Acne needs to be taken more seriously, say charities

By Felicity Morse
Newsbeat social media producer

  • Published
Acne before and after photoshopping and make upImage source, Thinkstock
Image caption,
Acne before and after photoshopping and make up

Acne is not taken seriously enough, despite the bullying and stigma people face, say charities.

James Partridge, founder and chief executive of disfigurement charity Changing Faces, says attitudes desperately need challenging.

"We need to show respect, help people cope, not belittle and stigmatise.

"Every year there are instances of suicide due to people's distress around acne," says James. "Self harm is also very common."

Because it's not life threatening, money and research is going into other areas, the British Skin Foundation argues.

Spokesperson and Consultant Dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto tells Newsbeat: "The anxiety skin disease creates often gets neglected.

"Because it's not going to kill you, it falls at the bottom of a list of what needs to be done."

Image source, British Skin Foundation
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Dr Mahto has struggled with acne herself

People with acne are often overlooked - told to 'get on with it' or that they'll grow out of it.

"I often see patients who refuse to make eye contact. People who grow their hair so it covers their face. People who refuse to go out, go to work or to go to school," says Dr Mahto.

The psychological impact of acne can last beyond the spots themselves.

"If you've grown up with the mindset you're a spotty teenager, the negative body image can stay with you for many years afterwards," she says.

Image source, Wikipedia
Image caption,
Acne is commonly linked to the changes in hormone levels and is known to run in families. It's caused by grease-producing glands next to the hair follicles in the skin producing too much oil

Michael Willocks, who suffered with severe acne for years, wants schools to make discussing skin issues routine. He thinks this could help young people suffering with skin conditions.

His project, school derm time, aims to show teachers how acne can affect behaviour.

During his school years he bottled everything up because he thought nobody would understand.

"All I needed was a prompt from the school, anything that resonated with how I felt," he explained.

Looking at myself would make me feel sick

Jordan Grey is 22 and had acne at school.

Image source, Jordan
Image caption,
Jordan when he was younger

"I would go into the changing room and kids would ask: 'What's wrong with you?' It was degrading.

"It stopped me from going out. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt sick. My face felt pus-filled and disgusting."

Image source, Jrdan
Image caption,
Jordan now

He thinks better awareness of acne amongst teachers would have helped him.

Katy Gilroy, 22, feels the same.

"Had we been taught, in science or PSHE, what the causes of acne are or that it's a medical condition like any other, then people would not have felt the need to comment negatively on it."

Image source, Katy
Image caption,
Katy uses make-up to cover her spots

She's more upbeat about her skin now.

"As I got older, I realised there will always be more to life than your skin - but at one point I thought I'm always going to feel awful about my skin, I'm always going to be upset about it."

Image source, Katy
Image caption,
Katy without her make up - she says seeing other YouTubers without their make up gives her confidence

Josh Speers got acne in primary school. It continued till he was 14.

Image source, Josh
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Josh now - at school, when he suffered acne, he was called names like 'pizza face'

"I'd show you a photo of me with acne but I made sure there weren't any taken during that time," he said.

"Teachers need to look out for signs of bullying. A lot of weird rumours went round my school - like Josh doesn't wash, Josh doesn't take showers or bath, which just wasn't true."

Image source, Chloe
Image caption,
Chloe shares tips with friends on how best to treat her acne

Chloe is 15 and at school in Cardiff. Although her friends and family are supportive, she thinks being taught about skin in school would stop unwelcome comments.

"I think learning about it in lessons, telling people what could benefit them and how people without acne should treat people who do have acne would be a good idea."

Image source, chloe
Image caption,
Chloe's skin

Dr Anjali Mahto says it's important people seek help if they are struggling.

"If acne is causing problems with self confidence, anxiety, depression, if it's stopping you doing anything you want to, then you should get medical help."

Image source, CHanging Faces
Image caption,
James Partridge of Changing Faces

James says there should be a way to care for people with acne. He uses the example of a surgery in north Leeds, the Street Lane GP practice.

As well as providing medical treatments for acne, they also provide skin camouflage advice and psychological help.

"There are Changing Faces practitioners there, like counsellors, who are trained to help people deal with their concerns. We think that should be available across the country so people are able to deal with the psychosocial impact of acne."

For more advice, you can visit the BBC advice pages on body image.

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