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Acne (young people)

Advice to other young people with acne

Lots of young people had advice based on their experiences to give to others with acne. The main messages they wanted to share were:

•    don’t let having acne get you down 

Many people wanted to give a positive message and to reassure others. This included telling them not to be too self-conscious or worry about their acne. As Chris said, “don’t beat yourself up about it”. But many people also recognised that this can be easier said than done as they had found acne to be physically and emotionally difficult themselves. Not everyone found acne affected them emotionally, but some said it had a big impact on their self-esteem and self-confidence. Nina explained that “it’s not necessarily about how it looks but how it makes you feel”.
 

Deborah feels you shouldn’t let acne define you.

Deborah feels you shouldn’t let acne define you.

Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 12
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I guess if I was talking to myself when I was younger, which is really the only sort of reference point I've got, the key advice would be to not let it define you. That it's a part of you but it's not the most important part. It's not the bit that everyone sees, it's just a small part of you. So you shouldn't let it consume what you think you are. And that there is help out there, go and have a look, go and talk to your doctor, Google it, find other people to talk to about it. You're not on your own with this, but that doesn't mean you have to live with it. Which I think is the trap that I fell into, thinking 'Oh well, it's just something people get, and you just deal with it'. No, there are loads of things out there that you can do to help. I'm still discovering some of them, so they're definitely out there a lot, and I would urge people to find them.
 

Emma suggests if you are feeling self-conscious to look at forums and talk to people who’ve had it and “come out the other side”.

Emma suggests if you are feeling self-conscious to look at forums and talk to people who’ve had it and “come out the other side”.

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 10
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I suppose if you’re worried about what other people think well, it’s easy to say in retrospect not to so much but, looking at sort of online forums about other people’s experiences, it was always nice to be able to see that it did get better. I didn't believe it for a long time and when I had acne I thought ‘arr, I’m going to have this forever’. But, obviously it’s got a lot better and I’m a lot happier now so it does go away. And so, being able to see that online and if I’d of been able to speak to people that have gone through it and sort of come out the other side, that would have been good. Sort of encouraging people to get in touch with people who suffered from it.
 

Nina thinks it’s good to talk about how acne makes you feel, but you shouldn’t “overestimate” its importance for how others see you.

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Nina thinks it’s good to talk about how acne makes you feel, but you shouldn’t “overestimate” its importance for how others see you.

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 12
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Feeling, like to have voiced your feelings about stuff feelings, like, talk about specifically like oh, you know, being able to like go up to your mum and be like ‘I’m feeling really rubbish cos my skin makes me feel horrible and it means that I don’t socialise as much do you have any advice like can you help me and stuff.’ 

I think I overestimated the stigma attached to it so and I also underestimated the significance of it and yeah its’s like important to talk about A) if you’re like I’m really not happy with the fact that I’m not happy with how my skin still is I’d like to have more medical help with it and B) it’s making me feel rubbish how do I like resolve that. because it’s an issue partly that you feel like its’s trivialised and partly that, you know, feel a bit ashamed about and like yeah partly that you feel like everybody you already knows you have acne cos it’s everyone that sees you can see it which is actually not true a lot of people don’t notice it anywhere near as much as you do.
•    recognise that different skincare products and medical treatments will be suitable for some people, but not everyone. 

Lots of people had very general advice about skincare products. Ish and Hester recommended seeing a doctor rather than trying out lots of different over the counter products, which they think are a waste of money. But others, like Tom, think it’s good to try everything that’s out there, and then if you’re still not happy, to see a doctor. Many people spoke particularly about isotretinoin and its potential side effects. It had worked well for some people and they wanted others to consider taking it. But not everyone had and a few said it was ok to be cautious about taking it.
 

Abbie thinks people can be too quick to see isotretinoin as the solution for their acne but there are other options.

Abbie thinks people can be too quick to see isotretinoin as the solution for their acne but there are other options.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 13
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And I would also say that lots of people say when they get acne they would automatically google ‘what’s, what’s best for acne?’ And then lots of people immediately see ‘ah, Accutane (isotretinoin). I want Accutane.’ And so they’ll go to their doctor and be like, “I wanna go on Accutane.” But that’s only for like really, when it gets really bad. And I think people need to, need to know that there’s other options before Accutane, because of all the side effects and things. And I think if, and if anyone’s ever feeling like sad about their acne or upset, then they, they must tell someone. Because it’s hard like, cos your self-esteem just like completely drops. And you need to have someone like a, your mum or a friend that you can talk to about it, because it sucks. And someone else needs to know that it sucks. So they can kind of help you through it.
 

Although isotretinoin made him “subdued” for a “brief period of time”, Will felt that was ok. He suggests people weigh up the “pros and cons” of taking any treatment.

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Although isotretinoin made him “subdued” for a “brief period of time”, Will felt that was ok. He suggests people weigh up the “pros and cons” of taking any treatment.

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 14
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I think the headline is for me, Roaccutane (isotretinoin) was a really good drug in many ways. It does what it says on the tin in terms of, for me, it really helped when no other treatment had previously done or works but I think, yeah, people just need to be aware that it can slightly change your life in terms of, for that brief period of time it can, you know, it can have impacts and you might be lucky and, you know, get through it fine, but you just should be aware that, you know, and it’s fine to be not fine. That’s, that’s an awful phrase, but I’ve heard that about quite a lot actually. But it’s fine to be kind of a little bit subdued or a little bit, you know, to take that kind of in your stride sort of thing.

I think you’ve just got to use your own judgement, I think. I think don’t rely too heavily on expert advice. I think would be my thing. I think you’ve got to use your own intuition as to what you think is the right course of action for you. I think you’ve got to really think about, you know, where, like what sort of part, you know, where you are in your life and what you think is going to be the best course of action for you and I think you’ve got to really kind of take that, that personalised kind of approach when you’re thinking about it. You can’t just rely on general kind of expert advice. You’ve got to think, you know, just because someone else has been through it and, you know, come out, you know, relatively OK, you’ve got to think, you know, ‘where am I in my life?’ You know ‘how is this going to affect me?’ And really kind of think about that more, I think. 

Really put, spend a lot of, especially with Roaccutane you’ve got to spend a lot of time weighing up the pros and cons and just make a pros and cons list, like I love pros and cons lists. They’re great, like you can just see what’s great and what’s, what’s not. So I, yeah, it’s probably worth just doing that and just maybe kind of speculating about what you think might be the, might be the downsides, might be the, you know, the positives to it.
•    know that you can get medical help with acne 

Lots of people felt it was important to do something about acne if it was causing upset or other problems in the person’s life. Lots of people had good experiences with their doctors and most recommended going to them for acne treatments. Sarah thinks it is “ok to be upset” about acne if it’s affecting your life and she suggests being proactive in seeking help from “knowledgeable people”. But some were reluctant and didn’t go to see their GP when they first had acne. Deborah, who first had acne at the age of 12, waited until she was 20. Sarah also added that not everyone feels upset about acne or wants to try lots of treatments, which she says is fine too.
 

Ollie thinks many people don’t seek help because they are embarrassed. He advises people to get help and thinks seeing a GP can be “life changing”.

Ollie thinks many people don’t seek help because they are embarrassed. He advises people to get help and thinks seeing a GP can be “life changing”.

Age at interview: 16
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 13
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Well I think the main thing is…I've mentioned it many times – is just go, go see your GP; go see a doctor, talk to somebody, go on the internet, whatever to try and get treatment because so many people…and I know of so many people who are really afraid of going to see their GP to get treatment just cos they're awfully, awfully embarrassed of their acne. And I understand that people are embarrassed but it's something that the benefits of going to see your GP and the results of seeing your GP and maybe being referred, it can, it can be life changing in some instances cos it can change how you look. I mean obviously it changes how you look minimally, but if you have really bad acne it completely changes how you look, and how you act as well with your confidence and stuff like that by getting treatment which it always works for everybody.
 

For Hester, acne is a “medical condition” and she says not to leave it “to the last minute” to get advice and to see a GP.

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For Hester, acne is a “medical condition” and she says not to leave it “to the last minute” to get advice and to see a GP.

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 15
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First and foremost, it is a medical condition. And it's okay to go and seek medical advice. I think I regret kind of thinking first of all that it's just something that every teenager goes through. I think if you have acne or even if you just suspect that you do, your spots are quite bad, to go and see a doctor. Like I think you'd always be surprised by how sympathetic they are. And it's often worse than you think. I think most people leave it up until the last moment to seek advice. And it's also really helpful to look for yourself at what there is online and what kind of options might be available. But that it's okay to just go and get medicine, because it's a medical condition. To not waste time trying to buy lots of expensive solutions and cosmetic products, and just all that stuff you can buy in Boots, like or any supermarket. To not waste your money on those things, you can go and get medicine from GPs that'll be far more effective. I think to realise that you're not alone, that it's quite common. And a lot of... Yeah, that it will get better. Because even if, even if your skin doesn't, I think as you grow older, you kind of, I don’t know, you'll find that that kind of confidence in yourself and that resolve to just keep going and even if it's a long slog and it's a long time before the actual condition is under control. Or, you know, takes a while for the scar tissue to go down, that, yeah, that the way that you respond to it though will get better. And yeah. That it's, yeah, just not to be defeated by it, really.
•    try different treatments if your current ones aren’t helping 

A few people said they had kept on using the same treatment for a long time and wished they had asked for another to try sooner. Some people felt their doctors had needed a push to find the right treatment for them or give them a referral onto a dermatologist. Some found that sharing with their doctor about the emotional and social impact of acne helped highlight the importance for them in finding an effective treatment.
 

Naomi wishes she had been more “insistent” with her GP on finding a product that suited her instead of continuing with products that weren’t working.

Naomi wishes she had been more “insistent” with her GP on finding a product that suited her instead of continuing with products that weren’t working.

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 9
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I just wish I’d been more kind of insistent with like the GP’s and like because I felt like I couldn’t not make demands but I felt like, because no-one else is really taking it that seriously that I should, I was stupid for worrying about it and like feeling so bad, but really like the impact it was having on my life – like I should have been more demanding really and when they kept being like, “Oh, just try this like, we won’t bother like escalating your medication,” I should have been like, “Well no, like none of these things are working for me.” and I think, you know, all the times they said, “Oh just try another three months,” I think I should have just been like, you know, “I’ve been on this before,” or, “I've been on this for a long time now and nothings working,” and I think I should have kind of taken control of it myself a bit more because I think I was too passive. And like part of that was just I was like too emotional about it and like not prepared to sort of stand up for you know, my own choices but yeah I just like I would say ‘be insistent’ because even if people think it’s just a phase or you know, “It’s just your skin,” like, you know – if it has a huge impact on you then it is really important and the longer it drags on, the more damaging it is on your, your mood and your social situation and like that, that just isn’t worth waiting for.
 

Even if your doctor doesn’t seem concerned about your acne, Molly thinks you should push for whatever you feel you need.

Even if your doctor doesn’t seem concerned about your acne, Molly thinks you should push for whatever you feel you need.

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 11
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I think my advice would be like even if you feel that like your doctor is not that concerned about it, if it’s a concern to you then it’s a valid concern. And even if like you don't think it’s that bad or you think it’s really bad like if it’s affecting like your confidence then like medication can seem scary but it’s often like a, a really good way to go and like just ask for like what you need. Like if you do need no-, emotional support then ask for it and if you do need, if you do research and you find you that you want a particular medication or to be, have a referral don’t be afraid, to kind of push it because like it’s your treatment and like you should be really in control of the treatment. So yeah, just don’t be afraid to like say you’re not happy with the medication, say you want to try another medication, or say you want to see somebody else. That would be my main advice.
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