Acne is one of the most prevalent skin issues, affecting many people worldwide with up to 80% of South Africans suffering from acne at some stage in their lives. It is usually characterised by pimples or blackheads on your face. While acne is not a life-threatening condition, it can significantly affect one’s confidence and highly impact your self-esteem.
Although it is most commonly associated with puberty and the teenage years, acne can occur at any age, even in adults.
Sixteen-year-old Nothando Msibi from Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal was in grade 8 in 2020 when her battle with acne began, diminishing her self-esteem ever since.
Battling to face the world
“Having acne affected me very badly; I felt ugly, and I could not even go out on dates with my friends or do anything that required me to meet people. I was always indoors, and the only time I would go out was when I was going to school. It was also hard for me because, in our community, most people believe you are bewitched if you have acne. And being stopped and advised to apply this and that really destroyed my self-esteem,” she says.
Discovering her true beauty
Msibi expresses gratitude to her dermatologist, Dr Kunene from Empageni, for making her more aware of her beauty during a difficult battle with acne and now her acne has started improving.
“I am thankful to my dermatologist and glad it is improving, and I’m beginning to understand that having acne does not mean I’m ugly; I can still be beautiful with a few spots on my face.
For Lethabo Chauke from Mabopane, getting acne as a young adult was a difficult experience because it is usually expected in one’s teen years. She states that she felt really alone and betrayed by her face until she realised she was not the only one who gets acne during adulthood.
“I believe my acne was caused by oily foods, and it started very unexpectedly in February 2022. It affected me a lot, and even now I sometimes struggle with low self-esteem. I cannot go places without makeup; at first, I would only put Vaseline on, so it has highly impacted my usual routine. I am however taking it one day at a time and learning self-acceptance,” says Chauke.
Impact on self-esteem
According to Durban-based dermatologist Dr Thembelihle Zulu, acne deeply affects people’s self-esteem and outer appearance because people are aware that the face is the first thing they notice.
“Acne has a huge impact on mental health and can cause depression, lower performance at work or school, and can lead to one being antisocial,” she says.
“Acne is mainly caused by hormonal imbalances. Many people would say it is caused by the food they eat such as peanuts. Without disputing it, it can be true, however, there are no proven facts or studies. The current prevalent cause is hormonal imbalances, leading to dead skin cells and clogged hair follicles causing blockages to the pores,” Zulu explains.
She also adds that in addition to adults, it can be caused by the products people use. Acne is however the same whether one is young or old. If you are prone to acne, you cannot prevent acne, but it is controllable and easy to treat.
Acne can also be triggered by tight clothing, weather conditions, stress, side effects of medication, or even squeezing pimples, the Cleveland Clinic reveals.
There is no specific solution for everyone for treating acne because the treatment depends on the severity, type of acne, skin type, and various other factors.
Zulu encourages people to see a dermatologist to find the best solution for them, whether it be oral medications, topical medications, or medicated therapies to treat their skin and the best skincare routine for them as there are different underlying causes.
Improvement can be seen when being gentle when washing the acne-prone parts of your skin and using your fingertips in a circular motion when applying your skin care products or when washing your face.
Zulu furthermore emphasises that the skin is just part of a human being; what defines one is the beauty of within, thus acne should not make one forget about their inner beauty.
Get the Health For Mzansi newsletter: Your bi-weekly dose of kasi health, wellness and self-care inspiration.