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Acne scarring and online dating
February 27, 2013 5:27 PM   Subscribe

It doesn't show up in pictures. I don't want to make a big deal out of it, but don't want it to seem like I'm trying to hide something. What should I do?

I have some acne scarring, which I would call mild but noticeable maybe? This will sound weird, but I don't feel like I have a solid objective opinion of how pronounced it is - I feel like a basically attractive person depending on the given person's taste, but I wonder if my scars are much more obvious than I feel they are when I look in the mirror. Like maybe I sort of edit them out? Anyway, this is part of the problem in deciding how much to disclose about it; I'm not sure how bad it is.

Anyway, it doesn't appear in much of any photo, except maybe if I were to take one 4 inches from my cheek with my head tilted toward the light. I signed up for an online dating website and unexpectedly met someone I seem to really click with on the online sense anyway and who seems into everything. It seems we have a similar sense of the world and I'm excited to meet him. I've tried to be honest in my photos and my weight, etc. is accurate but I'm not sure if he'll be turned off because of my skin. To a certain degree, I feel it wouldn't be the end of the world if he just had a taste for someone with nicer skin, but what I worry about is someone feeling that I was deliberately trying to deceive them, or hide something about my appearance. I really like and respect the person from what I know of him so far. The idea of writing something about my skin in my profile crossed my mind, but I feel like whenever you put a big "hey you should know this about me!" thing like that out there, it makes it into even a bigger deal than what it is?

I hadn't actually thought too much about it until we decided to meet a few days ago, and now I'm feeling a bit finicky. Anyway, has anyone dealt with this issue? Have you met someone and been disappointed in this, or have you decided to mention it or not mention it beforehand? I just wanted to see if I could get some feedback.
posted by mermily to Human Relations (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You took a photo of yourself that accurately represents how you look in a photo. You didn't Photoshop it or wear stage makeup. People understand that people look different in photos than they do in person. You are overthinking this a lot.

Enjoy your date!
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:30 PM on February 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


While I totally agree with Sidhedevil, I also kind of think it's the type of thing I might make a joke about on my online profile, to cover it off and also to show that you're not a high-maintenance, looks-obsessed lady. My OKC profile included stuff about my candy obsessions, which I think was a pretty reasonable dog whistle indicator that I'm not a size-0 health freak. It helps weed out types who want that, while also feeling more honest and avoiding reprisal for a bait and switch.
posted by Pomo at 5:37 PM on February 27, 2013


Don't mention it. Very few people will even notice it. Everyone has imperfections.
posted by Slinga at 5:41 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


You are super overthinking this. Everyone has SOMETHING that doesn't show up in pictures or their profile that is minor but might (might!) be mildly off-putting -- including this dude! There is NO NEED to warn anyone about this. (I, in fact, think mentioning mild acne scarring might make you seem overly concerned with your looks, not the opposite.) I really really don't think you should mention it, and I absolutely don't think you should worry about it.

I once went out with a dude who did not forewarn me that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury which lead to him communicating via very slurred and hesitant speech. He was extremely articulate in writing and here was no physical indication in his photos of this (in person, he also had problems with an arm). That was off-putting -- NOT because I had a problem with his condition, but because he never mentioned it to me and I spent the majority of the date honestly thinking he was drunk, then wondering if he were having a stroke. THAT is something you mention off-handedly pre-date (I still would have gone out with him and we would have had a better time because I wouldn't have been confused about what was happening). This is not. Have fun!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:44 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


If acne scars are a deal breaker, then they're not worth your time.

Enjoy your date!
posted by suki at 5:46 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


People use make up, fake nails, push up bras, hair extensions, contact lenses; all kinds of things to improve their appearance. If you represented yourself with an un-photoshopped picture, don't sweat it and have fun!
posted by NoraCharles at 5:49 PM on February 27, 2013


I kind of disagree with Pomo here and wouldn't mention this in my profile, listing minor (and seriously, if you have to get this close to capture those scars, they can't be that bad) flaws like this would come off as insecure AND looks-obsessed, at least to me.
You'll be fine, have fun dating!
posted by akrasia at 5:50 PM on February 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yes, I met someone who had visible acne scars, but her pictures showed no such thing.

Initial reaction was: her face looks different, and second reaction was, no one really looks like their picture, it almost never happens. The deceit angle did not cross my mind.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:53 PM on February 27, 2013


As long as you're not smearing Vaseline over the lens - or the modern equivalent in Photoshop - you're good.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 6:03 PM on February 27, 2013


I wouldn't mention it, but acne scars aren't forever, either. You don't need to get dermabrasion but there's plenty of ways to minimize them. Mineral base is one.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:39 PM on February 27, 2013


Look. Your body is not a product for sale. You want to present a general accurate idea of your whole self, yes - personality, interests, desires, and looks. Leaving out something major like "I spent three years in the state penitentiary and got out in June" would be potentially shady. But on that note, you aren't selling a car. You don't have to provide a preemptive list of flaws.

If I saw a profile along the lines of what you are considering - "Regularly oiled and maintained, new tires 6 months ago, haircut last week, moisturizes nightly" - I would find it creepy and off-putting, thinking that (at the least) you had cuttingly low self-esteem, and at the most that you were probably completely socially inept. Which may not be the case, but making a proactive point to list out your minor flaws as if they might break a sale or cause someone to ask for a refund, is not normal. Don't do it.
posted by celtalitha at 6:48 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


A beautiful person isn't required to advertise they have an ugly personality. Therefore by the transitive property of internet equality you don't need to sabotage yourself either.

If you haven't grossly retouched/lied about anything on your online profile then you are probably more honest than half the people in their online dating profiles anyway.

Go as yourself, be concerned if the other person is lying ;)
posted by TheAdamist at 6:55 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've met several people through a dating site. One was MUCH heavier than his pictures indicated. Like at least 50 lbs heavier. That was deception. You're not being deceptive and are definitely overthinking this. Have fun!
posted by chrysanthemum at 7:12 PM on February 27, 2013


Doesn't sound deceptive to me either.
posted by sm1tten at 7:24 PM on February 27, 2013


Don't mention it.

There are plenty of things about people that are not apparent in their online dating photos, but become apparent when you meet them.

As long as you aren't weird about it in person (i.e. trying to "explain", or apologizing for the photos, or whatever), you're fine.
posted by Sara C. at 7:38 PM on February 27, 2013


This isn't deceptive at all. Don't spend another minute worrying about it. Enjoy your date, have fun!
posted by Fig at 7:39 PM on February 27, 2013


Anybody using an online dating site who hasn't figured out that nearly everyone presents flattering photos rather than unflattering ones shouldn't be using online dating sites and instead should only be dating people they've initially met in a face-to-face situation. So I think you should just assume he understands this reality. By the way, I admire the way you wrote up this question in an honest and straightforward way with a balanced amount of confidence and concern.
posted by Dansaman at 8:06 PM on February 27, 2013


My wife has mild acne scars and they don't show up in pictures. We met online, and when we met in real life it was not a thing.

This is not a big deal. Don't even worry about it.
posted by mokin at 8:08 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the scarring is not bad enough to show up in your un-retouched photos, it's not that bad. Mentioning it only ensures that he'll notice when he probably wouldn't have otherwise.

I have minor acne scarring and it would never occur to me to that I should warn a potential date about it. No guy has ever mentioned it, and I honestly don't think they really notice.

Any guy who would be put off by minor skin flaws is probably looking for some supermodel type anyway, and who needs that kind of pressure? I say don't mention it, and don't sweat it.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:45 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


... Any guy who would be put off by minor skin flaws is probably going to be disappointed even WITH a supermodel. Because they're not perfect either. They're just airbrushed to look like they are.

I too have a couple of minor dents and dings both from acne and having chicken pox as an adult. You can definitely see them if you get close, and I could tip my head in certain light and point them all out to you, but this is pretty much something I can only imagine doing with my dermatologist. No one is putting you under a microscope like this, and if they are, holy crap, you can't get away from those people fast enough! Who wants to hang out with someone who is looking for flaws from four inches away? (Tell them to go look in the mirror - I promise they'll find some.)
posted by involution at 10:02 PM on February 27, 2013


Would it bother you if the guy didn't post disclaimers about minor facial imperfections? Guys get acne too. It's normal. You don't need to go out of your way to find an unflattering photo.
posted by steinwald at 7:05 AM on February 28, 2013


Thanks for the feedback everybody. I guess in general I don't mind taking the "take me as I am" approach especially if it's just a random person. It seemed like the stakes are higher somehow in this case because we've been talking constantly over gmail chat the past few days and seem to have hit it off. He's said little things that indicated that he seems excited about where everything is going, so I guess it's like there's more to lose. Or maybe it's that I don't want to feel let down in the case that he doesn't like the way I look, because it feels like the physical chemistry is the remaining make or break factor. I feel like it will be a bit of a blow to my self esteem if he's suddenly turned off.

Anyway, thanks for the perspective. You all give very wise advice as always!
posted by mermily at 7:26 AM on February 28, 2013


It's hard, but try to keep your expectations low. Realistically, one or both of you may not be attracted to the other in person. It's very VERY common in online dating, and it may have nothing to do with acne/chicken pox facial scars (which are very common - I have some and so do several of the people I've dated). "Warning" someone about that kind of thing would come off as a bit weird to me, and would give me the idea that you're really insecure - it'd be like warning someone up-front that you developed a pimple that morning.

It's just that photos don't really show you what the person is like in 3D, what their mannerisms and facial expressions and voice are like, etc, and all of that can influence attraction (far more than acne scars are likely to).
posted by randomnity at 8:35 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of an authority on this subject because I spent years pre-emptively rejecting people because I was so sure they would reject me based on my acne, once they saw me without makeup, etc.

I know what you mean about having acne scars and not being sure how noticeable they are. I don't think you should mention this at all. I remember years of worrying about the actual acne, and it sucks to have scars, but I really think that if they don't show up in photos, they aren't all that noticeable to someone who is not specifically looking for them. They are noticeable to you because you are staring at them in the mirror and focusing on them.

I had acne for 10+ years, it was terrible, and now I use a tinted moisturizer and concealer and actually get compliments on my skin. I still see scars on my skin, but they apparently aren't noticeable by other people.

If you mention them in the profile, it will prime someone to be looking for them. Also I think it will be an indicator of insecurity to people and that will probably be much more off-putting than the scars themselves could ever be.
posted by fromageball at 4:19 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will go a bit against the tide here. I have many, many physical oddities. (I also battled acne for years, but somehow avoided scars of the kind I think you mean.) Specific to the face question, I have a cleft lip and palate. My lip is repaired, but not really to modern standards. The cleft palate, along with various surgeries, has made my whole face a little "off." It is not the kind of thing that would put off a guy who is otherwise interested. But any doctor, for example, could spot me a mile away as a textbook case. And it does mean it's hard to find a still picture of me where I don't look kind of strange (I don't think I look too strange IRL, and others have confirmed this). We are not talking Lucy Grealy odd, just a little odd--I'll never be the friend that looks great in every shot.

I don't have a ton of online dating experience--let's say about a year, total, both before my current relationship and, more recently, during an intermission we took. But I have been online and I did get dates (and actually dated one of them for a while).

Here's a thought. FOR YOUR OWN PEACE OF MIND--not for men, not for society, not for the meat market, not for the internalized voice of your mother--put up all of your great pictures, but ALSO put up one picture that shows what you are talking about. I have plenty of pictures from the right angle where only a doctor could tell. But those were not the ones I posted. Among other pictures I included a straight-up closeup from my own damn webcam of me smiling with no makeup and no hairdo. I also went so far as to include a childhood snapshot (in context it was funny, not gross) that made my other oddities perfectly clear (I couldn't find a non-contrived current one).

Not to spell it out, but with this approach I got what I wanted from online dating. SURELY with acne scars you can do the same. And getting ready for dates, I never worried for a second, "oh, if he knew X, he wouldn't be interested."
posted by skbw at 2:01 PM on March 2, 2013


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