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Breaking Out: The Very Real Social & Psychological Effects of Acne

Acne. Breakouts. Zits. Pimples. A skin condition that is so common that everyone experiences it at some point, acne (and acne treatments) has long been used as easy content on sitcoms and in movies precisely because we can all relate. It’s an annoyance but generally a benign one—at least, that’s the perception. The reality, however, can be significantly different and more serious when it comes to our self-esteem and well-being. 

Photo of a face with acne

June is Acne Awareness Month and focuses on education not just about what causes acne (there have literally been hundreds of theories on this over the years), but also on the true effect it has on people’s lives, which is often not a laughing matter. When it comes to acne, it’s not just what it is, but what it does to someone’s quality of life.

What Acne Feels Like

Emotional distress, lack of self-esteem, strained mental health--the internal damage caused by acne is pretty startling.

Studies have shown that 19.2% of patients with acne were negatively affected in their personal and social lives.

Social phobia was reported by 45% of patients with acne compared to 18% of study members in the control group. 

Depression and anxiety were also found to be increased in patients with acne. In one study, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale was administered to patients before and after acne treatment. The mean anxiety score was 8.9 out of 21 before treatment, which is higher than that of the general population, meaning these acne sufferers felt higher levels of anxiety.  Approximately 26% of these patients scored higher than 11, which qualified them as clinical cases—those that should seek clinical treatment for anxiety. After receiving acne treatment, only 3.5% of patients met this criterion, “supporting the role that acne plays in the development of anxiety.”

According to a survey conducted by the American Acne and Rosacea Society, respondents said their acne negatively impacted their career. “From being judged or treated differently because of their acne to having fewer career opportunities or experiencing slow professional advancement, 42% of young professionals report that they believe their acne holds them back.” Almost half of respondents reported feeling so self-conscious or unattractive that they stopped dating and even making plans with friends. From workplace to forging relationships, the emotional distress can be long-term, since according to the FDA, acne can persist into one’s 40s and 50s. 

What Really Causes Acne

This may just be the million-dollar question. In fact, it’s the multimillion dollar question, seeing as the global acne drug market size is expected to reach 5.9 billion dollars by 2025. Four years ago (in 2016), the condition affected almost 700 million people.

There are a lot of theories, from hormones to diet to genetics, but what’s been scientifically proven is this:

Acne is caused by excess oil, acne-causing bacteria and inflammation.

Research shows that a common “bad” skin bacteria called P. acnes is heavily associated with acne. This is an inflammation of the sebaceous gland and hair follicle. When puberty sets in, these glands and follicles mature, creating more of the P. acnes bacteria, and the complexion responds with an acne outbreak.  

Photo of girl popping a pimple

Our skin is covered with trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. It is its own ecosystem, and it needs to stay in balance so that healthy bacteria can run off the bad bacteria.  This is called our skin microbiome.  And when the bad bacteria outnumbers good bacteria, inflammatory skin conditions like acne strike.

What’s key in acne treatments is targeting the bad bacteria and keeping the good bacteria. 

“Prebiotics are like superfoods for your skin’s microbiome. They help support the right balance of bacteria on skin to keep break-out causing bacteria in check,” explains Chief Innovation Officer Chris Caires.  

“There are published studies showing that simple prebiotics like glycerin, sucrose, and lactic acid encourage good bacteria to proliferate and balance out the dreaded p. acnes bacteria.” 

Research published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science investigated the effects of prebiotics on the growth of acne-causing bacteria on the skin to see if topically applied prebiotics could be as effective as topically applied antibiotics. After three weeks, they found a significant reduction in the inflammation of the bacteria without killing off beneficial bacteria (as antibiotics would). In 91% of volunteers, they noted a return to the skin’s natural, healthy equilibrium and a decrease in the “hold that the acne bacterium has on the skin of the sufferers.” 

How to Manage Acne with Perricone MD’s Acne Relief Regimen

Prebiotics are the basis for Perricone MD’s Acne Relief 90-Day Regimen. They gently treat all three causes of acne - excess oil, acne-causing bacteria, and inflammation. It purposely avoids harsh chemicals that just kill all bacteria, or aggressively strip your skin of necessary hydration, which can upset skin’s natural microbiome and lead to irritation and dryness. Rather than wash away all oil and bacteria, Acne Relief is designed to work symbiotically with skin’s microbiome to remove excess oil while simultaneously depositing hydrators that won’t dry skin out. 

Perricone MD Acne Relief Gentle and Soothing Cleanser

It’s important to use the simple, two-step Perricone MD Acne Relief 90-Day Regimen every morning and night as a commitment to your acne treatment. While some improvement will be visible after a week, it takes 8 to 12 weeks for maximum results because of the nature of p. acnes bacteria and the inflammation it causes.

Treating acne is a combination of picking the right skincare regimen, committing to using it consistently, and giving it the time it needs to treat not just the symptoms, but the underlying causes of a very real disease. With twice-daily use, Perricone MD Acne Relief provides exactly that—relief from the physical condition, and the emotion and psychological liberation from living with it.