What is Acne Dysmorphia and How to Overcome It?

What is Acne Dysmorphia and How to Overcome It?

If you believe you're struggling with acne dysmorphia, you're not alone. Explore the impact, causes, and empowering strategies to overcome it with this guide.
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Acne is typically thought of as a purely external issue. Some people believe that it only impacts a person’s outward appearance and nothing more. But anyone who has struggled with acne knows all too well that, unfortunately, the pain of acne often goes deeper. 

When someone suffers from persistent pimples, negative thoughts concerning their appearance can start creeping up. If that person becomes overly consumed with these thoughts to the point where they believe their acne is worse than it actually is, this may be a sign of acne dysmorphia

This can include feeling like even people across the street can see how "bad” your skin is, or feeling like you don't want to be in pictures, or that you think opportunities will not materialize for you because of your skin. These are real feelings and we as founders have had them (or something similar) many, many times. 

Dysmorphia often leads to a decrease in confidence and, and if left untreated, can lead to social anxiety and make it very difficult to move through normal daily life. It can also impact intimacy and romantic relationships (as if dating isn't hard enough!) But please have hope: with the right mental and dermatological help, recovery from acne dysmorphia is very possible. 

What Is Acne Dysmorphia?

Acne dysmorphia is a subset of Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD, a mental health condition that causes someone to worry incessantly about perceived flaws in their appearance. 

People who suffer from body dysmorphia may grow so preoccupied with concerns about how they look that their daily enjoyment begins to drain as a consequence, often leading to periods of depression.

Even though the perceived flaws that they’re fretting over might not be noticeable to other people, someone experiencing BDD might find it harder to banish the negative thoughts and self-criticism from their mind. The same goes for acne dysmorphia and the appearance of their skin. 

Who Can Get Acne Dysmorphia?

You may assume that acne dysmorphia is most prevalent among people who suffer from extreme breakouts regularly. 

However, a defining characteristic of the condition is that it magnifies the perceived severity of one’s pimples. In other words, acne dysmorphia causes people to think that their acne is far worse and much more noticeable than it is in reality.

This means that anyone, regardless of how clear their skin may be, can potentially develop obsessive thoughts and find themselves experiencing some level of acne dysmorphia. 

In particular, this mental struggle can often impact people who: 

  • Suffered from severe acne in the past
  • Experienced trauma or bullying due to acne
  • Still have acne scars that won’t go away
  • Have acne that seems unpredictable and comes out of nowhere
  • Have perfectionism tendencies

Gaining awareness about what acne dysmorphia is and learning strategies for treating it can really benefit the one suffering. Even if you don’t personally experience the condition, knowing what it is could help you help a friend or loved one in the future. 

So whether you experience chronic acne, only grapple with the occasional blemish, or fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, read on to learn more about strategies for overcoming acne dysmorphia. 

How Acne Dysmorphia Affects Self-Image

Breakouts that occur anywhere on the body can negatively impact one’s self-esteem. This is even more true when acne congregates on the face, where it can be very difficult to disguise or hide it. Therefore, it’s not surprising that acne dysmorphia can have long-lasting psychological ramifications. 

Research shows that individuals with acne may:

  1. Feel dissatisfied with their appearance 
  2. Suffer from self-consciousness, lack confidence, or have a negative body image
  3. Avoid social situations with their peers
  4. Be less inclined to participate in sports 
  5. Develop anxiety or depression

Further research needs to be done on the prevalence of acne dysmorphia specifically, but some studies have shown that the prevalence of BDD in people with acne can range from 9 to 15%.

An individual with acne or body dysmorphia perceives their body-image concern to be more severe than others around them likely perceive. Therefore, the list of self-esteem-deflating items above may feel much heavier to someone with acne dysmorphia, resulting in an especially low self-image. 

Overcoming Acne Dysmorphia With the Right Skincare Regimen

A great first step toward overcoming acne dysmorphia is giving your skin the support it needs to combat acne. Treating your skin with effective ingredients can help you feel more in control of your breakouts, bringing the power back into your hands. 

To set your skin up for success, incorporate these three key elements into your routine: 

  • A gentle exfoliator – To help your skin slough off dead cells and dissolve away excess oil, apply an exfoliator that’s formulated with effective yet gentle ingredients. Choose a hydrating serum, scrub, or mask from our advanced line of non-comedogenic exfoliators to achieve skin that is brighter, smoother, and clearer. 
  • Acne scar treatment – Scars that stick around long after a blemish has gone away can be disheartening. Their lingering appearance can cause the negative emotions or social anxiety to stick around long after the actual pimple is gone. Here at CLEARSTEM, we formulated an entire line of acne scar skincare solutions so you can address these concerns and work toward removing acne scars.
  • Skincare for dark spots – Skin concerns come in many forms. They’re not strictly limited to the red, pus-filled pimples that come to mind when we think of acne. Dark spots can cause distress, and they respond to different ingredients as compared to acne and acne scars. Luckily, there’s vitamins for acne scars and dark spots in the form of serums, scrubs, and face masks to help you treat these concerns.
  • Maintain an anti-acne diet – Certain foods are known to trigger acne breakouts, including dairy products, processed sugars, and, for some individuals, eggs, due to their potential to increase inflammation and alter hormone levels. An anti-acne diet focuses on reducing the intake of these trigger foods while emphasizing whole, nutrient-rich foods that can help reduce inflammation and balance hormone levels, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. 

With the right skincare solutions on your side, you may be able to eliminate some of the acne that is causing your negative body image. But when dealing with acne dysmorphia, the most important thing you can do for your well-being is to seek psychological support. 

Seeking Support on the Journey to Skin Positivity

The path to recovery from acne dysmorphia is much more than skin-deep. The psychological effects of acne dysmorphia can linger long after the acne and its scars dissipate. 

That’s why it’s recommended to seek mental health support from a healthcare professional if you are or think you may be suffering from acne dysmorphia. 

Remember that there is no shame in seeking help. Everyone needs support—whether it’s a caring ear or a powerful skincare regimen. 

Explore Acne Treatment Options with CLEARSTEM 

Because acne dysmorphia is not talked about very often, it can be easy for those suffering from it to feel alone. But the truth is, if you are struggling with this mental health challenge, you are not the only one, and there are strategies you can use to work toward recovery. 

In addition to seeking psychological support, investing in your skin health with high-quality products can help you take steps to regain confidence in your complexion. We hope the guidance in this article and our collection of dermatological solutions help you regain hope and build a healthy relationship with your skin.


Acne Support. Acne Dysmorphic Disorder. https://www.acnesupport.org.uk/emotional-support/skin-discolouration-and-staining/

National Library of Medicine. The Psychosocial Impact of Acne Vulgaris. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5029236/

Advances in Dermatology and Allergology. Body dysmorphic disorder in patients with acne: treatment challenges. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8953875/