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Acne Discrimination: Study Reveals Social And Professional Stigma

People with darker skin tones and severe acne face the greatest stigma, highlighting the need for change.
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People with acne face social and professional stigma, reveals a new study.

American researchers found that individuals with darker skin tones and more severe acne were likely to face the greatest stigmatizing attitudes from the general public in both work and social scenarios.

The research team said their findings, published in JAMA Dermatology, highlight the need to identify ways to reduce such attitudes and increase access to care.

People with acne face social and professional stigma, reveals a new study. SHOTPOT/PEXELS

Corresponding author Dr. John Barbieri, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said: “Our findings show that stigmatizing attitudes about acne can impair quality of life, potentially by affecting personal relationships and employment opportunities.

“Acne is often wrongly perceived as merely a cosmetic issue.

“It’s important that people with this medical problem get access to treatment, just like any other condition.”

He said most teenagers and many adults experience acne at some point in their lifetimes.

While previous studies have examined how acne impacts psychological well-being, but little was known about public perception and attitudes towards them.

​​​For the study, Dr. Barbieri and his team obtained stock portraits of four adults, including men and women of either light or dark skin tones.


The researchers digitally altered the pictures to create two additional versions of each with mild and severe acne, resulting in a total pool of 12 portraits.

They then performed an internet survey of more than 1,300 participants, who were randomly shown one of the 12 images and asked a set of questions regarding stigmatizing attitudes about the person pictured.

The researchers found that participants were less likely to want to be friends, have close contact, or post a photograph on social media with people with severe acne, compared to those without acne.

Participants reported a greater desire to socially distance themselves from people with acne, particularly if the pictured person had a darker skin tone.

People with acne face social and professional stigma, reveals a new study. POLINA TANKILEVITCH/PEXELS

The research team also found that respondents were more likely to agree with stereotypes about people with severe acne, tending to perceive them as unhygienic, unattractive, unintelligent and untrustworthy.

The stereotype endorsement was also higher in individuals with darker skin, according to the findings.

Participants with past or current acne had less stigmatizing attitudes and only just over a quarter (26.4 percent) believed that acne was a cosmetic issue.

Dr. Barbieri said further studies are required to better understand if the relationship between darker skin tones and stigmatizing attitudes results from underlying structural racism or other factors.

He added: “Many insurers poorly cover acne and rosacea treatments, claiming that it’s cosmetic.

“Our study highlights the need for that narrative to change and for ​​identifying approaches to reduce stigmatizing attitudes in the community.”


Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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