Coping and Living With Acne (2022)

Although acne is a cosmetic issue, it can affect your life in real ways. Acne can impact your self-esteem, your confidence, your social life, and the way you interact with others. It's more than just a skin condition; acne can affect the way you feel about yourself as a whole. Acknowledging those feelings is the first step, and taking time to manage your emotional wellbeing goes hand-in-hand with treating acne.


Acne doesn't just affect your skin; it can affect the way you feel about yourself. It's important to know that the degree to which acne affects you emotionally doesn't—and shouldn't—directly correspond with its severity. Some people with severe acne aren't all that bothered by it; others are intensely embarrassed and depressed by fairly mild acne. Whatever type of acne you have, your feelings are normal and okay.

Loss of Confidence

Because it appears visibly on the face, having acne can impact your self-esteem. People with acne often say they feel less confident than they did before having acne. You may feel it's harder to put yourself "out there" when asking for a promotion or for a date, for example. Tweens and teens, unfortunately, may be the subject of teasing and bullying because of their skin. This can have a direct impact on their self-confidence at a critical period in their life.

One thing to remember is that acne is much more obvious—and thus a bigger deal—to you than it is to anyone else.

Anger and Frustration

An emotion that acne brings up that might surprise you is anger. You're not alone with this one. Acne is a frustrating condition. It's frustrating to take good care of your skin every day and still break out. It's frustrating to try treatment after treatment and still have acne. It's frustrating to see others sleep in their makeup and never cleanse their faces and still have clear skin. It's understandable to feel angry.

The best thing to do when you're feeling this way, though, is to stick with it. You most likely will have to try several acne treatment medications before finding the right one, or combination, that works best for you. It may cause you to feel anger and frustration, but each step gets you closer to the right treatment plan.

Hopelessness and Feeling Out of Control

Other people, instead of feeling angry and frustrated, feel hopeless. Some people feel out of control, like they're at the mercy of the whims of their skin. This is normal too.

Often, people feel they shouldn't be so upset because it's "just" acne. Studies have found that acne impacts the lives of those who have it just as much as other chronic diseases, like diabetes and thyroid disease. In that light, understand that many people in your shoes feel just the way you do right now. There's no need to minimize your feelings, try to talk yourself out of them, or feel guilty for having them.

The good news is, studies have found that just starting an acne treatment helps people feel hopeful and more in control. So, if you haven't started treatment, do so now. A call to your healthcare provider is the first step.

Keep in mind, it takes time for any treatment to work. At the beginning of treatment, you'll still get new breakouts. This doesn't mean the acne medication isn't working, it just needs more time. Improvement comes slowly over the course of several months.

Feeling That Acne Has "Taken Over Your Life"

Checking the mirror first thing in the morning to see how your skin looks. Talking with a friend and suddenly wondering if they are looking at your skin. Not wanting to go to sleepovers because you can't stand the thought of people seeing you without makeup. Avoiding wearing certain clothing, or going swimming, because it will show your body acne. It may seem like your acne is always at the top of your mind. It controls what you do, what you wear, how you think.

Nearly everyone with acne has had these thoughts at one point or another. The key here is the extent of their influence. If you feel acne has completely taken over your life to the point you're not functioning at a normal level, you must let your healthcare provider know. They may decide to treat your acne more aggressively or refer you to a therapist, or both to help you get through these feelings.

Anxiety and Depression

Depression is fairly common in people with acne, especially for those with long-lasting or severe acne. Signs of depression include:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
  • Sleep problems
  • Not feeling interested in things you once enjoyed

This isn't an exhaustive list, though, so if you think you may be depressed, let your doctor know right away. For parents of teens with acne, be on the lookout for signs your teen may be depressed.

(Video) Women Open Up About Struggling With Adult Acne

Depression or thoughts of suicide should be taken seriously. If you or someone you know are having suicidal thoughts, dial988to contact the988 Suicide & Crisis Lifelineand connect with a trained counselor.


Of course, taking care of yourself physically will help you feel better too, and in some cases can also help improve your acne.


Let's clear up one thing right away: diet doesn't cause acne. You didn't create your skin problem by eating chocolate and potato chips. That said, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will give you a boost both mentally and physically.

Diet may play a role in how severe your acne is, though. Some studies have found a possible link between acne severity and dairy products, as well as high-glycemic-index foods (think white bread, pasta, cake and such). Talk to your healthcare provider to see what they recommend. You can also avoid any foods which seem to trigger breakouts for you.

Regardless of whether or not it affects your skin, a balanced diet is the foundation for good health.


Along the same lines, exercise is also important. Will it clear up your skin? No. Sweating doesn't "clean out" your pores. In fact, sweat can clog your pores and irritate existing breakouts, so it's always important to shower as soon as possible after sweating.

Exercise can improve your mental health. It can boost your mood, help you feel stronger and more confident, and reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.

All of these are crucial to help you feel better about yourself at a time when you may be feeling a bit low. Find something you enjoy, get out, and do it.

Relieve Stress

Having acne can be stressful. Much like with diet, some studies have shown a link between stress and how severe acne is. To be clear, these studies aren't saying stress causes acne, just that it may make existing breakouts worse.

Even if stress has absolutely no effect on your skin, it definitely influences your day-to-day life.

When you're stressed, having acne may feel like an even bigger deal than it is, as stress tends to amplify negative feelings.

Stress-relieving activities—whether it's tai chi or yoga, reading a book, hanging out with friends, fishing, or anything that makes you feel relaxed—will give you a better outlook.

(Video) Dealing With Severe Acne: Skin

Conceal Acne

Many people find concealing their breakouts incredibly helpful in managing acne. If concealing pimples and dark marks makes you feel more confident when you go out into the world, then go for it.

Makeup won't make acne worse as long as you're doing two key things:

  • Using an oil-free, noncomedogenic brand (less likely to clog pores)
  • Cleansing your skin thoroughly every night before you go to bed

There are breakout camouflaging options for men too. You may like tinted moisturizers because they're super easy to apply and can tone down redness. For more complete coverage, there are concealing options made just for men on the market that further blend away acne blemishes.

No Picking or Popping

One of the most important things you can do while you're treating your acne is to take a hands-off approach. That means no picking, popping, squeezing, or otherwise bothering your pimples.

Squeezing a pimple, especially ones that are deep and inflamed, can damage the skin. It may make the existing blemishes worse and can lead to scarring. If you've already picked at a pimple, treat it as you would any small wound. If you have a compulsive need to pick at your skin, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to manage it.

Treating Scars and Hyperpigmentation

Scars and dark marks (called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) can be just as troubling to you as acne. While there are ways to minimize scarring, you may still develop some scars even with careful care. This is especially true if you have severe acne, inflamed breakouts, or are simply prone to scarring.

Talk to your healthcare provider about treatments for scars and dark marks. Topical medications that are used to treat acne (like topical retinoids and azelaic acid) also fade dark marks. For depressed or pitted scars, dermal fillers and scar surgeries are an option.


For the vast majority of people with acne, finding support in understanding friends and family can go a long way in helping you cope with this skin disease. Remember, most everyone gets acne at some point in their lives, so most people can identify with what you are going through.

If you feel like you need more support, you may consider an online acne support group or forum. Most are connected to an acne treatment product, but they can still be a good place to connect with others who have acne.

For Parents and Guardians

It's important to be on the watch for signs that acne is negatively affecting your teen's life. This could be withdrawing from friends and family, going out less, quitting their favorite extracurricular activity, or other signs. Your teen may seem unusually sad, angry, or anxious. If you feel like something is just not right, let your child's healthcare provider know.

It's also important to acknowledge your teen's feelings. It may be just a few pimples to you, but to your teen, it's a big deal. Yes, your teen will probably outgrow acne. But this could take years, and in the interim, your teen could be developing permanent scarring. During this time their self-esteem can also take a beating.

Treating teen acne is preferable to letting it runs its course, but it's crucial if acne is negatively impacting your teen's life. If over-the-counter acne treatments don't work sufficiently within three months' time, talk to a medical professional about prescription options.


Besides just using your treatment medications, there are other things you can do to help your skin look and feel better while waiting for acne to clear.

Use Moisturizer Regularly

Acne treatments will dry your skin. Although you may be reluctant to use a moisturizer, they are an incredibly important part of your acne treatment routine. Many people give up on their acne treatments because their skin becomes uncomfortably dry and irritated. Using moisturizer regularly will guard against excessive dryness, peeling, and flaking, and allow you to use your acne medications as directed.

Choose a moisturizer that is oil-free and noncomedogenic, as they are less likely to clog your pores. Also, consider choosing a product that is hypoallergenic or designed for sensitive skin. These are less likely to burn and sting skin that is feeling overworked thanks to drying acne medications.


Start using a moisturizer before your skin gets dry and flaky. Apply after every cleansing.

Wear Sunscreen Daily

Many acne treatment medications cause sun sensitivity. While using them you'll be more susceptible to sunburn and sun damage. It's very important that you wear sunscreen whenever going out in the sun.

You must be careful when choosing a product though, because the wrong sunscreen can clog your pores and make breakouts worse. Choose a sunscreen that is oil-free and noncomedogenic. There are also sunscreens on the market developed especially for acne-prone skin that you may want to try. You can find these at most drugstores and beauty/cosmetic stores. You can always ask your healthcare provider or dermatologist for recommendations.

A sample morning skincare routine looks like this: topical acne treatment medications, followed by moisturizer, followed by sunscreen. Make sure you allow each step to thoroughly dry and absorb before moving on to the next.

Avoid Acne Medication Stains

Many acne treatments, both OTC and prescription, contain benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide is quite effective at treating acne. Unfortunately, it also stains fabrics, so you'll want to take extra care when using this medication.

You can avoid benzoyl peroxide stains with some care. Don't allow benzoyl peroxide to come in contact with towels, sheets, or clothing. Even when it's completely dry, it still has the propensity to bleach out fabrics. You may want to switch to white linens, apply benzoyl peroxide at night only, and wear pajamas you don't mind staining for the duration of the time you're using this medication.

Remembering to Take Your Medication

Do you know the number one reason why acne medications don't work? It's not because they're ineffective, rather they aren't being used.

Being consistent with your treatment is the best thing you can do to get clearer skin. Simply put, your medications won't work if you're only using them sporadically.

If you have trouble remembering to use your medications, figure out ways to jog your memory. Setting them next to your toothbrush is a low tech way to remind yourself to use them. You can also set an alarm on your phone—but you have to actually go apply your medications at that time. It's tempting to just turn off the alarm and say you'll do it later and forget.

Above all, be consistent and patient while waiting for results.

A Word From Verywell

Although it can sometimes feel like you're the only person with acne, it's actually the most common skin disease in the U.S. So you're definitely not alone.

If you haven't already, get treatment for your acne. If over-the-counter acne products haven't improved your acne, contact your healthcare provider for prescription options. Acne is a very treatable condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should you do if acne is causing depression?

    (Video) How To Be Confident With Acne || my insecurities, struggles, opening up

    If acne is causing depression, know that you are not alone. Around one in three people with acne experiences depression. In addition to working with a dermatologist, consider joining an acne support group. You can relieve anxiety and stress with meditation and yoga. If depression is severe, do not hesitate to seek help from a therapist, psychiatrist, or even a specialist known as a psychodermatologist. People in this field study the how the mind and skin affect each other.

  • How can you help your teen cope with acne?

    You can help your teen cope with acne by helping them understand what causes acne in teens—namely surging hormones—so they can understand they are not to blame. Teach them good hygiene and skincare practices. In addition to seeing a dermatologist, offer moral support, get involved in the treatment plan, and encourage activities like sports, clubs, or volunteer work where your teen can build self-esteem.

  • Can changes in diet help you cope with acne?

    Changes in diet may help you cope with acne. The role of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin, zinc, and caloric restriction in improving acne are weakly supported, but there is compelling evidence that a high-glycemic diet can promote acne. You can counter this effect by:

    • Reducing your intake of high-glycemic foods like white bread, added sugars, potatoes, corn, and white rice.
    • Increasing your intake of low glycemic foods like whole-grain bread, pasta, leafy greens, and brown rice.

How to Choose an OTC Acne Product


How do you treat acne with lifestyle? ›

9 steps to improving acne-prone skin
  1. Lightly exfoliate regularly. ...
  2. Exercise. ...
  3. Eat these foods. ...
  4. Enjoy the sun (but avoid sunbeds) ...
  5. Don't shower more than once a day. ...
  6. Drink lots of water. ...
  7. Go make-up free, or use mineral-based make-up. ...
  8. Wash make-up off before bedtime.
19 Jun 2015

How do you get mentally over acne? ›

Take up a calming hobby and make time for it every day.
  1. Take care of yourself. It may seem like common sense, but it's important to take care of more than just your skin. ...
  2. Get help if you need it. ...
  3. Realize you're not the only one.
23 Jun 2014

How do I stop being insecure about acne? ›

  1. Be Patient with Acne Treatment. First thing's first: if you're struggling with acne, it's important to seek professional treatment. ...
  2. Keep Things in Perspective. ...
  3. Don't Let Acne Hold You Back. ...
  4. Talk to Others Who Struggle with Their Skin. ...
  5. Focus on the Positives.
7 Apr 2017

How can I feel confident with acne? ›

Do whatever it is you enjoy if only to remind yourself that, despite acne, life is still good.
  1. Nurture Your Talents. Instead of focusing on your skin, concentrate on the things that make you wonderful and unique. ...
  2. Spend Time With People Who Make You Feel Good. ...
  3. Focus on the Positive. ...
  4. Bonus Tips.
26 Jan 2022

How acne affects your life? ›

In research studies, people with acne have said that their skin makes them feel unattractive, embarrassed, or self-conscious. These feelings can cause some teens to avoid trying out for sports, getting a part-time job, or participating in class. Some people say that having acne makes them feel on edge.

What are 3 things you can do to prevent yourself from getting acne? ›

  1. Try an over-the-counter acne product. These acne products don't need a prescription. ...
  2. Use makeup sparingly. During a breakout, avoid wearing foundation, powder, or blush. ...
  3. Watch what you put on your hair. ...
  4. Keep your hands off your face. ...
  5. Stay out of the sun. ...
  6. Feed your skin. ...
  7. Exercise daily. ...
  8. Chill!
12 Nov 2020

Is acne part of life? ›

The truth is, it is quite common to see acne persist into adulthood. Although acne is commonly thought of as a problem of adolescence, it can occur in people of all ages.

How can I stop being depressed over acne? ›

"Stress can anecdotally also play a part in aggravating inflammatory skin conditions such as acne," she says. "Learn to de-stress and make sure you get enough sleep and exercise. Participate in activities such as yoga and meditation if this works for you."

Can you build a tolerance to acne? ›

Acne Product Tolerance

Your skin can build up a tolerance to strong prescription antibiotics and retinoids, but that doesn't happen with milder OTC salicylic-acid and benzoyl-peroxide treatments, says derm Fredric Brandt.

What is the fear of acne called? ›

Trypophobia is an aversion to the sight of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps. It is not officially recognized as a mental disorder, but may be diagnosed as a specific phobia if excessive fear and distress occur. Most affected people experience mainly disgust when they see trypophobic imagery.

Does acne reduce attractiveness? ›

67 percent would find someone unattractive if they had acne. 41 percent did not want to be seen in public with someone with acne.

Are people with acne unhealthy? ›

Although acne is usually not a serious health threat, it can be upsetting, and severe acne can lead to permanent scarring. Fortunately, for most people, acne tends to go away by the time they reach their 30s. Acne begins in the skin's oil glands.

Can acne be mental? ›

Increased acne severity was significantly associated with increased stress levels (P<0.01). A recent questionnaire-based survey among 1,560 adolescents in Greece found a positive correlation between acne and self-reported stress (P<0.0001).

Are people insecure about acne? ›

Having acne can make you feel depressed, angry, anxious, and overwhelmed. It doesn't matter if your acne is mild or more severe, your feelings are valid. It also doesn't matter your age. Adults are just as likely as teens to feel that acne negatively affects their lives—regardless of how severe their acne is.

What does acne say about a person? ›

According to face mapping, acne and facial blemishes develop in specific zones because of internal issues, which may include high blood pressure, dehydration, and digestive wellbeing, or even as a complaint from another organ in the body, such as the 'angry' liver.

Do people with acne have better skin later in life? ›

Over the years, telomeres will gradually break down and shrink as cells age, eventually leading to cell death, which is all part of the aging process. Researchers believe people living with acne could have longer telomeres, meaning their bodies take longer to break down telomere strands.

Who gets acne the most? ›

People of all races and ages get acne, but it is most common in teens and young adults. When acne appears during the teenage years, it is more common in males. Acne can continue into adulthood, and when it does, it is more common in women.

What age does acne usually go away? ›

Acne commonly starts during puberty between the ages of 10 and 13 and tends to be worse in people with oily skin. Teenage acne usually lasts for five to 10 years, normally going away during the early 20s. It occurs in both sexes, although teenage boys tend to have the most severe cases.

What stops acne permanently? ›

Using only some of the acne treatment that your dermatologist prescribes could be the reason you still have acne.
  1. Wash your face twice a day and after sweating. ...
  2. Stop scrubbing your face and other acne-prone skin. ...
  3. Use skin care products and cosmetics that don't cause acne. ...
  4. Resist touching, picking, and popping your acne.
30 Nov 2021

What is the main reason people get acne? ›

Acne develops when sebum — an oily substance that lubricates your hair and skin — and dead skin cells plug hair follicles. Bacteria can trigger inflammation and infection resulting in more severe acne. Four main factors cause acne: Excess oil (sebum) production.

What factors trigger acne? ›

Acne is caused when tiny holes in the skin, known as hair follicles, become blocked. Sebaceous glands are tiny glands found near the surface of your skin. The glands are attached to hair follicles, which are small holes in your skin that an individual hair grows out of.

What habits causes acne? ›

You Wash Your Face Too Much

"Washing too much can strip the skin of essential oils, leading the body to paradoxically produce more oil, which can lead to more pimples," Zeichner says. Washing twice a day is all you need.

Why can't I stop getting acne? ›

Stress is one of the most common causes of acne. That's because it causes the body to produce excess cortisol and other hormones in response, and these hormones trigger the overproduction of sebum in the skin. While sebum is important for keeping the skin hydrated and youthful, an excess will clog pores quickly.

Does thinking about acne make it worse? ›

While stress alone isn't the cause of acne pimples — age, hormones, acne-producing bacteria and other factors are at play — it's evident that stress can trigger breakouts and make existing acne issues worse.

Does touching acne cause more acne? ›

If you are prone to oily skin, face touching can aggravate the presence of skin oil. Every time you touch your face, you are spreading oil from one part of your face to the other. The act of face touching can also clog your pores, which can lead to an outbreak of acne.

Is acne linked to depression? ›

Depression and suicide: Studies have shown that depression can be associated with having acne. Depression has been found to be up to three times more common in people who have acne compared to those who don't, and women are twice as likely as men to be affected.

Does acne make you look younger? ›

"For many years dermatologists have identified that the skin of acne sufferers appears to age more slowly than in those who have not experienced any acne in their lifetime," lead author Dr. Simone Ribero said in a King's College press release.

Can depression make acne worse? ›

Inflammatory conditions are triggered. Secondly, health behaviors change when anxious or depressed. “Depressed people might neglect their skin care, not keeping up with hygiene or using topicals they need to for acne, eczema, or psoriasis. Anxious people might do too much — picking and using too many products.

Which gender is more affected by acne? ›

According to The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 22% of adult women are affected by acne, compared to less than 5% of adult men. Like men, female acne is the result of too much oil being produced by the skin, which results in clogged pores = breakouts.

Do guys care about acne? ›

Your flaws can actually make you more lovable, more real and less terrifying. Let's be honest: An all-too-perfect woman can be frightfully intimidating to a man. Men don't really care about your acne. As long as you love and take care of yourself, he'll love you back.

Why is my acne crazy? ›

Sudden acne breakouts can be because of numerous reasons, including hormonal changes or hormonal imbalance, an unhealthy diet including lots of deep fried and junk food, release of cortisol hormones because of excessive stress, excessive production of sebum and much more.

Can lifestyle changes cause acne? ›

In addition, diet can affect hormones that, in turn, could make acne worse. For example, milk and foods with a high sugar content can cause a rise in insulin levels, altering other hormones that can affect the skin. Some research has linked milk and whey protein with acne.

Does exercise cure acne? ›

Exercise itself is a good tool for combatting breakouts. Physical activity helps to even out blood sugar levels in the body, which are instrumental in managing acne Apple A. Bodemer, MD, UW Health dermatologist.

What habits improve skin? ›

Tips for Healthy Skin
  • Wash up. Bathe in warm—not hot—water; use mild cleansers that don't irritate; and wash. ...
  • Block sun damage. Avoid intense sun exposure, use sunscreen, and wear protective clothing.
  • Don't use tanning beds or sunlamps. ...
  • Avoid dry skin. ...
  • Reduce stress. ...
  • Get enough sleep. ...
  • Speak up.

What type of habits is improve your skin? ›

Make sure you are cleansing and moisturizing your skin every day, morning, and night. This will help to remove any dirt, makeup, or impurities that have accumulated on your skin during the day, as well as hydrate and nourish your skin. If you don't cleanse and moisturize regularly, your skin will become dry and dull.

How do I keep my face acne free? ›

10 habits to stop
  1. Try a new acne treatment every week or so. ...
  2. Apply acne medication only to your blemishes. ...
  3. Use makeup, skin care products, and hair care products that can cause acne. ...
  4. Share makeup, makeup brushes, or makeup applicators. ...
  5. Sleep in your makeup. ...
  6. Wash your face throughout the day. ...
  7. Dry out your skin.

Does acne mean your healthy? ›

According to face mapping, acne and facial blemishes develop in specific zones because of internal issues, which may include high blood pressure, dehydration, and digestive wellbeing, or even as a complaint from another organ in the body, such as the 'angry' liver.

What organ can cause acne? ›

Acne is a disorder of the hair follicles and oil glands (sebaceous glands). The sebaceous glands secrete oils (sebum) to keep the skin moist. When the glands get clogged, it can lead to pimples and cysts.

What are the 7 types of acne? ›

7 Different Types of Acne, Explained
  • Whiteheads. Also known as “closed comedones,” whiteheads are one of the most typical forms of acne. ...
  • Blackheads. Also called “open comedones,” blackheads get their name because they appear as dark spots in your skin. ...
  • Papules. ...
  • Pustules. ...
  • Nodules. ...
  • Cysts. ...
  • Milia.

What is the purpose of acne? ›

It is proposed that the sebaceous glands that cause acne are present on the face and forehead as they confer a selective advantage by 'lubricating' the widest parts of the new born baby to ease the passage of childbirth.

Does drinking water reduce acne? ›

Water has many ways in which it can improve your skin, which helps to improve your acne over time. Drinking water has both direct and indirect benefits for treating acne. Firstly, with bacterial acne, water helps to remove toxins and bacteria on the skin, reducing the potential for pore-clogging in the process.

Is Sweating Good for acne? ›

Sweating can be good for your skin, as it helps to open up the pores and can work to remove a buildup of acne-causing bacteria and dirt that may be clogging the pores. However, if sweat dries and remains on your skin, it can actually have the opposite effect, leading to a breakout of sweat pimples.

Is fresh air good for acne? ›

Fresh air and exercise are always good for the skin. Many people with acne report that sunshine leads to an improvement in the skin. Stress and certain foods, such as fast food and chocolate, seem to make acne worse although there is no scientific evidence to prove this.


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