How to ease the emotional effects of acne, according to a derm (and former acne sufferer)

February 15, 2024

Anyone who’s had a breakout knows it can be emotionally devastating. While there are limitless options available to help treat a burgeoning pimple, consistent breakouts, and even post-acne scarring, there’s one thing you can’t find in an acne treatment: a solution for the emotional impact of breakouts and scars. That’s why we asked Dr. Howard Murad (board-certified dermatologist, pharmacist and founder of Murad Skincare) to share his holistic approach to clearing and controlling acne through skincare and selfcare.

What are the emotional effects of acne?

The psychological effects of acne and facial scarring can include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Social isolation
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Increased stress
  • Depression
  • Poor body image
  • Poor self-image
  • Frustration

Unfortunately, all these emotions can create a vicious cycle that exacerbates acne, only to lead to more emotional stress and potential post-acne scarring.

What are the different types of acne scars and marks?

Post-acne scars are textured or indented areas where the surface of your skin has changed because of acne. If the scar isn’t filled, the result is an atrophic (indented) scar, also known as “indented icepick,” “boxcar,” or “rolling scar.”

  • Icepick scars: Deep and narrow
  • Boxcar scars: Wider than icepick scars at the surface; round, oval scars with sharp edges
  • Rolling scars: wider, with shadowing and texture that gives a “rolling” appearance to skin

Post-acne dark spots (also referred to as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) are areas where scarring has caused an increase in melanin. The deeper the inflammation, the darker the mark, and the harder to treat.

Does acne always leave scars?

“Not all acne leaves scars,” Dr. Murad says. “The best way to prevent acne scars is to minimize and eventually clear your acne breakouts with an effective acne regimen. However, while you’re experiencing acne breakouts, don’t pick at your blemishes, which will increase your chances of getting acne scars.”

What can be done to ease the emotional effects of acne?

Dr. Murad identifies all-too-well with the emotional effects of acne. “I suffered with acne as a teen. When my patients come to me for help with their acne and post-acne scars, I know they’re in need of much more than a skincare regimen. They need a more holistic approach that includes lifestyle, nutrition, and emotional support.” To ease the emotional effects of acne, Dr. Murad recommends following his four pillars of wellness: Eat your water, be kind to your mind, awaken your body, and nourish your skin.

Eat your water: A diet that consists of water-rich fruits and vegetables that are packed with antioxidants will support the health of your entire body, and that includes your skin.

Be kind to your mind: Stress is no friend to acne. Setting aside time each day for activities that help calm your nervous system, such as baking, drawing, listening to music, spending time with a pet, etc., can help bring stress levels down which will benefit the health of your skin.

Awaken your body: Breakouts are often caused by inflammation. Exercise helps increase blood flow and decrease cortisol levels, which can lower your inflammation to help keep breakouts at bay. (Just don’t forget to remove your makeup before a workout session, and cleanse with an acne body wash afterward to remove pore-clogging buildup!)

Managing acne doesn’t have to be a 10-step skincare process. Cleansing, using a toner for acne, hydrating and applying SPF during the day can help keep your pores clear and keep breakouts away. For post-acne scars, look for a concentrated treatment to help blur and fill scars while minimizing scar depth and discoloration in just 8 weeks.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Murad, and are for informational purposes only, even if the advice of physicians and medical practitioners are included. This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered specific medical advice.

About the Author

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Jacki Marzano is SoCal-based storyteller and head copywriter at Murad Skincare. She's shaped the voice of some of the most recognized beauty brands in the business, has a penchant for sharing homemade cookies, and believes SPF is the secret to getting carded well into your 40s.