Acne affects mental health: It isn’t just a physical condition

In the literal sense, acne is just on my skin. It’s just skin – it’s no big deal, right?  Well…

It’s not just my skin, it’s my mind

Acne is more than skin deep — serious skin conditions like acne have both mental and emotional effects. My entire teenage years and early 20s would have been different if I never had this condition. It’s hard to even explain.

Every day I’d wake up and immediately look at my skin in the mirror. Most of the time, I was disappointed with what was staring back at me. Another spot. Another cyst. Another scar. I don’t know why I became so obsessed with it, but I did.

I wanted to look nice. And what I believed was nice back then, was clear, flawless, smooth, even skin. Mine was the opposite – it was red, blotchy, swollen and sore.

Girl with red bobble hat looking at menai straits

Makeup almost became a mask

I’d started covering my acne up in my teens. What started as a small dab of concealer here and there, quickly became an obsessive habit. I didn’t let anyone see my face without make-up on, not even my own grandparents. How ridiculous is that? I truly believed that if anyone saw my acne, they’d hate me or think I was disgusting.

I’d wake up an hour before school and spend 45 minutes obsessively covering every little spot up with concealer and foundation. When I was first in university, I’d put makeup on to walk to the shower. I’d have a shower, wash my face and then quickly put concealer on again before I left the bathroom. In my head, it was too much of a risk to walk to my room without it – I literally thought my own skin, as it was, would disgust people.

See what I’m getting at? Acne isn’t just a physical condition. It eats away at your self-esteem and before you know it, you can’t even show people your real face. You become trapped in your own skin. I didn’t like my face as it naturally was – every morning I had to apply a mask in order to feel confident enough to face the world.

Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone. I think, for me, getting bad skin so early meant I hadn’t had the chance to develop any real confidence – so it just spiraled out of control.

Girl putting makeup on mirror

Acne affected my social life

Although I’m quite an introvert (I neeeeed my own space at times!), I’m a pretty sociable one at that. I’ve always loved hanging out with people, going out, getting dressed up, experiencing new things… all that good stuff.

But at times, I genuinely feel that my acne has held me back. In fact, I genuinely believe that acne actually made me develop mild social anxiety. I’d never been like this in my early years of school – but as my acne worsened, so did my confidence. I seemed to lose my ability to talk confidently to new people – and, to be honest, even people I knew well.

For a while, I wouldn’t do anything that required taking my makeup off or that risked my makeup fading. It sounds so dramatic, I know – but this is genuinely how I felt. I’d make up excuses not to sleep over at people’s houses. I’d make up excuses not to go swimming or for weekends away with anyone other my family. If I did sleep over, I’d rush away in the morning to reapply my makeup – and it’s all I’d think about the night before. Ugh.

And it was more than just the makeup thing, too. I started struggling to make eye contact with people and I constantly worried about what people thought about me. I was too scared, for a while, to basically, be myself. I thought people would judge.

Couple silhouette in Cambodia

Acne is directly linked to depression

Anyway, don’t just take it from me. Take a look at these acne and mental health statistics:

Personally, I do feel that acne has affected my mental health. Sometimes I wonder how much more confident I’d be if I was never lumbered with this condition. Still, I’m (weirdly) glad I did – as I feel like it’s shaped me into who I am now!

I really don’t want my blog to be negative. I just wanted to make this point for all the people out there suffering now, who get called dramatic (okay, maybe just by keyboard warriors and Daily Mail readers – but still!).

I also feel that the NHS needs to start looking into the mental health of long-term acne sufferers, rather than just offering treatment for the physical symptoms. During my 10 or so years of acne, not one doctor has asked me how I feel.

Girl looking in a hostel mirror with acne

Still, there’s always a silver lining – even to acne!

But anyway… like I said, I don’t want my blog to be all negative – and I always like to end on a positive note.

Yes, having acne has made my confidence drop down to the floor at times – it’s probably even weakened some of my relationships and friendships. For a while, I think it put out the spark (you know, everyone has their own weird lil spark) to my personality.

But at the same time, having acne has made me into who I am now. I feel that having acne has made me a much more empathetic and patient person.

And ironically, from being the girl who was obsessive about covering up her skin and looking a certain way, having acne has made me realise that looks aren’t everything. In fact, they’re nothing in comparison to your personality.

Having acne doesn’t make you ugly. I find all the girls and guys I see online with acne absolutely beautiful! All I can think is, “what an honest and strong person they are” – and surely that’s the purest form of beauty? I think so, anyway.

So, to end this little ramble about acne and mental health, I urge you to seek help if you’re struggling. I wish I’d been more open with doctors about how I was feeling – and maybe the process would have been way easier to deal with.

Girl in red bobble hat on harbour

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