Although acne is extremely common, several misconceptions about this condition still exist. According to new research presented at the American Academy of Dermatology’s 74th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., acne patients are often perceived negatively by others, which may affect patients’ quality of life.
“Acne is a very visible condition, and it affects many patients during adolescence, when they’re especially vulnerable,” said Dr. Alexa Boer Kimball, director of the Clinical Unit for Research Trials and Outcomes in Skin (CURTIS) and a professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, during the meeting. “When acne persists into adulthood, so can its effects on self-esteem, which may create difficulty for patients in work and social situations.” The participants in Dr. Kimball’s study viewed photos of several common skin conditions and completed a questionnaire regarding each condition. The majority of subjects (62.5%) indicated that they were upset by the images of acne, and more than 80% said they felt pity toward people with acne. More than two-thirds of participants (67.9%) indicated that they would be ashamed if they had acne and that they would find someone with acne unattractive. Moreover, 41.1% of participants said they would be uncomfortable being seen in public with someone with acne, and 44.6% said they would feel uncomfortable touching someone with acne. “I was surprised by these results,” said Dr. Kimball. “Since so many people have experienced acne, I thought they would have more empathy for patients with this condition.” Many participants expressed belief in common misconceptions about acne, including that the condition is caused by poor hygiene (55.4%), that it is infectious (50%) and that it is related to diet (37.5%). “Clearly there are a lot of misconceptions out there,” said Dr. Kimball. “People are making incorrect assumptions about acne, and it’s affecting their opinion of patients with this condition.” RESEARCH IMPLICATIONS According to Dr. Kimball, misconceptions about acne also may affect patients’ efforts to manage their condition. “If you think acne is related to hygiene, you may start scrubbing your face aggressively in an effort to cleanse your skin, and this may make the condition worse,” she said. “Or, if you think acne is related to what you eat, you may decide to cut certain foods out of your diet, but there is little scientific evidence to support many of those strategies.” Dr. Kimball noted she would like to conduct further research into the perspectives of acne patients, investigating how common misconceptions and outside opinions about their condition affect them.