Georgia Toffolo wanted to ‘normalise’ acne in I’m a Celebrity: ‘I didn’t want to hide behind my concealer’

Georgia Toffolo wanted to normalise acne on I'm A Celebrity: South Africa 2023 (ITV)
Georgia Toffolo is determined to show that acne isn't something we should have to hide. (ITV)

Georgia Toffolo has opened up about wanting "normalise" acne as she resisted the urge to try and conceal her skin flare-up while on I'm A Celebrity... South Africa.

The former Made In Chelsea star and ex-Queen of the Jungle, 27, was eliminated from this year's show on Monday's episode alongside Andy Whyment.

"If I'm being really honest, I've been on a really big journey with my acne," Toff, as she's commonly known, explained in her exit interview.

"When I was in there, my skin really flared up and it was really aggressive acne. There was a part of me that kept on thinking, ‘I really want my concealer.’ Because I'm being really honest, I'm not totally myself when I haven't got my war paint on.

"But I've been suffering with it now for 15 years and it was really important to me that I didn't hide behind my concealer."

When she appeared in the 2017 series of I'm A Celeb, which she took home the crown from, she was given permission to wear foundation for the medical condition she was dealing with then too. She has since done much to help raise awareness about what it's like to tackle acne, including baring her face on This Morning and making the ITV documentary In Search of Perfect Skin.

Read more: Cystic acne left woman too self-conscious to leave the house – what is the condition?

"There are so many people that struggle with it like I do," she also said in her I'm a Celeb exit interview on Monday.

"And I wanted people to see that a) that's normal and b) that even if you've got every single privilege in life that I do, you can still have it. It doesn't matter how well off you are, what school you went to or if you’re a celebrity – you can still suffer with it. And that's all right. It's not something to hide behind.

"And I hope that people take that away, that would make me really happy that people look at it and think, ‘You know, she normalised it and she went on the telly. Millions of people have watched her twice now and it didn't get her down.’

"So I think that's my biggest takeaway. I'm 27 now and I feel like it's important to show that you can have the spots, but you can also be beautiful at the same time. I had to break through that so I'm really proud of myself."

With Toff helping to raise awareness of how many people can be affected by acne, here's a look at the skin condition in more detail.

Who's affected by acne?

Woman with acne
It's very common to suffer with acne up until 30 years old. (Getty Images)

Anyone can be affected by acne, while some might be more prone than others.

It's particularly common in teenagers and younger adults. About 95% of people aged 11-30 are affected by acne to some extent, while it is most common in girls aged 15-17 and boys aged 16-19, according to the NHS.

Most people have the skin condition on and off for several years before their symptoms start to improve as they get older, often disappearing when a person is in their mid-20s.

However, in some cases, it can continue into adult adult life – about 3% of over-35s have acne.

Read more: Woman called ‘pizza face’ by bullies launches skincare product for acne sufferers

Acne causes

Acne types and progression illustration
Acne types and progression. (Getty Images)

Teenage acne is commonly linked to changes in hormone levels. But generally speaking, across the ages, it is also known to run in families, be brought on by other hormone changes like from periods or pregnancy, or can be triggered by cosmetic products, medications and smoking.

Contrary to popular belief, the NHS states that there's no evidence that diet, poor hygiene or sexual activity play a role in acne.

Technically speaking, acne is caused when tiny holes in the skin, known as hair follicles, become blocked.

The tiny glands found near the surface of your skin – sebaceous glands – are attached to these hair follicles. The glands lubricate the hair and the skin to stop it drying out, producing an oily substance called sebum.

With acne, the glands produce too much sebum and the excess mixes with dead skin cells and both substances form a plug in the follicle. Depending on how close to the surface of the skin it is, and whether this gets contaminated further, this can cause different symptoms.

Acne symptoms

Acne most commonly develops on the face, back and chest.

The six main types of spots, according to the NHS, are:

  • blackheads

  • whiteheads

  • papules – small red bumps that may feel tender or sore

  • pustules – similar to papules, but have a white tip in the centre, caused by a build-up of pus

  • nodules – large hard lumps that build up beneath the surface of the skin and can be painful

  • cysts – large pus-filled lumps that look similar to boils and carry the greatest risk of causing permanent scarring

Read more: The most common mental health conditions - and where to get help

How to help acne

A female doctor sits at her desk and chats to a male patient about his current medication . She is dressed in a shirt with rolled up sleeves . They are both looking down at the pill bottle as she assesses his current dosage .
It's important to find the right acne treatment for you. (Getty Images)

There are some thing you can try and do to help acne yourself at home.

These include not washing affected areas of skin more than twice a day, washing with a mild soap or cleanser or lukewarm water, not trying to pop spots, avoiding make-up, skincare and sun-care products that are oil-based (look for 'non-comedogenic' products), removing make-up before bed, and more.

If your acne is mild, your pharmacist should be able to advise you on how to treat it with over-the-counter products.

If your acne is moderate or severe, your GP may recommend topical retinoids, antibiotics, azelaic acid, or the combined oral contraceptive pill for women.

There are also isotretinoin capsules (known as roaccutane) for severe acne, but this may not be suitable for everyone and can have serious side effects. Speak to your doctor for advice.

While it may not be a proven cause, some studies have suggested stress can trigger skin conditions.

Suffering from acne itself can cause feelings of anxiety, stress, and sometimes depression, but help is out there both for your skin and how it might be baking you feel, including talking therapies.

Speak to your doctor for support with both.

I'm A Celebrity... South Africa continues tonight at 9pm on ITV1, catch up on the full series on ITVX.

Watch: How stress affects your skin