A-Z

Acne (young people)

Impacts of acne on social life and hobbies

Acne can affect people’s social lives and hobbies in different ways. Some said having acne made them more self-conscious, especially when they had flare-ups, but they tried not to let this stop them from meeting friends, socialising and doing sports and other hobbies.

It wasn’t just having acne, but also the side effects of taking certain medications that could affect their social life (e.g. not being able to drink alcohol while taking some medications) or hobbies (e.g. tiredness or muscle ache as a side effect). For the people we talked to, these included antibiotics and isotretinoin

Socialising

Going out and having fun was important to lots of people. Most people talked about having a good social life despite their acne. However, there could be occasions when people didn’t go out because their acne was particularly bad. Emma remembers a time when she “just felt like I really don’t want people see me like this”. A few people said there were some social activities which they would feel comfortable with, even if they had a breakout, but not others. Often they preferred to see friends but were less keen about meeting new people when they felt self-conscious about their acne.
 

For Ish, acne has affected his social life a lot and when it is bad he doesn’t want to go out.

View full profile
Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Did it sort of impact on your social life?

I think it does impact on it a lot. When you do have really bad acne, ’cos with acne it’s not always the same. So one morning you wake up and you’re going to have twenty of them and that’s the day when you’re like supposed to go somewhere with your friends. And you’re just like, ‘Okay, I’m not going to go anywhere. I can’t even be bothered about it.’ ’Cos you just feel, you know self-conscious about it. So it does impact on it a lot, I think. I mean school you can’t really avoid but, you know, on your free time you try to avoid it if you’re having one of those days where your acne gets worse. 

So it has been the case because of acne and the way you’ve felt about it, you’ve avoided going out?

Yeah, I mean there has been, there has been where, if it’s been bad or something, then I’d rather just not go out because it’s like, ‘Oh, God, I’m not going to show my face today.’ So, yeah.
Most people said they felt self-conscious, but acne could affect some people’s social life more than others: Naomi describes feeling “isolated”, lacking “confidence” and always feeling “nervous” about going out in big groups. Yi spent weeks or months staying in in the evenings feeling “depressed” and “hopeless about [her] face”. Becky thinks she would make more friends and be more outgoing if she didn’t have acne. Since she starting getting acne she no longer feels like meeting up with friends, or video chatting with friends abroad, in case they “judge”.

Starting university could mean more opportunities to socialise and this affected people differently. You can read more about the impact of acne on school and university life here.
 
Text only
Read below

Chris talks about starting university with acne.

View full profile
Age at interview: 20
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 17
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
You come to university, you’re meeting new people like you, it, when you’ve got sort of flared up skin you are consciously aware of it. And, you know, the social life at uni is a lot, it’s something you experience new, I mean, before going out, you know, you want to look your best like you want to be like, you know, if you’re out to meet new girls or whatever like, you don’t want to be, you’ll always feel self-conscious if you’ve got like loads and loads of spots on your face.

So, I guess, the only difference at uni is that you’ve just got more social opportunities and that’s probably the hardest thing about it. 

Do you think that sort of feeling and in these situations ever change your behaviour like would you ever avoid certain situations? 

No, I can’t remember a time when I’ve ever avoided like a situation at uni Maybe because it like it got bad, but it never got terrible at uni So, I mean, if it’d gotten a lot worse potentially I might have done but, yeah, no, I always felt kind of confident in myself that, you know, I’ve got acne, but, you know, I can get, get along, get by with it.
Drinking and being out late

Going to parties and going out drinking was mentioned by a few people. Those who were taking antibiotics or isotretinoin (e.g. Roaccutane) said this could affect the amount of alcohol they drank, and a few found this awkward when they were out in the evening with friends. Naomi said when she is at university “there’s a culture for loads of alcohol and if you’re not drinking people are a bit like ’What’s wrong with you?’”. Going to parties with lots of people could be daunting. Alexandra used to feel “quite exposed” in the beginning when her acne was more severe than any of her peers.
 

Abbie preferred going to parties where it was dark and talks about doing her hair and make-up to make her acne less visible.

View full profile
Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 13
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I used to always wear my hair kind of like, like down like this, so that it wasn’t as obvious. Like say if I pulled it back in like a pony tail, then you could kind of see it. And I used to like prefer going to like parties or things when it was dark, so you, you couldn’t really see it that much. And I used to wear, I used to do my eye make-up like really nicely. So then people would kind of l-, notice that rather than looking at my acne. And, cos I couldn’t really wear any foundation or anything. So I used to do like eye make-up and then like really bold lipstick, so people would kind of like notice that rather than the spots.
 

Tom sometimes feels nervous about going to parties or big gatherings if his acne is bad because he wants to look his best.

View full profile
Age at interview: 15
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 15
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I feel like if I’m having a bad day it’s bad in the morning but by the time I get home and I look in the mirror I’m sort of like, “Oh, yeah, it’s died down.” So I kind of feel like I’ve kind of learnt that. So when, there were times when I’d probably, you know, be quite worried. I’d hang out with my friends but necessarily I wouldn’t go to like, if there was like loads of people, or like a party. I wouldn’t avoid a party but, you know, like if there were loads of people I might think like, “Oh, I don’t know if I wanna go” and get nervous, but still go. But now I’ve learnt that by the time I get home it’s fine. So that means probably for most part of where I am it’s probably died down, it’s probably all right. So, yeah, I don’t really avoid stuff.

When you, when you were sort of getting nervous about parties, was it, what was it about that?

I don’t know. You just don’t wanna be like looking not your best. You gotta be looking fly. But if you’re not looking fly, it’s not good. So I don’t, I don’t know. You just, you just get nervous, you just get self-conscious about the fact that your face is covered in like red things, but you don’t really know why they’re there. But, you know, just I know that it dies down over time, so I don’t really worry about it any more.
Being photographed with acne

Many people talked about avoiding having photos taken of them. Naomi feels sad that she has very few photographs of herself during the teenage years because of this. Others looked back at their photos and realised how severe their acne was. Having group photos with friends who did not have acne could make people feel particularly self-conscious.
 
Text only
Read below

Kosta doesn’t like having close up photographs taken. He likes being in a band but finds it “awkward” performing sometimes.

View full profile
Age at interview: 14
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 13
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I do tend to avoid close up pictures now because it’s just does not help having acne. So I do prefer having long shots as a profile picture or a posted picture on my profile.

Do you un-tag photos or do you just leave them?

I don’t know, I think at a younger age I’d tag photos and people but I don’t bother that much anymore.

Okay. Does acne affect any hobbies or anything that you enjoy doing in your spare time?

From the sports I do I wouldn’t say it does, however I’m in a band and since I sing at the lives it’s quite awkward sometimes being the front face with the acne. Mostly pictures getting taken can become quite awkward with seeing multiple acne on your face but again I suppose it’s inevitable, so I don’t have anything else to do.
 

Harriet was aware of people taking photographs at events and was conscious about how her skin looked under different light (fluorescent light, daylight).

View full profile
Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 12
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I was really conscious of, sort of I was self-conscious but conscious of not wanting to be self-conscious. So I’d be quite, I wouldn’t try and hide it, cos I felt sort of, ‘Everyone knows that my skin’s really bad. There’s no point in covering it up and making it worse.’ So I think that sort of gave off the impression that I wasn’t too self-conscious about it. But at the same time it like, it does, it does take up a lot of your thoughts and a lot of your time, just sort of constantly thinking, “Oh, I wonder what people, are people looking at me?” I remember walking down the street and being like, “Oh, are people looking at me?” Not wanting photos taken, things like that. So, yeah, there is a definite emotional side to it.

Would you ever avoid sort of events or going to certain places as a result of that sort of self-consciousness?

I don’t know if I’d go as far as avoiding things, but I def-, like events, but I’d avoid maybe certain people or people with cameras or… I was, I remember being quite conscious of sort of where I’d sit in a room or where I’d go, cos obviously certain lights make it look a lot worse. I knew that when my skin was oily fluorescent lights would make it look really bad, but if I sat next to a window with natural light it looked better. So thing, little things like that. I hadn’t even realised that I thought about those things, but it does, it takes up a lot of your brain space, yeah.
 
Text only
Read below

Eli likes to watch make-up tutorials online and sometimes posts her own photos. She uses make-up and adds filters to cover up her spots.

View full profile
Age at interview: 13
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 11
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I have Instagram, yeah, which is like a, like Facebook but you just post Facebook-, and you post photos and stuff. So I’ve found this YouTuber that has an account on Instagram and she like posts photos of how she does her make-up and with what products and how she does her acne and like how she puts her creams. And, yeah, I get some ideas from her.

Do you ever post your own photos on Instagram?

Yeah, but I try and cover my spots on photos.

Okay. How do you do that?

Just different effects and, yeah, stuff my phone has.

Like filters?

Yeah.
Playing sports

Many people talked about enjoying sports like badminton, rowing, gymnastics, martial arts, football, swimming and running. Having acne could interfere with doing sports for some people. This could be because wearing sports clothing revealed acne on other parts of their body, they felt sweating could make the acne worse or it was physically uncomfortable. Some said they experienced side effects when taking isotretinoin which made them less inclined to do sports, such as muscle aches, increased sweating and feeling low. Those using topical creams or taking isotretinoin sometimes talked about the impacts on outdoor sports in sunny weather, as these treatments can make the skin more sensitive and prone to sunburn. Harriet found that chlorine in swimming water had a “searing effect” on the parts of her skin where she had applied topical acne creams.

It was not always the case that acne or treatments stopped people taking part in sports, and many people continued to enjoy these activities despite their acne. Tom enjoys playing football and wouldn’t let having acne on his back stop him playing, even if he had to play topless: “I don’t really want to let acne control me”.
 

Although Harriet used to go swimming, the chlorine reacted with some of her face creams and made it painful. However, she enjoys sports generally, and has got back into them since she started university.

View full profile
Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 12
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I played sport, team sport at school until I was about 14 and then just like completely gave up, didn’t do anything. I don’t know if that was entirely, I don’t think that was acne related, it was just a sort of like classic, ‘Teenage girls don’t play sport.’ But I started, yeah, it wasn’t so much to do with, yeah, I’ve sort of lost my train of thought. I just got distracted because I was thinking, I remember going swimming because we had to do swimming lessons at school and like the chlorine of the pool would often, if I’d had certain creams and stuff on my face that would have a kind of searing effect. Which, like that one wasn’t a kind of satisfying burning, that was, ‘This is actually painful.’ So I was always quite self-conscious about that. And then obviously like you’ve got your towel with you and it might have like those bleach marks on it and everything. But that, like we on-, we didn’t have to do that very often, so it wasn’t too much of a problem. But I think, I sort of wish I’d carried on with sport through school because it, it really builds your confidence. It’s something I’ve got back into at uni and it’s, it’s just really nice to have a little sort of family for a couple of hours every week to just like run around with. And it doesn’t matter what you look like because everyone’s obviously like sweaty and muddy and gross anyway. So it doesn’t, it, like it doesn’t matter what your skin’s like. So I think that would have been a really positive thing to carry on with, but I just, I just didn’t.
Other hobbies

Although sport was the main hobby people spoke about, there could be other activities that were important to them such as reading, singing and listening to music. Kosta sings in a band and he finds it “awkward” being the “front face” of the band with his acne. For others, their activities were not affected by their acne and could help them deal with having acne and be a confidence boost.
 
Text only
Read below

When he was on Roaccutane (isotretinoin), Will felt very down. Listening to music was a great comfort.

View full profile
Age at interview: 21
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 14
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Could you sort of maybe try and explain why it is that you think music was so important to getting you through?

Yeah that’s interesting. I don’t know. I’ve never really considered that. I think I spent a lot of time on my own more than I had done previously in my life so I think I became, I don’t want to say introverted because I, yeah, I don’t think I was introverted, but I think music then kind of helps you to, I don’t know, maybe, oh God, it’s tricky. I don’t know, it, yeah, it’s hard to articulate it. That’s the beauty about music, isn’t it? 

[Laughs]

No, I don’t know. It, it like it’s just like, especially like people on Morrissey and people like they speak to you in like a way that no one else can, like no one else can understand you and like going through all these problems and like oh don’t worry Morrissey’s here, he’s going to sing to you so. 

I don’t know it’s weird like, it’s almost like a another kind of support network even though like this person doesn’t exist or whatever like it’s almost as if I don’t know other people are having like problems and like being all like moody and depressed and you’re like ‘yeah, yeah I know what you feel, man’ like yeah, so misery loves company and all that.

So, yeah I suppose that’s why but yeah, no, music was like a really big part I think, helping me through and I’d just lie in bed for hours just like listening to brooding post-rock and stuff. 
donate
Previous Page
Next Page