I want to be extremely clear about what I mean by “immediate help for acne.”
The title of this post isn’t clickbait.
I’m not trying to trick you into coming here only to present some completely unrealistic promise of a magical acne solution.
However, I’m also not going to tell you how you can physically cure your acne immediately, overnight, or in the next three days.
What I am going to do is share with you some of the coping strategies I use when I need immediate mental relief from the stress and emotional pain of having acne.
If you have acne to the degree that I do, you know what I’m talking about.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll explain very briefly.
The Link Between Acne and Depression
Although it’s likely easy for non-acne-sufferers to view acne as a purely cosmetic problem, the truth is that having acne can be extremely difficult to deal with emotionally and mentally.
While I’m sure many of us wish we could say that “beauty is only skin deep” and that we’re strong enough to be confident and happy even with our faces full of pimples, it’s really difficult to keep that attitude going day in and day out.
In a recent 2017 study in the Journal of Mental Health and Human Behavior, researchers found depressive disorders in 8.8% of study participants who had acne, and suicidal thoughts were reported in 1.2% of acne-sufferers.
Though these numbers are relatively low, they do provide evidence for the possibility of acne to contribute to depression and suicidal ideation in some sufferers.
“Our study highlights the importance of recognizing comorbid depression and suicidality in cosmetically disfiguring dermatological conditions,” report its authors.
“The high visibility of skin diseases increases the likelihood of stigmatization. Skin diseases should be measured not only by the symptoms but also by their psychological and social impact.”
Additionally, the link between acne and depression may be stronger in teens. A 2011 study published in the Dermatology Online Journal reported that acne can negatively affect teens’ self-esteem, mood, and quality of life.
As was noticed in the 2017 study discussed above, this research found that acne was associated with an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
If you have acne, you have every right to seek treatment not just for the physical symptoms of your acne, but also for any emotional or mental distress it’s causing you.
Talking to a therapist or psychologist could be a helpful addition to speaking with your dermatologist.
If you’re experiencing extremely depressive thoughts or are having suicidal ideas, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately.
Dealing With Acne Depression: How to Feel Better About Yourself
If you’re not in immediate danger of harming yourself but are experiencing the negative emotional effects of acne, there are some things that you can do right now to relieve some of that emotional pain.
As someone who’s had acne for over a decade, I’ve had to find all kind of ways to deal with the low self-esteem, depression, and introversion that comes along with it.
Here are a few things I do that I find helpful for acne.
1. Stand in a powerful pose for two minutes
Here me out. I was extremely skeptical of the idea of “power posing” when I first came across it, too.
However, power posing has really helped me take my acne-ridden face out into the world on some of my most mentally-low days.
Go to a private place like your bedroom or a bathroom and stand like a superhero for 120 seconds (two minutes).
Push your chest out, lift your head up, keep your feet shoulder-width apart and put your hands on your hips.
Stay just like that for two minutes or more.
Why does this work?
Our brains physiologically respond to how our bodies move and act. When we feel depressed and self-conscious, we naturally try to protect ourselves by getting smaller and exhibiting closed off body language.
For example, when I feel really down about something, my favorite thing to do is curl up into a ball on the couch.
However, research suggests that, just as our mental state can affect how we move our bodies, the way we move our bodies can affect our mental state, too.
So, in the case of feeling better about your acne, taking a powerful pose rather than a protective one can actually trick you into feeling more confident and less depressed.
The exact science of this amazing body-mind connection is best explained in the book Presence by Amy Cuddy. If you have the time to read or listen to this book, I strongly encourage it. I listened to it on Audible last month and it literally changed my life.
However, if you don’t want to jump into an entire book on body posture and emotional health right now, you can watch Cuddy’s world-famous TED Talk on the subject and apply it to how you cope with acne.
2. Put on some makeup
I wish I could say I don’t need makeup to feel okay about myself but, honestly, some days a full-coverage foundation is all that’s standing between me and a complete mental breakdown.
I think I’m in love.
Even on days when I might not be going anywhere, or when I just have to run out to the grocery store for half an hour, I’ve found that putting on makeup can often make all the difference for me.
It’s not so much about what other people think of me; it’s how I feel about myself.
When I see my reflection and a face full of red, inflamed pimples, I don’t feel good. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to interact with anyone.
I feel bad about myself just by existing. Which, yes, sucks to admit, but after living with acne for this long I can accept that that’s what’s happening and take steps to start feeling better.
If those steps involve sponging a layer of foundation and concealer onto my face, so be it. If it means I can walk out in public with my head held high and a basic feeling of self-worth, I’ll do it.
And, if you’re a guy and think wearing makeup is out of the question for you, I say consider it anyway.
I knew a guy in high school who often had very inflamed acne, and he was pretty open about the fact that he wore makeup to cover it. I thought that was actually pretty neat.
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3. Follow other people’s acne stories
Sometimes, all you really need to feel better about your own acne is a reminder that you’re not alone in having it.
I often feel like I’m the only person I know who has this ridiculous skin condition, but I know there are other people like me out there.
When I really need a good reminder that other people feel the way I do and are going through the same struggles as me, I often turn to YouTube.
A few of my favorite YouTubers to watch are:
You can always pop in and view my acne update post, too. If ever more proof was needed that acne is an ongoing battle, this is it.
4. Do something you can feel good about
If you can’t feel good about your skin, remind yourself that you’re more than your appearance by doing something you enjoy and are good at.
For me, I usually opt to spend some time exercising. Not only does it remind me that there are other things I can do to feel good about myself, but it’s also a great way to focus on something other than my acne.
Plus, research shows that regular exercise can contribute to clearer skin, so that certainly can’t hurt either.
Some other things I might do to feel good are writing, knocking out projects for work, cleaning my house or cooking something delicious. Each one takes my mind off of my skin, and gives me an end product that I can look at and say, “I did something good today.”
Find something that makes you feel good, and don’t hesitate to do it when you’re feeling bad about your skin.
You Don’t Have to Wait For Clear Skin to Be Happy
Having acne definitely makes it hard to be happy, but you shouldn’t feel like you can’t be happy as long as you have acne.
In truth, getting rid of your acne will take time. Maybe months, maybe years (as has been the case for me).
Give yourself permission to be happy now. Waiting for clear skin won’t do you any favors, and who knows what you could miss out on in the meantime.
How do you cope with your acne when you feel like you can’t take it anymore? Share what you do in the comments below!
Also published on Medium.