8 things you should never say to someone with acne

Close-up of woman half face with problems of acne inflammation (Papule and Pustule) on her face.
Close-up of woman half face with problems of acne inflammation (Papule and Pustule) on her face.
7:30am, Thu 19 Nov 2020
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

It’s easy to say the wrong thing about someone’s acne – even when you’re trying to get it right. Perhaps you wanted to make them feel less self-conscious about their skin, or a comment slipped out without you really thinking about how it would land.

But acne can be a debilitating issue to deal with, and it’s difficult to understand the deep emotional pain it can cause a person unless you’ve actually experienced it yourself.

People with skin issues can also be seriously hurt or offended by your off-the-cuff comments, no matter how well meaning they are. Here are the things you shouldn’t say to someone with acne.

1. What happened to your face?

Top of the list is offensive questions about the condition of someone’s skin.

Pointing out that someone is having an flare-up will only make them feel more embarrassed and self-conscious. If you notice a friend’s skin has changed, it’s best not to comment at all.

2. Don’t worry, they’re only spots

Acne is extremely distressing, and comments like this only serve to make others feel further alienated and misunderstood.

Implying that the problem is just ‘a few spots’ suggests that the person’s feelings aren’t valid.

3. Have you tried [inset old wives tale]

Have you tried rubbing banana peels on your face? What about that cult beauty product that everyone is raving about right now?

Even if you’re trying to be helpful to a friend or relative who has acne, suggesting solutions makes it sound like it’s an easily treatable issue. The reality is that many people suffer from acne for years, trying every method under the sun in the hope of getting it under control.

4. I always get spots before my period too

A tiny pimple on your chin at ‘that time of the month’ is very different from having permanent, painful eruptions on your face that can leave lifelong scarring.

Even if you’re only trying to make someone feel better about their skin, suggesting you understand someone’s acne experience only seeks to undermine their emotional suffering.

5. You must be touching your face too much

Acne occurs when the openings of hair follicles become clogged and blocked with oil and dead skin cells. It can be genetic and it can also be caused by certain medications or changes in hormone levels, pregnancy, PCOS and periods too.

It’s wrong to assume that someone’s acne is caused by something they’re doing incorrectly, like touching their face or not washing it properly.

6. I’ve never had acne because I…

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…Always drank three pints of water every day. Cut out dairy as an adult. Invested in a good skincare routine.

Yep, there’s nothing worse to an acne sufferer than hearing how you’ve miraculously avoided acne because you intervened in some random way. Unsolicited and inaccurate advice is probably the worst thing you can offer.

7. It’s probably because you have a bad diet

It’s true that eating a diet of fatty and sugary foods won’t do any favours for your skin, but lots of people with acne have very healthy diets.

In fact, a long-term sufferer may well have tried every diet going in an attempt to find a solution. Assuming they’re chowing down on fast food every night is an acne stigma that you shouldn’t perpetuate.

8. You shouldn’t wear make-up because it’s making the problem worse

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If you have clear skin, it’s easy to judge those with acne for wearing make-up products like foundation and concealer.  Until you’ve spent a day walking in someone else’s skin, it’s impossible to understand the emotional impact the condition can have on a person’s life.

Make-up can be a shield, a security blanket and a place of safety for many acne sufferers, as poor body image and low self-esteem are just two of the possible emotional effects.

If your friend doesn’t feel confident enough to leave the house without make-up? Then be supportive and don’t call them out on it.

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