The Effects of Acne Go Beyond the Skin
When your body is going through changes, it can be one of the most vulnerable points of your life. More specifically, changes in our body can have a significant effect on more than just the physical aspect of our bodies – it hits your mental health, too. With cases of the effects of acne starting in adolescence and carrying through to adulthood, acne remains a super common part of human development that can affect your self-esteem for decades if not addressed.
- It’s reported that 30-50% of adolescents experience psychological difficulties associated with having acne.
- Studies have shown that acne is directly related to negative emotional reactions and mental health issues such as increased stress, depression, anxiety, social anxiety, anger, frustration, and low self-esteem on top of physical discomfort.
- Inspired by the body positivity movement, the skin positivity movement is continuing to push the idea of acne acceptance as influencers and celebrities commit to breaking the stigma of acne, especially on social media.
With 30%-50% of adolescents experiencing psychological difficulties associated with their acne, it’s clear that the relationship between mental health and the effects of acne is often left unspoken and even stigmatized (1). But hey – it’s about to be 2022, and if there’s one thing we know about Millennials and Gen Z, it’s that these generations are moving the body positivity movement in the right direction. The more society shines a light on mental health and the resources people can reference to stay positive while experiencing acne, it’ll be one step closer to breaking harmful stigmatization.
The Relationship Between Mental Health and Acne
If you have experienced having acne, you know the blemishes are more than just skin deep. There can be severe effects of acne, namely the relationship that depression and anxiety have with acne. Acne in particular has been scientifically linked with a significantly increased risk of depression as the effects of acne includes negative emotional reactions in the body such as stress, depression, anxiety, trouble engaging socially, anger, and physical discomfort (2).
In fact, studies have shown that acne treatment is more successful when basic psychosomatic treatment is involved as well, in order to take a more sympathetic approach with patients (3). The whole idea of treatment being more successful when doctors consider more than just the physical aspects when it comes to the effects of acne ties into another mental health discussion that is often had amongst society and therapists on social media today. That discussion, of course, being that just because you can’t see a problem, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Mental health conditions and plenty of other impairments or disabilities cannot be seen with the eye, but they are just as important as physical conditions when it comes to considering professional treatment.
Much of the relationship with acne and mental health issues such social anxiety comes from the fact that acne isn’t an easily hidden aspect of human development. Nope. Instead, acne is front in center on the face, which can have negative effects on one’s perception of body image and self-esteem (4). Especially when developing acne in adolescence, teens are at a crucial period in their lives when they are developing their personalities and personal styles, navigating social situations, and juggling with the stress of feeling accepted at school. Low self-esteem as a result of experiencing acne has a direct impact on the psyche and can affect how someone experiencing acne interacts with others.
For example, acne patients have been commonly observed to display the negative side of the effects of acne, such as:
- Avoid eye contact with others
- Avoid social interactions, especially during activities like swimming where makeup is not typically worn
- Have experienced bullying from peers
- Have trouble forming new relationships
- Take days off from school or work during acne flare-ups
- Have an overall lack of confidence that can affect confidence in school and work performance (5)
Body Positivity Moving Forward
In the digital age that society is living in now, editing photos to remove blemishes and look perfect on social media is of course still prevalent. However, more and more influencers and body positive activists today are still working against the harmful effects of acne, the harmful effects of social media, and the overall stigma there is around opening up about mental health. With social media constantly being called a highlight reel of life, it’s become more important than ever to spread the message of body positivity and how to commit to staying positive through stressful situations.
Now, Instagram stars are opening up about their struggles with acne and have taken steps to promote body positivity by taking selfies with no makeup, no filters, and no retouching. This has caused major moves in the world of beauty and the media. Even the biggest publications out there like The New York Times have published articles with titles like, “Is Acne Cool Now?” (6).
Articles like that indicate a shifting perspective about beauty and health. Celebrities, influencers, and teens today are changing the stigma of acne and encouraging their followers to embrace their blemishes. This has helped millions around the world open up about their own acne struggles, learn to accept their acne, and forgo editing their selfies on Face Tune or hiding behind their hair.
Inspired by the “body positive” movement, the “skin positivity” movement has been brewing for years. Trend forecasters predicted that the movement really kicked off around 2015 when a popular beauty influencer on YouTube named Em Ford posted a bare-faced video that went viral for the way she shed a light on the hate and negativity she received from showing her real skin on social media. Now, efforts by skin positivity activists pushed the agenda of acne acceptance farther, encouraging more and more people to reject the stigma around their acne. It also addresses the positive effects on their mental health from experiencing acne without judgment.
For a lot of patients with acne, learning how to stay positive while experiencing issues is easier said than done. However, with the skin positive movement providing more helpful resources for those with acne, practicing key tips and tricks to staying positive has made embracing your skin a community movement. Some key methods you can practice to stay positive during mental health slumps include:
- Take your attention off your skin and refocus your energy into a new hobby or keeping up with one of your own hobbies. This can be anything from reading to gardening or cooking to playing an instrument. In turn, accomplishing new goals through your hobby will also have a positive impact on your self-esteem and confidence.
- While mental health and the effects of acne can have you feeling glued to your bed and hesitant to engage in social situations, it’s important to remember that you deserve to have fun. Your acne shouldn’t hold you back from making vital memories. Even if you just feel comfortable enough to have a friend over your house, being social and letting your hair down can be just the stress reliever you need during a mental health slump.
- Build a supportive community around you with a dermatologist you trust, a therapist you can talk to, encouraging friends, and even people in online or in-real-life acne support groups that can relate to your experiences and offer solutions.
- Remember to keep up with self-care because you deserve it! Take a bubble bath with that brand-new bath bomb, paint your nails, put on a face mask, order your favorite food, and turn on your comfort show. Again – you deserve it.
- Practice mindfulness to help reduce stress, relax the body and mind, and remind yourself of the importance of taking care of yourself from the inside, too.
Written by Selena Ponton