Being at school or university, studying and acne

A number of things could impact on people’s experience of being at school or university with acne: 

•    how severe or manageable their acne was and whether they could cover it up
•    how common it was to have acne amongst their friends and peers
•    how understanding people were about their acne, and whether people were unkind
•    how supported or isolated they felt in general
•    how confident they felt about themselves

Having acne didn’t impact on school life for everyone. Molly has always felt confident about herself and no one mentioned it at school. Alexandra was always firm that she wanted to enjoy school and not let acne get in the way of this.
But for many people going through school, college or university life with acne was a difficult time in their lives.
Bullying and education about acne in schools and colleges

Most people started getting acne as they moved into secondary school and many felt that there was then increased peer pressure on them to cover up or find a remedy for their acne. Image consciousness seemed more important, and quite a few people felt singled out or bullied because of their acne. 

People often had to cope on their own when others made hurtful comments or asked questions. Emma felt “isolated” when she had acne at the age of 11 and had started at a secondary school where no one else had it. She found that “children can be a bit sort of mean about it” and she became quite shy.
Some gave ideas about how schools could do more to educate young people as well as teachers (such as about causes and triggers) to support pupils with acne.
Participating in school and doing exams

Acne could disrupt school life and meant that people either missed lessons or were not able to perform in the same way as other pupils. People could be more self-conscious during certain lessons, like P.E., if they were worried about other people seeing their acne or scarring. Devan wore his P.E. kit under his school clothes so that he could change without others seeing the acne on his back. A few people had to miss lessons to see their dermatologist or because they didn’t want to go to school or college.
Feeling self-conscious could affect how people participated in classes and exams. The stress of doing exams along with poor diet (“comfort eating”) and missed skincare regimes meant acne was more severe for some near to exam time. Ollie felt his acne affected his confidence and that impacted on his performance in exams.
Having certain treatments for acne, could in turn add to that stress. Rachael was sitting A-level exams when she was on isotretinoin and says she wasn’t her usual self. She thinks the drug contributed to her “not coping” and crying a lot. Naomi explains how the check-ups associated with taking isotretinoin were time consuming and she found it a “traumatic time” whilst taking the medicine.
University life with acne

Starting university was a big change for some people. For most it meant moving away from their family home and this had practical challenges as well as worries about meeting new people. Living in student accommodation could mean sharing a bathroom with many other students, so that daily skincare routines had to be timed around other people and commitments like lectures. 

Some found that university life included more opportunities for socialising with a wide range of people. Some found this difficult. Chris thinks the new opportunities to socialise and make new friends are the hardest things about starting university because this can make you feel more self-conscious. This wasn’t the case for everyone though.
Going out in the evenings with friends often meant drinking alcohol and some people talked about the challenges of having to reduce their alcohol intake because of their acne or certain medications (like istotretinoin) they took for it.


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