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Image 2 credit: @by.emmataylor
By Lucie Rhodes
The impact of acne on mental health
The British Skin Foundation defines acne as being a common skin condition that combines comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) with pus-filled spots (pustules). Acne can affect the face, neck, back and chest and varies in severity. The British Skin Foundation highlights the fact that acne should not be trivialised. Indeed, not only are there physical symptoms, but the skin condition can affect people on an emotional level.
Studies show that 57.78% of acne sufferers have experienced some form of verbal abuse due to their acne. 10% of acne sufferers have been unfairly dismissed at work due to their skin condition and 20% of the people that were surveyed experienced a break-up due to their acne. Last but not least, 20% of people who have acne have had suicidal thoughts.
More than a benign skin condition, the study shows that acne can have a real impact on your professional life, personal life and well-being.
Patricia Mellars: her journey with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Endometriosis
Patricia Mellars, 47, who works at the University of Sheffield in the journalism department, was diagnosed in her early 30s with both endometriosis and PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome).
According to the NHS, “Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and Fallopian tubes.”
“Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how a woman's ovaries work.”
One of the side effects of those two conditions is acne. She says she has been suffering from acne since the age of 13.
Despite multiple trips to the GP, she says she only received adequate treatment for her type of acne after her operation when they found out she suffered from endometriosis. Before that she tried multiple over the counter lotions and oral and topical antibiotics, which she thought were unsuccessful despite being rather pricey. She admitted that taking all these medications made her feel concerned, as there were multiple negative side effects. Despite this, the doctors assured her that she should continue taking all these different medications. She says that she felt like the doctors were not trying to diagnose the source of her acne but were just giving her pills. Mellars came to the conclusion that it was best to not use too many products and that there is a real business behind acne where companies make a lot of profit out of products that ultimately do not work.
To stay confident and feel good in her skin Mellars often turned to makeup, which she calls her “security blanket”. She says that she does not feel confident going out without makeup. She gets anxious in social situations such as a spa day where she cannot wear much makeup. This long journey of acne is something that she says has “definitely scared me emotionally, as it’s what I think about when I wake up every morning when I take a shower and do my makeup”.
A link to Mellars speaking about this can be found in the link below:
The #Acne community helps 16 year-old Emma feel positive and embrace her acne
After struggling with acne for 6 years, Emma decided to go on Accutane, which is often seen as the ultimate acne medication and is known to be efficient on patients in most cases.
She created an Instagram page to track her progress on the drug, but her page ended up growing into something more, where she tackles mental health and body positivity.
The #Acnecommunity on Instagram has helped Emma stay positive throughout her journey, as her acne used to dictate her mental health in the past. But now she has found a community on Instagram which offers support and positivity.
Accutane has worked on her skin. She says the remaining scars are a part of her story and she is now fully confident in her skin and has learnt to love her self.
Her acne does not influence her social life and well being anymore. She encourages the media to convey more positive messages about acne, as it has often been portrayed as something "that is wrong and dirty and that the people that get it are the geeks that nobody likes".
Emma says that: " Acne is normal and that there is nothing wrong with having it". She also encourages people through Instagram to be more kind towards others in real life and on social media.
A video to Emma discussing this further can be found in the link below
General practitioner Anthony Collet clarifies common misconceptions about acne
There are multiple false rumours surrounding acne such as “the sun improves acne by drying the skin”, or “acne is contagious” or "due to a lack of hygiene”, and finally that “chocolate triggers acne”.
According to Anthony Collet, 30, a general practitioner based in aint-Benoit, Reunion Island, people should not believe these common misconceptions about acne. He says that the sun makes it better before making it worse, a lack of hygiene can influence acne, but it is not the cause of it and that there is no proof to this day that foods such as chocolate cause acne.
He says that acne affects 90% of the population in different forms and it is rarely induced by another disease. Acne is: “a natural process, that occurs during teenage years and adulthood often under the influence of sex hormones (oestrogen and testosterone)”.
He insists that it is important for the GP/dermatologist to “assess the psychological impact of acne even in mild forms and identify those at risk, for whom more specific follow-ups should be offered”.
“It’s important that acne is taken seriously but it should not create a psychosis”.
Anthony Collet says that there is no real cure for acne and that the aim of the treatments (apart from general isotretinoin) is to reduce the breakouts and avoid the potential risk of scarring over time. It is often of moderate effectiveness and rarely leads to an immediate apparent healing. The criterion of success is the attenuation of acne and to avoid the appearance of more severe forms of it.
He says that it is important for medical experts to examine their patients as a whole and ask about their medical history. It is important to find out if the patients take drugs, use cosmetics, or are in direct contact with inflammatory products such as oils and hydrocarbons. Then it is important do a reassessment. During this, the GP/dermatologist should pay attention to signs such as rapid evolution of acne , mature age and unusual location in order to find out if the acne is caused by another disease. If such signs are noticed, he says it is then important to carry out a systematic hormonal assessment.