Acne’s Effect on Quality of Life, Emotional Health in Women

Conceptual of problems on woman skin.
The real-life experiences of women with acne and its treatment are reported.

Adult women with acne have concerns about their appearance as well as mental and emotional health consequences and disruption of their personal and professional lives, according to study findings published in JAMA Dermatology.

Researchers conducted telephone interviews with women who had acne to assess their experience and treatment effects. Women aged 18 to 40 years with moderate to severe acne were recruited from clinics at a university health system and a private practice.

A total of 50 women participated in the interviews from August 30, 2019, to December 31, 2020. The women had a mean (SD) age of 28 (5.38) years, and 24 (48%) were White.

Regarding the ways in which acne had affected their lives, the women commonly stated that their acne had made them highly aware of their appearance and that their concerns about their appearance had affected their personal and professional lives.

The women frequently expressed that their acne affected their mental health and well being, and anxiety, depression, and low self-worth were common as a result of acne breakouts. Many women stated that the mental health consequences of acne were greater as adults because they had fewer peers with acne and felt more isolated.

A majority of women believed that their acne affected their confidence level in social situations and they were concerned that their acne would change how they were perceived by others. Many women reported that their acne affected how they felt about themselves at school or work.

The women also conveyed varying experiences with their dermatologists. Some women were frustrated with their relationships with dermatologists who continued prescribing acne treatments that the patients knew were not effective or too strong for their skin. Most of the women did not believe that oral antibiotics were appropriate treatments for their acne because of their limited long-term effectiveness.

The study authors noted that the women had relatively severe acne in relation to their previous treatments and that their findings may not be generalizable to other patient populations. Also, the researchers were unable to assess for differences among patients with truncal-only acne, facial-only acne, and truncal and facial acne. Furthermore, complete demographic information for all participants was not obtained.

These findings suggest that ensuring access to care and identifying “optimal treatment approaches for women with acne are needed to improve outcomes in this population,” the investigators commented.


Barbieri JS, Fulton R, Neergaard R, et al. Patient perspectives on the lived experience of acne and its treatment among adult women with acne: a qualitative study. JAMA Dermatol. Published online July 28, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2021.2185