When you have adult acne, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one getting breakouts past the age of 18. However, anywhere between 12% and 22% of women are are ages 26 through 44 experience acne, and that number is increasing by the day (on the other hand, only around 3% of adult men experience the condition). In our new series Acne Diaries, we’re asking influential women who happen to have acne about their relationship to their skin, and the products they rely on to keep it happy. Next up: Starface co-founder Julie Schott.
Acne can be a burden no matter what, but when you work in the beauty industry, there’s added pressure to have perfect skin—or least very good skin. This is something Julie Schott, former Elle beauty director and co-founder of acne-positive skin-care brand Starface, knows intimately.
Schott says her skin was perfectly clear during high school and college, but once she started her career as a beauty editor she found herself dealing with constant breakouts. “When you’re that young in your career, you just want to seem credible,” she tells me. “Having acne, for me, felt like [people were thinking] ‘You must not understand how to take care of your skin, you’re doing it wrong’.” She recalls relying on headwear—”like, not a cute hat that was part of my outfit”—to a dinner event in an effort to hide a particularly bad forehead breakout.
Schott tried everything to clear up her skin, both for her confidence and for the sake of journalism. “I would try anything, from all the direct-to-consumer brands, to going to dermatologists and trying prescriptions,” she says. “And I would say it all exacerbated the situation. It was just too much, too many treatments.”
But it wasn’t all bad. Over the course of her year working at the now-defunct lifestyle site XOJane, she was able to write in detail about her experience with her skin and create a community. “This was pre-Instagram, so I would share pictures on the site,” she says. “It was cool because people did really connect with it. There’s so much community around that experience.”
Despite finding some camaraderie, Schott continued experimenting with treatments into her 20s—including a medical facial that left her with “no clear skin on my face” and an oral medication that made her faint, twice. She finally settled on a less-is-more approach when it comes to skin care, and ditched face makeup altogether, experimenting with fun eye looks instead. “I started to feel comfortable with the fact that this is just what my skin is right now,” she says. “[But] that was definitely difficult as a young person.”
One thing that helped her get through it—aside from her hormones starting to settle—was starting Starface in 2019. The acne-positive brand launched with bright yellow star-shaped pimple patches, but now offers a full line of skin-care products. “I just decided to go in a different direction—I’m obsessed with acne, I’ve been focused on it for 10 years,” she says. “I’m not a doctor, but what I do know is, if you can change the way people feel about their skin, then you can really make things better. I know for myself, when I could just look in the mirror and say ‘No, I’m not going to put foundation over this, this is okay, 95% of people are also experiencing this with me,’ I don’t feel bad about it.”
She says that when she first started pitching the brand, people didn’t fully grasp why the patches would be so eye-catching. “People just sort of said ‘Why would anyone ever want to draw attention to their acne? People are ashamed of their acne are never going to want to do that,’” she says. “And I just was certain that it would be one successful way of accepting and owning a thing for myself. I’ve felt so ashamed. Schott says when she puts on one of the brand’s a Hydro-Star patches, not only is she not picking at her pimple, but she also immediately feels better thanks to its cute factor. “That was kind of the whole goal with Starface. I’ve tried everything with varying results and none of these things improved my mood and none increased my self esteem. So what can we do there?”