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


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.
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.
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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.
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.
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”.
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.


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