A-Z

Acne (young people)

Work life and acne

Most people we spoke to had some experience of work. This includes as an intern, volunteer, part-time employee or working in the holidays, and a few had started full-time work. People had different views and experiences about the impact of having acne on working life. Some were able to give examples of times when having acne had made it difficult at work or they felt less confident about getting a job. However, most felt it was not something that affected their work or future prospects at all.
 

Sarah compares having acne to another health condition that affected her life much more. She thinks acne doesn’t have to be a problem.

Sarah compares having acne to another health condition that affected her life much more. She thinks acne doesn’t have to be a problem.

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 16
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Well so I mean when my ulcerative colitis flared up, I, it was really physically limiting my life. I was having to, it never really got to the stage where I had to plan my day around the condition but I was constantly having to kind of rush off to the loo at odd opportunities and I did feel embarrassed about that and I did feel embarrassed. I did feel the need to kind of make excuses for myself. And also it, aside from just meaning that I had to run to the loo all the time, I got exhausted, it affected my performance in my work. Acne’s never done anything like that to me. It’s, it doesn’t make me tired, it doesn’t impede my concentration. 

And I guess I just feel like I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s only really a problem if you make it into too much of a problem. And I am aware that, I say this knowing that obviously people notice it and obviously even if only on a subconscious level people probably do make judgements based on it. But given the other battles I’ve had to fight, it’s not really seemed like the most important one.
Acne affecting work

People talked about what it was like to have acne at work and how having acne affected their approach to working and looking for jobs. Some felt that having acne would make them seem less mature or professional to others. This included when they were interviewing for a job. Marga worried that when she was presenting her doctoral research at conferences her acne made her seem younger than she was and affected her credibility.

The symptoms and treatments of acne can have practical as well as emotional impacts. Deborah found that sore spots could be a problem at work. She would sometimes knock them which could be painful and cause them to bleed. Acne treatments and side effects could also affect performance at work. Abbie found taking isotretinoin (e.g. Roaccutane) made her muscles ache and she had to stop her part-time job as a gymnastics coach. Will did some gardening and found cold weather upset his skin.
 

Although she thinks it shouldn’t affect her work, Deborah says she’s less likely to interact with others when she has a “bad breakout” of acne.

Although she thinks it shouldn’t affect her work, Deborah says she’s less likely to interact with others when she has a “bad breakout” of acne.

Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 12
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I think it definitely is more, more the professional side of things that I feel it bothers me socially. And it's a very teenage-associated thing. As an adult with acne, it makes me feel like I should have grown out, out of this by now. And that - I don't know, it just makes you feel slightly less prepared. Slightly less in control, maybe that's what it is. I don't, if I don't even have control over my skin. So I do definitely tend to talk less or interact less when I've got a bad breakout, because I don't want to draw attention to. So I try, I really try not to let it get in the way, but that's because I'm putting the effort in. If I was just left to my own devices it would probably stop me going out and making new business clients, or interacting in a way that would be, be best for me. So yeah, it does bother me quite a lot, even now. Which again makes me feel bad, because I feel like it shouldn't bother me because - you know - it's just skin. But you have to live in your skin every day. So it's still something that I don't know, bothers me because it is there, constantly. There's no, no, no escape from it. And you wouldn't want people to, to judge you for it. So yeah, as well if you're going out on a night out as well, even with your friends, I may swap what side I'm on in a photo, to minimise how much acne you can see, and things like that. So it's not that bad, with my friends. It's more with work that it makes me feel unprofessional for.

 

Becky thinks having an interview when you have acne doesn’t leave a good first impression.

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Becky thinks having an interview when you have acne doesn’t leave a good first impression.

Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 16
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Oh, and another thing is about Skype interview. Like I’m looking for internships now and I was looking for internships before, and then, and there, there will be Skype interviews. But I think, I mean I don’t feel very confident talking to them because I’ve grown acnes. And I think, yeah, that might leave a bad first impression on them because, yeah, because they see on screen that you are not, you don’t look perfect.

Yes. So like I think there are three reasons why I think acne would affect my job interview. The first thing is that because of acne I don’t want to wear make-up. And if I don’t wear make-up it would, it would like make me f-, make me not very energetic on a screen. And then also I think if I don’t wear make-up there will be redness, something on my face, and it’s a very distractive effect, yes, in an interview. And the second reason is that I feel not very confident if I have acnes. And that will kind of make my performance in a job interview not good, as good as I would otherwise. The third reason is that I feel like if I have acnes on my face, people, like the interviewers will judge like, “Why, why is she having that acne? Is that something related to her habit? Or is that something related to her personality or something that would affect the, her performance in the, in the intern, sorry, in the internship time?”
Career choices 

Having acne could affect people’s career choices. Sarah said she felt if she wanted to go into certain competitive professions, like medicine and law, she would have to get her acne treated because it's “not really the best advertisement for a kind of a healthy medical professional in whom you can trust”. 

But having acne could also be an asset for those wanting to go into careers relating to skin care.
 

Becky wants to work in an area related to skin care research and hopes to make her own brand of make-up suitable for acne-prone skin.

Becky wants to work in an area related to skin care research and hopes to make her own brand of make-up suitable for acne-prone skin.

Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 16
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I feel like being involved into a career path that’s related to skin. For example I might want to do research of skin or be involved in companies that have product for make-up, for example L’Oréal and Clinique, something like that. I also want to, maybe in the future, to create a, my, my own brand for skin, a make-up that’s suitable for acne skin and oily or combined skin. So, yeah, I think that acne has really affect my life both negatively and positively in a way, yeah. So, yeah, that’s it.

Could you say about some of those positive impacts it’s had? Is that, for you?

Yeah, because, yeah, like my, my main interest is about programming or more science-y stuff. But since I’ve grown acnes I feel like I should learn more about nutrition, health and skin condition. And that provided me with a new area that I might be interested in. And I really want to like save myself [laughs] about my skin.
Working with adults and working with children

There seemed to be a difference in people’s experience of working with acne depending on whether they were working with other adults, or with teenagers and children. While adults tended to take less notice of acne, people seemed to feel more conscious of their acne when working with teenagers and children. Harriet says her acne “never really comes up” at work. She says skin isn’t so important in an “adult world” and she can “just sort of forget about it”. But those who were working with school children and teenagers could find their acne was a concern.
 

Reflecting back on a summer job, Naomi compares her school environment to her work environment. She thinks teenagers put more emphasis on appearance, whereas adults are more “accepting”.

Reflecting back on a summer job, Naomi compares her school environment to her work environment. She thinks teenagers put more emphasis on appearance, whereas adults are more “accepting”.

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 9
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I worked over the summer between like my years at university for my mum’s architectural practice, I was just like doing some sort of admin and that kind of thing but I felt like, and my skin was never that bad during that time but. Yeah, I mean, well it was last summer because that was when I’d just had the implant put in so that was kind of stressful but in some ways that wasn’t as bad really because they were, well my sort of colleagues but I think that’s less damaging to your self-confidence than your peer group. 

I think the worst thing was at school and yeah the work environment was kind of not as bad for me because it didn't really matter what I looked like, that didn’t, well it mattered to me but like I felt like they weren’t really gonna judge me for that because they were older and like I was doing them a favour by going in and doing this work for them. Whereas with your peer group I think it’s just much more traumatic and you feel like it matters a lot more what you look like. and also I think just being around like teenagers who care about that kind of thing was more stressful whereas I feel with adults they’re more accepting and less judgemental. so yeah, yeah I think that’s not as bad.
 

Marga, who is 24, works with adolescents in a school. She is self-conscious of her acne and worries it affects how others see her.

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Marga, who is 24, works with adolescents in a school. She is self-conscious of her acne and worries it affects how others see her.

Age at interview: 24
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 18
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I guess it frustrated me a little bit because I thought I had passed that; that I'd been lucky to not have any spots really. And I guess I was frustrated because I felt like I'm not supposed to have it. I'm not-, it's when-, you have spots when you're a teenager. And I guess that when I-, sort of end of last year those sorts of thoughts definitely came back. I thought, ‘ah, I'm 24’, you know, ‘I'm an adult.' Another thing is I work in a school and I work around-, often I work around a lot of sort of adolescent children. I felt like , I often felt like it was almost affecting my profess-, my being professional cos I felt like, you know, I've got spots, I look like the kids now and I'm meant to like be in charge of these kids.

But I didn’t really-, I probably only voiced that to my parents but I guess you do have those questions, questions to yourself like ‘why do I have these spots, like I'm meant to be spot-free’ and I guess you feel like it's affecting your-, I guess your age and your maturity in a way, like your perceived maturity and ability to look after these children.

The children never said anything, it was probably all in my head, but I guess when I was trying to for example deal with kids who are not that-, pretty close in age. So, I'm 24, they would be like 17, 18 and they had, you know, some of them often maybe-. I mean kids at that age do look completely varied in age. So there was some that did look a lot, a lot mature than that and they had, you know, didn’t have any spots, and you think, 'gosh’, you know ‘they don’t have any spots so they could probably get away with being my age.'

So, I guess you felt like, in your head, ‘oh’ - I don’t know whether it would affect my ability to do my job but you did feel like - you didn’t feel as legitimate at being your role in a sense as being sort of that position of responsibility.
 

Hester worked with children when she was in South Africa and the constant questions about her acne meant she sometimes didn’t want to go out of the house.

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Hester worked with children when she was in South Africa and the constant questions about her acne meant she sometimes didn’t want to go out of the house.

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 15
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I really struggled. And I was working with children quite a lot in South Africa, and obviously they don't have the kind of filter that's like [laugh] 'I should probably not talk about this', and a lot of the very little kids would like sort of go to touch my face, and like they might even , some of the really young ones might even like sort of poke it and try and like scratch it. And that was obviously quite upsetting. And a lot of the, a lot of the kids would sort of go to touch my face and just be like, “What's this? Like, what's this on your face?” And it was really difficult because they obviously, they don't look at it objectively like ‘you look terrible’. But they're just like, “Oh, what is that?” And I think it's just knowing that someone's looking and knowing that you're going to have to come up with like a reply, even though you're quite upset and quite shocked, you have to sort of be like, “Oh, it's just my skin” [laugh] And I think it, there was a point where I was like [sigh] I actually would rather just stay, stay in the house and not have to know that every day I'm going to have to answer 30 people's questions of, “What is that on your face?” Because for them they just, it's the only time they've ever heard that question. But for you, if you get it 30 times a day, by the time the last person's asked you what's wrong with you just [laugh], you’ve just really given up. And I think there were times when I was like 'I don't really want to leave the house'. 
Image-focused work

Aside from working with children and adolescents, some people distinguished between different types of job where they thought having acne could be a problem. A few people mentioned types of work where they thought image was important, such as working in the service industry. But some were more self-conscious about their acne than others and opinions varied about when “image” was an issue. Becky says acne has impacted on her life and doesn’t feel confident about doing any face-to-face work, even as a volunteer. Will mentioned working for a tuition company and doing gardening, which he said were not “particularly social” jobs and his acne wasn’t an issue.
 

Fatima doesn’t always wear make-up but felt she had to conceal her acne when she was working in a hotel.

Fatima doesn’t always wear make-up but felt she had to conceal her acne when she was working in a hotel.

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 12
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Yeah or maybe when you have like acne and stuff and you have to go for like work interview yeah maybe. Yeah but nah it doesn’t really affect me much. 

Has that been an experience for you going for an interview for work?

Not really but there was. I worked for, I mean no like I had an internship at [hotel], Mauritius. Yeah and then like the hotel is quite a prestigious hotel and then I think during I had like acne at some point in time. And then really had to like conceal it because of like, yeah I didn’t want to ‘cos I am like as a service line you have to like sort of have a good image yeah but it didn’t affect me much just in terms of put more effort in like concealing the pimple.
 

Chris had “bad days” with his acne when he worked in a department store but doesn’t think his acne affected his work.

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Chris had “bad days” with his acne when he worked in a department store but doesn’t think his acne affected his work.

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 17
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Potentially, like I worked at [department store] for a year and like it kind of fluctuated bad days, like good days, but in general I don’t think that affected, like my acne affected my work or anything like that. 

Yeah, I, obviously a company like [department store] they’re not going to sort of send you home for having bad skin. It’s just, you just, and you know that, and it’s you work within a team which is, which is it’s sort of quite well, well organised and, you know, everyone’s friendly so, yeah, you can get by quite easily I think…

Yeah.

…with work.
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