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The Acne Issue

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Racked loves skin care. This isn’t much of a surprising admission: We’ve written about how it’s not a scam (and when it probably is), the best products, the notable trends, the steals, the brands you want to know more about.

But for all our talk about skin, we don’t talk very much about acne as anything other than an issue to be solved. “Body positivity” is such a popular concept that it’s considered a movement (a movement that has its own Wikipedia page, no less), but skin positivity is, well, not nothing, but certainly less of a thing.

We wanted to explore why that is, look at how we’ve understood pimples through history, break down what the different types of acne really are and how they’re treated, find the people who are bonding through shared acne concerns online, and find out who is profiting off our insecurities about our skin. Plus, we wanted to take some cool, glamorous pictures of people where their zits aren’t covered up.

These pictures can be seen throughout the stories. The models were generous volunteers, and they certainly don’t cover the full breadth of people with acne, so to that end, we’d love to see your own photos and hear your stories. You can share them in our Facebook group, Racked Shopping Lounge, or email We’d like this to be the beginning of a conversation, not the final word.

Alanna Okun and Meredith Haggerty, senior editors

The Sketchy Reasons Big Pharma Can Charge Over $500 for Acne Face Cleanser

By Cheryl Wischhover

Because health care is broken.

The Classist Implications of ‘Bad Skin’

By Jaya Saxena

Having imperfect skin can have real sociocultural ramifications.

Acne Treatment Used to Include Poisoning Yourself a Lot

By Tracy E. Robey

A history of the scientific blistering of maggot pimples, pustules, and papules by the most efficacious substances such as mercury.

This Huge Acne Forum Has a Community of 635,678 Members and Growing

By Aditi Shrikant’s very, very active forums are a place for tips, commiseration, and empathy.

A Dermatologist Explains All the Ways to Treat Acne

By Cheryl Wischhover

Yeah, acne treatment can be complex, but this is how doctors think about it when coming up with a plan.

Editors: Meredith Haggerty, Alanna Okun

Creative Director: Lauren O’Connell | @loconnl

Photographer: Charlotte Bae | @charbaelotte

Hair & Makeup Artist: Shideh Kafei | @shidehkafei

Hair & Makeup Assistant: Maya Rene | @maya_rene

Special thanks to Ellie Krupnick, Nisha Chittal, Julia Rubin, Margaret Lin, Amy Plitt, Patty Dietz, Marine Parra Gonzalez, Kelsey Weekman, Jenna Stoeber, Breanne Thomas

Farewell From Racked

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