While people were busy hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer in those first weeks of lockdown, my skin was having its own panic attack thanks to a swift resurgence of acne breakouts that looked as angry and frustrated as I was feeling on the inside. Now, this entire blog started as a result of the acne I experienced as a teenager and so whenever it reappears so do the old feelings I also experienced. However, hearing from friends and customers in Pharmacy it appears my skin and I are not alone.
“Half of the patients I’m seeing are people with acne,” explains Associate Professor Kurt Gebauer, dermatologist and co-chair of All About Acne who names one major culprit, stress. “People are losing jobs or having reduced hours. Younger people especially were losing their part-time jobs, some were struggling at home. They couldn’t go out, play sport, catch up with friends. Others were worried about elderly family members they couldn’t see. There was a lot of uncertainty and change in the community contributing to stress.”
And with the arrival of acne often comes effects to self-esteem and mental health, where “acne and depression is a known issue affecting people of all ages; not just teens,” says Gebauer who stresses the importance of making your health a priority, to find the time to see a doctor who can help with your acne as well as your mental health.
But when do we put down the store bought beauty treatments that promise so much? Because for many of us, we’re continually told our acne is ‘not that bad’ or ‘will clear up eventually’, as if we’re taking it all too seriously and really have nothing to worry about during a pandemic. “If acne is affecting your enjoyment of life, it’s really important to see a doctor ASAP”, stresses Gebauer.
“Dependent on your type of acne, your GP may give you a referral to see a dermatologist. Revisit your doctor or ask to see a dermatologist if you’re not seeing results from your treatment. You should be seeing some acne improvement within four weeks of starting treatment with full benefits taking up to a few months, dependent on the severity of your acne”.
Surprisingly, there are some benefits of acne breakouts in lockdown (and I don’t mean because we weren’t out and about as before). Firstly, there was more time to focus on personal health – and that includes skin.
“COVID-19, for some people, has given them time to get other parts of their lives organised. No sport, no socialising means there’s opportunities to get acne fixed. It’s not just people seeing a doctor for the first time about their acne, but people who weren’t seeing results or weren’t on the most appropriate treatment for their acne deciding it was time to ‘upgrade’,” says Gebauer.
“Lockdown meant some dermatologists had a reduced patient load so it was easier to get an appointment, while acne patients are also perfect for teleconsulting, which some doctors and dermatologists employed”.
We may be moving out of lockdown but the stress has not subsided, so how do we ease the burden of breakouts? The simple answer is to get it treated and that means seeing a Pharmacist, GP or Dermatologist for advice on the best ways to manage your acne.
“Relaxation techniques – listening to music, walking, practising yoga – can help bring down the stress levels, but it’s important to stay positive!,” Gebauer says, “This is the best time to have acne because in 2020 we have a range of high quality, safe treatments, so there’s every reason to believe we’ll find the one that works for you”.
Associate Professor Kurt Gebauer, is a dermatologist and co-chair of All About Acne