Acne Can Seriously Affect Self-Esteem In Teens, Study Finds

Darker skinned adolescents are disproportionately affected by the psychological impacts of acne, calling for a more aggressive approach to treating the disease dermatologically and dealing with the psychological toll, according to investigators from the University of California at Riverside (UCR).

“Acne is pervasive, physically harmless, and painless, so too often we underestimate its impacts as the quintessential teenage and puberty nuisance,” said Misaki Natsuaki, PhD, co-author of the study and associate professor of psychology at UCR. in a report.1

The psychological effects of acne in adolescents are often “toxic,” according to the study’s authors.

The investigators noted that 20% of adolescents have moderate to severe acne and that 85% have recurrent attacks.

Numerous studies have shown the direct links between acne and anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Teens with acne have a harder time forming friendships, feeling connected to school and finding romantic partners, according to the study’s authors.

When shown a photo of a teenager with facial acne, 65% of teens said the skin was the first thing they noticed. However, in a photo of a fair-skinned teenager, teens said they noticed the skin first only 14% of the time. They associated teens with acne with traits such as “lonely,” “nerdy,” and “stressed.”

Research has shown that women experience negative psychological impacts at a higher rate than men, according to investigators.

“The aesthetic ideals of fair, unblemished skin are held by both sexes,” the investigators wrote in their article, Adolescent Acne and Disparities in Mental Health, published in Child Development Perspectives.2 “But women are under greater social pressure to achieve these ideals than men.”

Additionally, darker-skinned teens, many of whom are from ethnic and racial minorities in the United States, are likely to have disproportionate acne effects due to an increased incidence of scarring and hyperpigmentation, according to the results of the study.

The authors argue that structural systems of inequality, which fuel health care disparities in the United States, further intensify acne and the associated psychosocial distress in people with public health insurance.

In addition, the complex infrastructure of the health insurance system, the reluctance to provide dermatology appointments for children and adolescents with public insurance, and the uneven geographic density of health care providers all contribute to these disparities, according to the authors.

“According to dermatological research, the psychological burden of acne is comparable to that of other serious diseases such as diabetes,” said study co-author Tuppett M. Yates, PhD, professor of psychology at the UCR, in a press release. “Acne is a medical condition with clear psychological effects, effects that are not distributed randomly based on gender, skin color, and socioeconomic status.”


1. Warren JD. Study: Acne Treatment Solves Only Half the Problem. UC Riverside. February 11, 2021. Accessed February 16, 2021.

2. Natsuaki MN, Yates TM. Adolescent acne and disparities in the developmental outlook for child mental health. Child Dev Perspective. 2021; 15 (1): 37-43. doi: 10.1111 / cdep.12397

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