Emotional scars: stigma with female adult acne
New research presented at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Congress 2023 in Berlin, Germany, has highlighted a previously underestimated aspect of acne’s impact on individuals: its profound influence on social perception.
Acne, a common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide, has long been associated with physical discomfort and self-esteem challenges. However, new research presented at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Congress 2023 in Berlin, Germany, has highlighted a previously underestimated aspect of acne’s impact on individuals: its profound influence on social perception.
The study, led by Dr Marek Jankowski, aimed to understand how various anatomical variants of acne affect natural gaze patterns and social perception. The research, conducted with meticulous precision, involved 245 participants with an average age of 31.63 years who viewed images of female faces. These images featured individuals with clear skin as well as those with clinically relevant anatomical variants of acne, each expressing different emotions such as happiness, anger, and neutrality.
Faces with acne were consistently rated less happy compared to those with clear skin.
The eye movements of the participants were tracked while they observed these images, and the images were assessed for acne-related visual disturbance and the intensity of emotional expressions. Additionally, 205 online survey respondents, with an average age of 35.08 years, were asked to rate the personality traits of the individuals depicted in the images.
The findings of this comprehensive research revealed insights into how acne affects social perceptions. Faces with acne were consistently rated as less attractive, trustworthy, confident, successful, and dominant, as well as less happy compared to those with clear skin. The differences in perception were significant, emphasising the societal stigma associated with acne.
Notably, the research highlighted that adult female acne, particularly when concentrated in the ‘U-zone’ around the jawline, mouth, and chin, received the lowest scores for attractiveness and was considered the most visually disturbing. Even happy expressions on faces with adult female acne were rated as less happy than clear-skin faces. These results underscore the unique challenges faced by adults, especially women, dealing with acne, and the impact on their social interactions.
The prevalence of adult female acne has been on the rise over the last decade, affecting women worldwide. This condition often appears around the jawline and chin but can manifest on any part of the face. The psychological consequences of adult acne are profound and can lead to low self-esteem, social isolation, and even depression. While genetics are a primary risk factor, stress, hormonal fluctuations, and diet can also contribute to an individual’s likelihood of developing acne.
Moreover, research has shown that the perception of physical appearance can result in social distress, including social isolation, increased biologic stress, and overall poorer health. Appearance can also play a significant role in job competitiveness, influencing hiring decisions.
Appearance can also play a significant role in job competitiveness, influencing hiring decisions.
Dr Marek Jankowski, the lead author of the study, emphasises the importance of these findings, stating that with over a decade of experience in the field, they have consistently seen that adult female acne leads to more social challenges compared to adolescent acne. The findings, therefore, reaffirm this. However, what was truly surprising was images depicting generalised acne, covering a larger area with more lesions, received more positive ratings than images featuring adult female acne occurring in the ‘U-zone’.
The study’s findings underscore the emotional and psychological burden experienced by individuals with acne, exploring the importance of addressing not only the physical aspects of the condition but also its significant impact on the social and emotional well-being of those affected. This research has the potential to reshape the way healthcare providers approach the treatment and support of individuals dealing with acne, emphasising the need for holistic care that addresses both physical and psychological aspects.