, it’s clear I have a sensitivity. A big one!

By the time I was four months gluten free, the acne was so well healed that all I was really left with were scars. And the scars were fading pretty quickly. I still had the odd pimple, but nothing major. I was also using progesterone cream to help the condition of my skin, too, since I had too much oestrogren contributing to the problem.

Going gluten free, I’ve had to be really careful with my diet to ensure I still get all the vitamins and minerals I need, but I eat really well. I’m avoiding gluten in all sense, so none in any make up products, shampoos, supplements etc. none at all. I’m having to be really vigilant. A guide on how to go gluten free can be found here.


So, I made the decision:

I was going to stop covering my face is so many chemicals.

One evening, I made it my quest to leave the house without my skin covered, and it was nerve-wracking, but I did it. And I felt so liberated. I actually felt more confident than when I went out with it covered in make up. I still did my winged liner, lipstick and brows, in true pin-up form, but I left my skin to breathe.

I started trying to think about my acne in a different way. Instead of being ashamed, I looked at my scars as proof of what my health had tested me with. With hypothyroidism, as well as a few other health conditions I have, I have several ‘scars’, physical and mental, which are proof that I’ve overcome something difficult. My acne scars demonstrate my ability to finally figure out what was causing it and to have the strength to take back control of my health. And you know what? Imperfection is OK. 

We’re constantly told that imperfections aren’t OK. How many adverts tell us we NEED a certain make up, we need to have a specific body shape, we need to live a certain lifestyle etc.? And when you’re following a lifestyle and certain look that puts a certain precedence on having flawless, beautiful skin, such as the vintage and pin-up style, it can seem like even more of an imperfection.

I’m determined to demonstrate that you can style yourself in the vintage/pin-up style whilst having non-flawless skin and you can still nail it. You don’t have to cover them up. Imperfections are what make us, US.

It’s OK to wear makeup if you want, but it’s equally OK not to.

Some other acne tips: 

As well as trying to get to the route cause of your acne, these things can help:

  • Cleaning make up brushes thoroughly, every single week can reduce the amount of bacteria you’re pushing around your face.
  • Wash pillow cases every week.
  • Only using completely clean fingers to apply make up, if you prefer using your fingers, to eliminate bacteria transfer.
  • Avoid make up products, moisturisers and anything else that goes on your face, that contains oil, if you have naturally oily skin.  This can make break outs and skin condition worse.
  • Avoid make up where possible or go for lighter options. Dusting your face with a light powder is better than layers of primer, concealer, foundation etc. They clog more pores and encourage more break outs.
  • Blot oily skin a few times a day with blotting papers or even clean tissue paper can work well, to control oil. More oil often means more spots.
  • Eat a diet full of fruit, veg and salad and drink plenty of water. Two litres a day is the aim! The minerals and vitamins in good food are essential for good skin.
  • Look in to vitamin A and E. both are said to be goodfor skin repair and keeping it looking young.
  • Get enough sleep! 7-9 hours is a must.
  • Don’t over-clean. You can make things worse if you clean too much, especially with harsh cleansers. Once in the morning with warm water is fine and once in the evening with a cleanser if you wish, though I just use water. Even when wearing make up. Water alone in the mornings is fine if you’ve had a thorough clean the night before.
  • Go natural where you can. Look in to homemade cleansers. Try the castor oil cleanse.
  • Charcoal is popular right now for congested skin. You can make homemade charcoal face masks.
  • Stop touching your face! I have a habit of touching my face and resting my face on my hands. Don’t! Bacteria bacteria bacteria!

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Instagram: @missrachelkathleen

KG Strawberry Limeade Regular



  1. Love this post! I’ve recently gone makeup free to help my skin which I just did a blog post on and im also hugely into pinup and vintage so I loved reading this! I suffered with acne also and mine has calmed down so much now, but I 100% related to this. You look so beautiful without the makeup! Honestly you look fantastic! Xox


  2. Terrific post Rachel! Going gluten free really helped you, also making the bold statement of not wearing make up that first time leaving the house I am sure was hard. But the imperfections are what make us who we are. You look fabulous Dear! Have a great day 💗 Terri.xx


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