Skin anxiety is real, but there are ways to cope with blemishes

From acne to rosacea, skin blemishes are not only uncomfortable but can also have a big psychological impact – sometimes referred to as skin anxiety.

Most of us battle occasional blemished skin, from sunburn and winter flakiness to breakouts at that time of the month.

Annoying but just part of life, right?

However, for 1 million Australians with an ongoing skin condition, the impact can be far more distressing, causing low self-esteem and even anxiety and depression.

How blemishes can lead to skin anxiety

Beauty may only be skin deep, but what’s happening on the surface can affect your mental health, according to Mind Body Well psychologist Dr Fran Beilharz.

“As a society, we place a lot of importance on our appearance, with skin being one factor in how we’re judged as ‘successful’ or ‘attractive’,” Dr Beilharz says.

“For some people with ongoing skin conditions, this can cause significant distress and lead to increased preoccupation and stress.”

Dr Beilharz says if a skin condition or body image concern is affecting your mental health or wellbeing, it’s important to seek support.

“This can include professional help, which might involve learning psychological strategies such as stress management, mindfulness, (and) reducing body checking,” she says.

Other ways to help you cope include the following:

  • Be patient: Set achievable goals for managing your condition.
  • Embrace self-acceptance: Acknowledge your skin condition does not define your self-worth.
  • Join a support group: Connect with others facing similar challenges.
  • Seek professional help: Counselling and therapy can help manage negative thoughts.

How treating the cause can help skin anxiety

Dermatologist and ODE Dermatology founder Dr Shammi Theesan says there are a number of ways to treat the cause of skin conditions – including the many tried-and-true methods, along with some groundbreaking new therapies.

“There’s so much we can do now – it’s a very exciting time in dermatology,” Dr Theesan says.

“Your dermatologist is best placed to fix your severe or mild skin condition.”


Typically associated with the teen years, acne can hang around well into adulthood and cause a lot of stress.

“We’ve always had great medication options, such as topical medications, prescription antibiotics and hormone modulators,” Dr Theesan says.

“But the most important development has been the advent of targeted laser therapy that makes active acne go away, while also treating the scarring.”


Eczema presents as dry, red, tight and itchy skin, and it can be very psychologically scarring, says Dr Theesan.

Treatments include monoclonal antibodies and immunotherapy, along with some exciting new targeted therapies.

“We can produce a medication or injection therapy that targets the abnormal chemical messenger causing eczema,” Dr Theesan says.

“We’ve also got non-medication options like cutting-edge laser therapy and light- (and) energy-based devices for eczema.”


Psoriasis – a long-term inflammatory disease causing red, scaly sores – is surprisingly common, says Dr Theesan.

While there’s no cure, strategies including moisturising regularly, managing stress, and avoiding alcohol and smoking, and medications such as corticosteroids, can help control it.


Rosacea is skin inflammation of the face characterised by flushing caused by enlarged surface blood vessels.

To manage the condition, it’s essential to avoid triggers such as sunlight, extreme temperatures, alcohol, spicy foods and stress.

Antibiotic creams, gels or tablets can reduce redness, while procedures such as diathermy and laser procedures can help treat enlarged capillaries.

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Written by Dimity Barber.