Pretty much everyone has had to deal with a breakout at some point. And, especially for those of us who experience chronic skin conditions like cystic acne, reckoning with a particularly noticeable constellation of zits can take a toll on your self-esteem. Riverdale’s Lili Reinhart knows the feeling, and she’s making it easier for her followers to find and build support networks online to make skin conditions less isolating.
On her Instagram Stories earlier this week, Reinhart shared how her cystic acne often makes her feel. “Adult acne story time,” she wrote, before diving into how she’s struggling with a cystic acne breakout on her forehead after being at a photo shoot. “All I could think about when I was in front of the camera were the pimples on my forehead,” she wrote. “These breakouts shatter my confidence every time they appear. I’m not sure if or when I’ll ever be able to accept my skin as it is. It’s problematic. It scars easily. It’s painful.”
Reinhart also admitted that she obsesses over her skin to the point of paranoia, but she’s trying hard to not let it rule her life. She also says she wants to help other people who are dealing with skin issues. “I feel the need to talk about my struggle with acne,” she wrote. “Because maybe if I normalize my broken-out skin, more people…including myself…will be able to feel OK about their skin.”
So, Reinhart encouraged other people to use the hashtag #breakoutbuddy to talk about their skin issues, and so far, 620 people have chimed in with their own tales.
Clearly Reinhart isn’t the only one going through this, and the struggle with skin issues can actually impact a person’s mental health.
“Many skin conditions decrease the quality of life of our patients and can cause emotional and mental distress,” Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells SELF. “Many of my patients with skin conditions tell me that they are ashamed to be out in public, feel uncomfortable talking to others, and have intimacy issues because of their skin conditions.”
Indeed, as SELF wrote previously, research published in February in the British Journal of Dermatology shows there's a strong association between clinical depression and acne, meaning that people with acne are more likely to have depression. And that increased risk for depression lasts for five years after the initial diagnosis, the study found.
Acne can also cause permanent scarring that has a continued psychological impact on a patient, even after their pimples have cleared, Joshua Zeichner, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells SELF.
That’s why it’s so important to have a solid support system when you’re dealing with a skin condition.
Having someone who will listen to you and get where you’re coming from is crucial when you’re experiencing skin issues, Dr. Zeichner says. It could be in the form of your family, friends, an online support group, or even your doctor, but sometimes that isn't enough.
“In treating skin diseases, it is important to consider the patient as a whole,” Dr. Zeichner says. Some patients may have depressive symptoms, making it important to get family members, the patient’s primary care physician, and potentially a mental health professional involved as well, he says.
If you think you might be dealing with mental health issues due to your skin, it's worth checking in with a therapist or even your dermatologist—they’re more tuned into this than you’d think. “I often ask patients if they’d like me to refer them to a mental health professional…to help deal with some of these issues while we are trying to improve their skin,” Dr.Goldenberg says. “Talking through self esteem and emotional issues is certainly important.”