The purpose of the current survey was to evaluate how teenagers and adults view teens with acne as compared to those with smooth, clear skin. We also surveyed teens and adults about their experiences with acne.
We hypothesized that teens with acne would be perceived in a more negative fashion as compared to teens with smooth, clear skin. We presented digitally altered photographs to our responders and asked how they perceived the two groups. No mention was made of acne. In the first survey (n = 1,002), both adults and teens provided their impressions on photo images of teenagers with either clear skin or acne. In the second survey (n = 1,006), the adults and teens also answered questions about their own experiences with acne.
Survey 1. With respect to impressions of photo images, the first thing teens and adults noticed about a person with acne was their skin (65% and 75%, respectively). Teenagers with acne were perceived most often by other teens and adults (teen responder %, adult responder %) as being shy (39%, 43%), nerdy (31%, 21%), stressed (24%, 20%), lonely (23%, 22%), boring (15%, 6%), unkempt (13%, 7%), unhealthy (12%, 8%), introverted (9%, 23%), and rebellious (7%, 5%).
Survey 2. Most teenagers with acne (64%) felt embarrassed by it and thought that getting acne was the most difficult aspect of puberty (55%). Teenagers with acne reported lower self-confidence or shyness (71%); difficulty finding dates (43%), problems making friends (24%), challenges with school (21%), and trouble getting a job (7%).
Teens with smooth, clear skin were rated higher on every favorable characteristic and lower on every unfavorable characteristic by both teens and adults. In most cases, the first thing that respondents noticed was the skin of teens with acne. Teenagers and adults alike perceived other teens with acne as generally being shy, less socially active, more likely to be bullied, and less successful in terms of finding a job. Overall, these results show that acne has a negative effect on the way people are perceived by others.