Having acne—whether that be characterized by blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, or cystic breakouts—is a hard thing for anyone to come to terms with, but especially for teenagers. However, dealing with some type of acne is a normal concern to struggle with throughout your teen years as this skin condition is common to experience when you’re going through puberty. And while dealing with a pesky pimple may not be too devastating at the time, severe acne breakouts, specifically in teens, can wreak havoc on their mental well-being.

There are many ways in which acne can negatively affect our mental health, but today, we specifically explore the effects it can have on a teen’s self-esteem, and what you can do as a parent to help them.

How Does Acne Affect A Teen’s Self Esteem?

Obviously, a teenager’s self-esteem is going to be hindered on account of their acne, as this skin condition is typically seen as an embarrassment in today’s society. But, how exactly does acne affect a teen’s self-esteem? Let’s take a closer look:

Teen Acne & Anxiety On Social Media

Comparison is something that we all do, or have done, at some point in our lives. With various social media platforms at our disposal, it can be extremely difficult not to compare ourselves to others. This causes many people, notably teenagers with acne, to feel even more insecure about themselves and the way they look in contrast to others. 

A 2017 survey reveals just how impactful social media can, and continues to be for teens with acne. Of the 1,010 teenagers who were surveyed, 72 percent agreed that most people their age (participants ranged between 15-19 years old) who had some type of acne were self-conscious about their appearance on social media, viewing their acne as unattractive and damaging to their self-image. This caused 48 percent of them to, at times, feel too embarrassed to upload a photo or video of themselves to their profile. As if that wasn’t bad enough, 58 percent of teens who’ve had acne said they’d offer to take a photo in an effort to simply opt-out of being in the picture themselves. Overall, 51 percent of teens who used social media revealed that they think having these platforms is harder for those with acne.

Teen Acne in Girls & Self-Image

By now, you’re probably aware of the emphasis society places on looks and appearance, specifically for those who are of the female gender. Although the conversation of what’s considered to be acceptable and not acceptable is ever-changing, the perception of acne continues to remain unpopular in the eyes of most, especially if you’re a girl. Unlike the societal standards held for teen boys, the pressure for a girl to look a certain way occurs at a very young age. This, combined with heightened use of social media and unrealistic beauty standards normalized by the falsehood of some of the most iconic female celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, leaves many teen girls to suffer distress from acne, which inevitably, makes them feel unattractive.

Teen Acne & Self-Isolation

Low self-esteem attributed to teen or adult acne can lead to self-isolation, according to research. In a time where social acceptance and “fitting in” is so prevalent, it’s no wonder why a teenager is more susceptible to feeling this way on account of the condition of their skin. No matter how mild, moderate, or severe a teen’s acne may be, feelings of embarrassment, shame, and self-doubt are universally felt at some point or another. As a result, this may cause a teenager to refrain from hanging out with friends, participating in extracurricular activities, and engaging in other social activities and events. This can lead to other psychological and social ramifications later in life if left untreated and can even cause mental health issues such as anxiety to occur.

How to Help Your Teen Survive & Manage Acne

Even if your teenager hasn’t directly expressed concern to you as it pertains to the effects of acne on their self-esteem, it’s essential to offer them support and watch out for any negative signs. As a parent, you must remember to tread lightly when speaking with your teen about their condition and what you can do to help. The last thing you want is to overstep your boundary and/or lead your teen to believe that they aren’t perfect just the way they are. Too much pressure on your end can sometimes do more harm than good, so try not to insert yourself into the equation unless these issues are directly communicated to you by your teen or there are obvious indicators that he/she needs help in managing the issue.

Still, there are a few ways to offer your hand in helping them survive their teenage acne. Just follow these tips!

  1. Let Your Teen Speak to a Dermatologist, Alone

If your teenager at home doesn’t already see a dermatologist, now is the time to appoint them to one so that they can seek professional guidance and find a trusted teen acne treatment early on. Even though it may be tempting to be there during their consultation, don’t sit in unless your teenager communicates with you that they want you there. It’s better to leave them alone to speak with their dermatologist. Doing this will allow them to speak freely with their doctor about how their acne is affecting them and create a bond with another person who they can genuinely lean on.

  1. Teach Your Teen About Healthy Skin Care Practices

Despite the fact that teenage acne is almost always due to the raging hormones that are taking place during this time, a lack of systematic skincare practices can also contribute to the problem. Try to teach your teen how to establish a skincare routine that’s curated for both their skin type and teenage acne, and show them the order in which to use different products. Primarily for those of you with teen girls, teaching your daughter about how to use concealer to cover blemishes, the importance of gently removing her makeup at night time, and washing her makeup brushes every few weeks can be super insightful for them as they start to explore these luxuries over time.

  1. Lead By Example 

Actions speak louder than words, and when it comes to the topic of self-esteem and self-love, the saying holds all the more true. Show your teens that there is strength in loving yourself for who you are and how you look—regardless if you do or do not have acne—and that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Remind them that we all have something to be insecure about, and that acne is just a part of life, and that’s okay! Encourage them to give back to themselves on their good and bad days, and perform acts of self-love regularly. At the end of the day, your job as a parent is to be an example for your teenagers, so demonstrate what these acts can look like. Whether that be detoxing your social media or even making an appointment to meet with a therapist to support your own mental and physical well-being, show them what self-love and self-acceptance can look like.