Acne Anxiety Dampens Teen Social Media Use

December 13, 2017
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Teens with acne report a negative impact on their body image and self-esteem, and this translates into anxiety over using social media, mainly the online posting of photos, videos and "selfies."

The survey was commissioned by Cutanea Life Sciences, Inc. (CLS), a U.S. based specialty pharmaceutical company focused on dermatology, and was conducted this past summer by Harris Poll among 1,010 teenagers, ages 15-19.

Fully 71 percent of participants who’ve had acne feel that acne has a negative effect on their body image and attractiveness, while 67 percent say it has a negative effect on their self-esteem. The poll results further revealed that 72 percent of teens who use social media and have had acne agree most people their age are self-conscious about their acne on social media, and 68 percent of teens believe that most of their peers edit or alter their photos on social media if they have acne to hide it. Moreover, 58 percent of teens who’ve had acne have offered to take a photo to get out of being in the picture.

Half of teens who are using social media (51 percent) say social media makes having acne harder, and 45 percent of teens who use social media and have experienced acne say that at times, they are embarrassed to post photos of themselves on social media because of their acne. Moreover, half of teens who use social media and have experienced acne (50 percent) say they have taken at least one of the following actions on social media to avoid displaying their acne:

  • Chose not to include a photo on social media because I had acne
  • Deleted or untagged a photo of myself where I had acne
  • Asked someone else to take down a photo of me where I had acne
  • Altered, edited, retouched, or cropped a photo to try and hide my acne
  • Avoided having my picture taken with someone who had clearer skin
  • Stayed off of social media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, etc.) so I wouldn't have to post/see photos of myself

About 1 in 3 teens who use social media and have experienced acne say:

  • Social media increased their anxiety about their own acne (34 percent).
  • Their acne makes them hate the way they look on social media (33 percent).
  • Social media makes dealing with acne in real life harder for me (29 percent).

Psychosocial Impact of Acne

More than one out of three (37 percent) teens with self-described moderate or severe acne say their primary concern was their complexion when they returned to school this fall. Eighty six percent of teens say acne makes their peers less confident in going about their lives,  and 85 percent agree most people their age worry about acne. Sixty two percent of teens who have had acne are very or somewhat concerned about their acne and 51 percent of teens who have had acne feel unattractive because of their acne. More than 2 in 5 teens (44 percent) who’ve had acne have avoided having their photo taken because of acne, and 34 percent of teens with acne avoid video chatting.

“As school counselors, we see every day the profound impact that acne can have on teenagers' self-image, confidence, acceptance and social relationships, at an already challenging time in their lives,” says Anne LP Flenner, Ed.S. Professional School Counselor and Florida Counseling Association Past-President, in a news release. “One of my takeaways from the Harris Poll was that the social isolation sought by many teens who are anxious about their acne is now transitioning into a reluctance to engage in the most popular form of peer communication among teens today, social media, a concerning insight. We would all like our teens to spend less time on social media, but not because they're embarrassed by their appearance."

Most teens with acne (61 percent) stated that they were doing everything they can to manage their acne, however one in three teens with acne (35 percent) admit to having difficulty managing the condition. When asked about an effective treatment, the majority felt it was at least very important to use a therapy that worked quickly to clear up acne (83 percent), is affordable (80 percent), easy to use (78 percent), and convenient (72 percent).

"The teens that I interact with as a school counselor are very active, on the go and very into technology, so it's alarming to see them withdraw from social media because of acne," says Flenner. “Parents of teens who are struggling with acne should seek the medical care of a dermatologist, who may prescribe medications to successfully manage this condition."



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