Survey results for

April/May: Acne Survey 2017

talkhealth are keen to understand how to support and provide practical advice to teenagers living with acne. As part of the research, we surveyed our audience to find out more about their experiences with acne and to determine what support is most needed.

Acne is a common skin condition that most teenagers, unless their extremely lucky, will experience at some point in their life. Acne can have a big impact on confidence and self-esteem, leading many to feel frustrated and depressed and unsure of what they can do or where they can go for help.

The survey was carried out throughout April and May 2017; 68% of those who completed the survey were living with acne themselves or answering that they had acne in the past. 13% answered the survey on behalf of someone they care for. The rest were people who were interested in the condition. Most of the respondents were female.

Perceptions of acne

Around 25% of participants found their acne to be at its worst between the ages of 20 and 30, with just over 21% saying it was worse between the ages of 16 and 19. Close to half said their acne was moderate, with 19% classing it as severe. Most people were experiencing breakouts once a week if not once a day, with the face being the most common area affected by acne.

Blackhead, whiteheads, papules (small red bumps that may feel tender or sore) and pustules (similar to papules, but have a white tip in the centre, caused by a build-up of pus) were the forms of acne that most people suffered with. Over a third have been living with acne for over 10 years.

Skin care

The vast majority of those who had experience with acne washed their face twice a day, with Clearasil and Clean and Clear being the most commonly used skin care products. The contraceptive pill and oral antibiotics were the most commonly used treatments alongside skincare. Close to half, however, had not used any other form of treatment to manage their acne.

Healthcare advice

There was an even split between those that had and had not seen a GP, nurse or dermatologist to discuss their acne. Of the 491 people  (51%) that had gone to see a healthcare professional to discuss their acne, half rated the helpfulness of the advice they received as ‘okay’.

Here is a selection of some of the most useful advice received:

“Telling me what the options are, and going through the benefits and cons of everything.”

“The best advice is not to squeeze these large sore cyst-like spots. It will not relieve the area, and where I get these breakouts, squeezing with cause more soreness and bruising.”

“Understanding that it was not 'just adolescence' and seeking to treat the skin damage and preventative measures.”

Those that had been to see a healthcare professional in relation to their acne were asked to consider what support they wished they had been offered:

“What products they recommend to use, what is available on prescription. Also information on support groups available. What make up products to use as I can't wear any make up at all as it just aggravates my skin and causes outbreaks.”

“I would have liked to have been told more about how to look after my skin care while I was growing up through my teenage years.”

“For him/her to show a bit more interest. Some people probably consider acne as a minor illness. I disagree. For some it could be so psychologically distressing, that it leads to thoughts of self-harm.”

69% of participants who had been to see a doctor or specialist still felt there was not enough support available for those living with acne, with many stating that they were ‘not sure where to go’.

Most of those that had not been to visit a doctor to discuss their acne had not made an appointment as they did not think their acne was bad enough to warrant a doctor’s appointment. However, evidence suggests that early treatment is of the utmost important to minimise the risk of scarring.1

Online support

Opinion was quite evenly divided when discussing online sources of information in relation to acne. NHS choices, Mumsnet and talkhealth were some of the most frequently visited websites for advice on acne. When asked to consider what information would be most useful in helping manage acne symptoms, the top three areas of interest were:

  •  Samples of acne products
  • Hints and tips
  • Skin care management advice.

When asked about thoughts on teen acne, 87% of people answered that they thought there was a need for more support for teenagers living with acne.

Psychological and physical impact of acne

Acne has featured in the news quite frequently over recent months, in particular the psychological and emotional strain it can place on someone. We asked participants to consider the physical and psychological effects their acne has had on them. Around 66% of those who had some experience with acne stated their acne was painful, 87% stated their acne affected their confidence and around half have found that their acne has affected their personal relationships and made them feel isolated.

When asked to consider their concerns regarding their acne, many of the answers showed the tremendous psychological affect the condition can have:

“As a teen with acne it completely crushed my confidence. I felt so ugly, leading me to feel inadequate, shy and uncomfortable resulting in my teenage years not being great.”

“People stared, I felt very self-conscious and lost a lot of confidence which has never really come back.”

“The pain and embarrassment of having it are my main concerns. This leads to depression, not wanting to go out and seeing people etc.”

“The pain I have to endure, the fact that I can't plan for social gatherings or dates ahead, not knowing what causes it and having to answer questions from close ones.”

Finally, participants described what help and support they felt was missing for those living with acne:

“General support to show you’re not alone and not the only one, maybe management as well as preventing isolation and not socialising.”

“Skin remedies are so expensive and people feel isolated, there should be recognition and help available for sufferers.”

“Groups where people can talk about experiences and what worked best for them.”

“Understanding of the effects acne has on me as a person rather than being told I will grow out of it.”

“An idea of what questions to ask your doctor would be most welcome so we can get the treatment we need.”


If you're interested in a detailed analysis of the results for these surveys please contact us.