I was really desperate and tried out lots of lotions, creams and face peels

Photo of a young mother with a stroller

Julia, 22

"I still get the odd pimple nowadays. You can see my scars too, but only if you look really closely."

I started getting acne when I was about twelve years old. The first small zits appeared on my forehead just before puberty kicked in. It didn't bother me much at first because they were only on my forehead. But over time my cheeks, nose and chin were completely covered in them as well. And they weren't only unpleasant to look at – the pressure they caused was painful too.

I went to a beautician, who squeezed my spots and used various creams, chemical peels and face masks on my skin. It was pretty expensive and didn't help all that much in the end. Even if you use the most expensive lotions and creams, they won't necessarily work. Everyone reacts differently to different treatments. They didn't work for me.

I was desperate and tried lots of things

I ended up going to a dermatologist. She prescribed a cream with retinol in it. The cream made my skin really red and feel very tight, so I had to stop using it. Then I was given a solution to apply to my skin, but it didn't work for long. After a while my skin became very dry and red, which looked pretty awful. I also went to a tanning studio, but that didn't help either. I have very sensitive skin and just got sunburnt instead.

I was desperate to find something that would help, and tried out all sorts of lotions, creams and chemical peels myself. As a result I ended up getting on my face. Using so many skin care products had damaged my skin's natural protective barrier. So I decided to go to a different dermatologist, who said it would be best not to do anything about my . I found that strange at first. You generally expect dermatologists to give you something to put on your skin. Instead, he prescribed for me. They had a very positive effect and my skin improved a lot. I had fewer pimples for around half a year to a year. I still keep some leftover in a drawer now, in case my skin gets that bad again. It makes me feel more at ease. I'm quite worried that it could come back.

I also tried to cut down on sugary foods, but I probably didn't stick to that long enough. It didn't make any difference and I soon became frustrated. I don't really like meat and it definitely affected my quality of life. You really grasp at straws, you try everything out and mess your skin up, and it's expensive too.

Acne is more acceptable in men than in women

Men were often negative and dismissive towards me, which made me realize how disfiguring acne can be for a woman. I personally feel that society is more accepting of men who have acne than of women. For instance, one time a man on the street who I didn't know said to me, "Ever tried Clearasil?" Another said, "Take a look at yourself! Can't you do anything about it?"

It wasn't easy for me to cope with mentally, especially during my teens. When you go out, the first thing people see when they look at you is your face. That's their first impression of you. My self-confidence really suffered. I guess it did restrict me a bit in everyday life, like when I always had to cover up my zits before leaving the house. That was a real problem for me.

I had acne for about ten years in total and have the scars to show for it. But they aren't all that noticeable if I wear foundation.

The scars didn't just appear for no reason. I used to feel pimples before you could see them, and felt like I simply had to get rid of them. And then they would become even more infected. It was like this urge that I couldn't fight. Whenever I noticed the pressure of a zit building up, I felt like I had to squeeze it to make things OK again.

My family and best friend really helped me

My family were always there for me. They never mentioned my complexion or teased me. Especially when I felt down because I wanted to go on a night out and my face looked like a pizza. They used to take me to a beautician and helped me to pay for it too. They always supported me with what they said and did.

My best friend really helped me through things too. We spent a lot of time together. She was very understanding and helped take my mind off my acne. We always talked about other stuff so that I didn't think of it at all and felt normal for a while. It was around that time I got to know men who didn't mind being with women who had acne. That was a very important experience for me.

I think it’s important to build up your self-confidence

My other friends didn't give me any support. But I think I was partly to blame too, because I isolated myself from them. I was just scared. Whenever I went out with the girls from my class they would all be surrounded by men and I was left standing alone. I didn't want to go through that every week.

I still get the odd pimple nowadays. You can see my scars too, but only if you look really closely. I try not to leave the house without foundation on. It's like a mask that protects me.

I think it's important to build up your self-confidence. And to realize that there are so many other great things in life. Like my daughter, or sitting outside on a nice summer's evening and simply soaking up nature.


Our real-life stories summarize interviews with people who are affected by the medical condition. Our interview partners have given us permission to publish their stories. We would like to express our sincere thanks to them.

The real-life stories give an insight into how other people cope and live with a medical condition. Their opinions and comments are not recommendations by IQWiG.

Please note: The names of our interview partners have been changed to protect their identity. The photos are of models.

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Updated on December 5, 2022

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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