Nobody likes damaged goods: The experience of adult visible acne


Correspondence should be addressed to Craig D. Murray, School of Psychological Sciences, Manchester University, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK (


Objectives. While mild to severe acne is a common problem in the teenage years, many adults also suffer from the condition. Although there is an appreciable body of dermatological literature on this issue, the psychosocial concomitants of severe, visible adult acne are little elaborated. The aim of this research is to detail the salient experiences of adults with severe visible acne, and to set out the implications of these experiences.

Design. A phenomenological qualitative approach was adopted to elicit detailed accounts of the impact of visible acne upon the lives of a small sample of sufferers.

Method. 11 adults suffering from severe visible acne took part in semi-structured interviews via e-mail, over an extended period of time. Transcripts of these interviews served as the data for an interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results. Five themes emerged, detailing different aspects of respondents' personal and social lives in the context of their acne. These were: powerlessness and the variable nature of acne; comparisons, self-image and identity; the experience of general social interaction; relationships with family and friends; and gender, sexuality, and romantic relationships.

Conclusions. These themes allowed a deeper understanding of issues reported in previous quantitative research in the area, as well as revealing findings that had not been previously reported in relation to the experience of adult acne and its impact upon personal and social relationships. With an acknowledgement of these experiences, personal and professional acquaintances have the potential to improve their interpersonal relationship with the person concerned, and encourage positive changes in their psychological health and social interaction.