Acne’s toll on women’s mental and emotional health

acne's effects

A recent study has found that acne is so much more than skin deep for women. Women having moderate to severe acne that continues to persist into adulthood (in some, into their 50s), often are affected mentally and emotionally with feelings of isolation impacting their life significantly. Multiple studies have documented adverse quality-of-life effects of acne among teenagers but few have explored the experience of acne in adult women and how it is treated.

These findings, published in JAMA Dermatology, were from a survey of 50 women with acne and who had expressed concerns of their appearance.  Typically acne is seen as a condition primarily affecting teenagers. However, more than 50% of women will still have some acne in their 20s and more than 35% in their 30s.

Women who develop acne during their teen years typically expect this skin condition to resolve itself by the time they graduate from college and enter the adult workforce. But when acne is still present, women affected by it may face years of frustration and being uncomfortable with their appearance around others. These feelings are just a few ways women expressed their dissatisfaction with having acne into adulthood. This study showed that acne in women can bring a negative health-related quality-of-life consequence no matter what age they are when struggling with skin breakouts.

This study has similarities to findings of international studies that show a consistent theme among people with acne. Acne is the eighth most prevalent disease worldwide that occurs across all ages. One frustration for many is that patient preferences are not often considered in designing an acne treatment plan which can lead to negative effects on adherence, patient satisfaction, and overall mental and emotional health.

Many of the women who participated in the survey expressed they felt their acne made them appear less professional or qualified for their job. Other concerns were dissatisfaction with their appearance, the mental and emotional toll, and disruption to their personal and professional lives that sometimes led to isolation. Women stated they often avoided looking at themselves in a mirror all day or in some extreme cases, would not leave their home to do basic errands due to their unhappiness with the appearance of the skin.

Some people may view women with acne as being vain or as more of a cosmetic problem not realizing how this skin disease affects their life overall.

One frustration women also stated was finding and then trusting a dermatologist to work with. Some felt that dermatologists were not always understanding how acne was affecting their day-to-day life. How it affected women’s confidence at work or among friends and how they long to get clear skin they’ve always wanted.

There are safe and effective acne treatments available that include topical retinoids, topical or oral antibiotics, and spironolactone, helping to slow the production of hormones that clog pores causing breakouts. Women should discuss with their healthcare provider caring for their acne their goals of what improvements they want to see in their skin.

The main takeaway for women with acne is to not give up. Find a physician who is willing to treat your acne in a holistic manner using not only medications but also checking hormonal levels, lifestyle habits (poor sleep, stress, smoking, etc.), and suggest skincare products for acne-prone skin.

Acne’s toll on women’s mental and emotional health
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Dr. David Samadi

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Dr. David Samadi