10 Things Not to Say to Someone With Acne

Eliminate these comments from your conversations about acne

You're trying to be sympathetic and helpful to a friend or relative who has acne. Or, you're just making conversation and drop a simple remark. But people with acne can be ultra-sensitive about their skin. Glib comments, innocuous as they may seem, can hurt them deeply, even if you don't realize it. Here are a few things that you should never say to someone who has acne.

1

"You Just Need to Wash Your Face More Often"

This is hurtful, even if you don't mean it to be. You're suggesting a lack of personal hygiene and that the person is "dirty."

A person with acne may wash their face two or three times a day. They're fastidious about keeping their skin clean, but they still break out.

It's a myth that acne is caused by a dirty face. It's actually caused by a combination of factors including hormonal changes, inflammation, stress, bacteria, and sebum/oil production.

2

"What Happened to Your Face?"

This remark cuts to the quick. Acne is extremely distressing. Drawing attention to it in such a way is humiliating.

A similar comment is, "You used to have such nice skin." Yes, the person with acne remembers that. They want to have that clear skin again, and they are working on it. Don't shame them in the meantime.

3

"Why Don't You Try Proactiv?"

According to the ads, all people have to do is use an over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatment product and acne will quickly vanish. Everyone wishes that were true, but it's not.

Mild acne can be improved with over-the-counter products. But moderate to severe acne cases need to be treated with prescription medications. An off-the-cuff comment like this makes it seem like acne is easy to treat, but it isn't.

4

"You Must Be Touching Your Face Too Much"

The assumption here is that the person with acne must be doing something to cause their skin to break out. Comments like this make them feel like they are somehow to blame for their bad skin.

Touching your face, while not particularly helpful, isn't the cause of acne. In reality, acne happens for reasons beyond the person's control.

5

"You'll Grow out of It"

You're probably right that a teen's acne will get better in adulthood, but that doesn't make them feel any better right now. They're embarrassed and self-conscious. Saying that it's only temporary implies that the person's feelings aren't valid.

Besides, some people don't grow out of it. Many continue to struggle with ​adult acne.

With all the good teen acne treatments out there, there is really no reason to wait until acne decides to go away on its own. Starting treatment now will help a teen feel better about their skin and themselves.

6

"Stop Eating Junk Food"

"Junk food" is low in nutrition, but it really doesn't have much (if anything) to do with acne breakouts. There is no scientific proof that eating junk food causes acne.

Remarks like this make the person with acne feel like they are being judged and acne is their fault. Try not to ever make someone feel guilty for their diet.

7

"Wow! That Whitehead Is Huge!"

This isn't something the person can easily remedy, such as getting the spinach out of their teeth. There's not much of anything a person can do for that big whitehead except wait for it to go away, so pointing it out just embarrasses them. Suggesting popping the offending zit isn't a good idea, either.

Instead, earn goodwill by acting like you don't see that big blemish. They probably notice when you look at it and appreciate when you just pretend that it isn't there.

8

"You Should Try a Treatment That Worked Really Well for My Friend"

Odds are, the person with acne has already tried dozens of treatments. It's important for you to understand that not every treatment works for everyone. The medication or home treatment that worked really well for your friend may not be a good fit for someone else. Support the person with acne in their current treatment plan they developed with their dermatologist.

9

"I've Never Had Acne Because I..."

You are lucky that you never had to worry about your skin. Some people are predisposed to acne, and some aren't. Genetics plays a role, as do hormones.

Even if a friend with acne followed your exact skincare routine (or diet, or vitamin supplementation, etc.) precisely, they would still have acne. And if you stopped your routine, you'd probably still have clear skin.

You know how best to care for your skin. Recognize that the person with acne knows the best way to care for theirs.

10

"Have You Ever Thought About Seeing a Dermatologist?"

The person with acne might actually welcome this suggestion, but it depends on how well they know you. Close friends and relatives can broach the subject, but it is touchy for casual acquaintances.

You don't know the situation. Maybe the person is already under a dermatologist's care. If you're not sure, then you're definitely not close enough to them to make this suggestion.

But if you know them well, and you approach them with love, caring, and tact, this suggestion might be just the push they need to make that appointment to help get their acne under control. They may be so dejected and discouraged that they didn't know what step to take next.

Bring up the subject in a sensitive and compassionate way. Then they'll know that you care about their well-being, that you're not judging them, and that you're supportive.

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  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Adult acne.

  2. Titus S, Hodge J. Diagnosis and treatment of acne. Am Fam Physician. 2012;86(8):734-40.