How to Manage Emotional Effects of Acne

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on June 23, 2014
3 min read

If you're having an outbreak of acne, there's a lot you can do to keep it from putting a dent in your self-esteem. There's no need to let blemishes stop you from keeping up your social life.

Take these steps to manage your emotions while you manage your skin problems:

Get treatment. First, see a dermatologist to help clear up your skin.

"The absolute best way to improve negative feelings about acne is to treat it," says David Pariser, MD, a former president of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Be patient. It may take 6 to 8 weeks until you start to see results, but there are all kinds of pills, creams, and other treatments that can help.

Cover up. Many safe products can hide your outbreaks and won't make your acne worse.

"I think that covering up and helping to camouflage is a huge part of helping you face the world in the morning," says New York dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD.

When choosing makeup, look for the word "noncomedogenic" on the label. That means it won't clog your pores.

It's also a good idea to use makeup that is oil-free and water-based. You can also hide outbreaks with sunscreens, moisturizers, and spot acne treatments that are tinted.

Talk to other people. When you have acne, you may feel like being by yourself. But it's a much better idea to be around other people.

"Being social and being able to share anxiety with friends helps," Bowe says. "It's OK even if it's anonymously through an online forum or talking to someone about what they did to take action." Ask your doctor for suggestions for online groups if you don't want to talk to people in person about your situation.

De-stress. Stress doesn't cause acne, but it can make the outbreaks you already have worse. That can make you even more stressed.

"And what goes along with stress are habitual behaviors like picking and squeezing, which makes acne so much worse," says Adam Friedman, MD, director of dermatologic research at Montefiore Medical Center.

So find activities that make you relax and feel better. Do yoga or tai chi, listen to music, or try deep-breathing exercises. Take up a calming hobby and make time for it every day.

Take care of yourself. It may seem like common sense, but it's important to take care of more than just your skin. Taking care of your whole body can help your face.

"Eating well, exercising, and getting adequate sleep will help your skin and make you feel better about yourself," says San Diego dermatologist Jeffrey Benabio, MD. "Also, there have been many studies that show regular meditation can reduce anxiety and improve one's sense of well-being."

Get help if you need it. If you find that you won't leave the house, are sad or angry all the time, or won't do things you normally like to do, talk to your doctor. You may need to talk to a counselor or therapist.

Realize you're not the only one. "People think they're doing something wrong because they have acne as an adult," Friedman says. "But adult acne is extremely common and you're not alone." About three out of four people over 20 get acne sometime during their adult lives.