The Link Between Depression and Acne

Health Writer

A number of studies have linked depression with acne. The exact relationship isn't yet understood, but research has shown that acne can lead to mental distress and, according to  a study completed in 2004, "the level of mental distress kids reported was strongly associated with how much acne they said they had, independent of other factors like diet or lifestyle."  [Teen Acne and Depression: Can Mood Worsen Skin?, 2009, TimeHealth]

While depression, anxiety and stress are not thought to cause acne, they can worsen the situation. It is not understood why stress increases acne, but there is a strong correlation between the two. A relationship also exists between depression and acne. Some experts speculate that those who are depressed may have a lower self-image and report acne as being worse than it is. Others speculate that symptoms of depression may cause a teen to not follow regiments, such as taking medication or using anti-acne products, which can help to reduce breakouts.

Lifestyle choices were also looked at but those were not found to have much of a contributing factor:

  • One area looked at was diet. It was thought that those with depression might be eating more junk food, such as chocolate and greasy foods, and this was contributing to acne, however this was not found to be true.
  • Another theory researchers reviewed was whether teens using alcohol and cigarettes because of depression or anxiety were at a higher risk for severe acne. This was also found to be insignificant.

The study showed that mental distress was the area most closely associated with acne. Another study backs up this information, showing that participants reporting having substantial acne were more likely to be depressed and have suicidal thoughts. Twice as many women as men reported suicidal thoughts.

It is important for parents to keep an eye out for possible signs of depression in teens with acne. Stay aware of whether they begin withdrawing from their friends or avoiding participating in activities. Other tips for parents include:

  • Emphasize your children's strengths and positive traits. Remind them about their academic achievements, their talents and why they are special.
  • Compliment their physical appearance, they may have wonderful hair or sparkling eyes.
  • Monitor and encourage treatment for acne, taking them to a dermatologist for help and making sure they follow the doctor's instructions.

If you see signs of depression, talk with your doctor and have your child speak with a therapist. Treating the acne is certainly important but it is also important to take the depression seriously and treat that as well.

See also:

How to Cope with Depression and a Chronic Skin Condition

Depression and Skin Disorders


"Link Found Between Teens' Stress Levels and Acne Severity," 2007, MedicalNewsToday

"Parsing the Link Between Acne and Depression," 2010, Sept 16, Meredith Melnick, TimeHealth

"Teen Acne and Depression: Can Mood Worsen Skin?" 2009, Sept 17, John Cloud, TimeHealth