Emma Mackey’s acne made her spiral for years — until she made these 3 changes

“I’ve been so anxious about my skin.”

Beauty Crew Beauty Editor / September 25 2023

Emma Mackey (AKA Margot Robbie’s celebrity look alike) may be the eye of everyone’s affection on Netflix’s Sex Education, but in her personal life she says she’s felt less than sexy after struggling with persistent cystic and hormonal acne throughout her teens and well into adulthood.  

“I’ve had really bad skin for most of my twenties,” Mackey told British Vogue in September. “I stopped being a teenager and the acne carried on in adult life – I was like, ‘what’s happening?!’”.

“I’ve been so anxious about my skin – I think about it all the time and it made me spiral for years, which sounds really stupid, but it takes up so much headspace when you don’t have good skin,” she went on to tell the publication. 

Although she's tried just about everything on the skin care market targeted towards acne-prone skin, she claims that most of it has done more harm than good, which is why she’s taken a more holistic approach. Mackey relies on a thoughtful and bespoke three-pronged anti-acne action plan, which includes topical skin care, as well as forming new mental habits, and trying alternative methods of care

“I’m just trying to take care of myself more, be more balanced and not stress myself out so much with my own brain,” she confided in British Vogue

Ahead, the three things Emma Mackey swears by for changing the narrative on acne. 

Emma Mackey’s skin care routine

1/ A simple skincare routine

“I try to keep [my skincare routine] simple,” Mackey told British Vogue. “I used all kinds of skincare, including retinol and acids, and that just made everything much worse.”

Mackey exfoliates her skin just “once a week,” but she’s learned her lesson and is mindful not to overdo it with the actives. “Now I use a La Roche-Posay cleanser ($25.49 at Chemist Warehouse) and Dermallergo Fluid moisturiser ($38.49 at Chemist Warehouse), which are great,” she said. “I [just] try and keep my routine really pared back.”

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser

La Roche Posay Toleriane Dermallergo Fluid

2/ Regular stress-reducing facials

Besides a super simple skincare routine, Mackey also swears by regular visits to her facialist: “I’m lucky to go and get facials with [Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner] Ada Ooi,” she told British Vogue

Ooi’s clinic boasts an impressive clientele of A-list stars and royal names thanks to her unique approach to skin health. “Celebrities and people with high profile lifestyles can experience high levels of stress from being in the public eye or working in demanding productions, press or touring schedules,” Ooi said in a 2022 interview with Sunday World

“The relationship between stress, our overall well being and skin is a complex one,” she explained. “A rise in cortisol can negatively impact our skin by disturbing our sebum regulation, elevating sensitivity and redness, or [causing] breakouts.”

“Prolonged physical or mental fatigue can also cause our immune system to kick up eczema or hives accompanied by headaches, irregular menstrual cycles etc, causing further stress to the wellbeing, which then becomes a vicious cycle,” she elaborated. “Our clinic sees everyone as a whole.” 

Ooi’s clinic utilises techniques and principles of both Eastern and Western medicine in order to treat the skin, such as stimulating the body’s Meridians, and treating and strengthening internal organ function, the lymphatic system, and the musculoskeletal system.

“That’s obviously a huge treat but it helps to go once every couple of months, and it calms me down too,” Mackey told British Vogue. “I’m trying to work on the inside as well [as the outside], and balance everything out so I don’t spend too much on skin care!”.

3/ Mindful meditation

Much like her skin care routine, when it comes to her thinking patterns, Mackey’s trying to keep things simple in order to minimise the anxiety she’s been experiencing as a result of her struggle with acne. “Teaching my brain new habits and trying not to worry about it so much, as well as paring everything back, has honestly been the best thing,” she confessed to British Vogue.

It’s this change of mind that’s prompted her to explore mindful meditation (“I have a very overactive brain”), and subsequently, adopting healthier habits with the breathing exercises that go hand in hand with the ancient practice. “I need to learn how to breathe,” Mackey joked.

Image credit: Photo by Lia Toby/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

Briar Clark got her start in the media industry in 2017, as an intern for Marie Claire and InStyle. Since then, her keen interest in fashion and beauty has landed her gigs as a Digital Content Producer and Beauty Editor with titles like Girlfriend, Refinery29, BEAUTYcrew and beautyheaven. She loves the way seemingly innocuous topics like skin care and style have the ability to put a smile on people’s faces or make them think about themselves a little differently. A big believer in self love and experimentation, Briar has made a point of becoming the Australian beauty industry’s unofficial guinea pig for unusual treatments and daring hair trends. When she’s not testing out the latest beauty launches, Briar is big on broadening her horizons, mostly in the form of food but she’s also partial to travelling to new destinations both near and far (and of course, allocating an extra bag to bring their best beauty offerings home with her).

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