For the first time, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended mental health support for people severely affected by their acne.

Acne affects 95% of people in England at some point in their lives. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and are caused when hair follicles become blocked.

While most individuals experience acne in their teens and early 20s, around 3% of the population have acne past the age of 35.

Evidence suggests that any form of acne can cause a person to experience psychological distress. In some cases this can be a part of, or contribute to, a mental health disorder.

NICE's new recommendations include the use of pharmacological and photodynamic therapies which will help the majority of people with the condition.

They also emphasise the importance of supporting the mental health of individuals who are experiencing significant psychological distress as a result. 

Clinicians are advised to consider referral to mental health services where appropriate, especially in those with a current or past history of severe depression or anxiety, body dysmorphic disorder, suicidal ideation and self-harm.

“Acne affects most of us at some point in our lives, and while it is usually limited to a few facial spots in our teenage years, for some people it is more severe and can impact on their self-esteem and mental health. Not everyone with acne will experience high levels of psychological distress, but it’s important that we find ways to support those who do,” said Dr Paul Chrisp, Director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE.

“With this new guideline it is our hope that people whose acne affects their everyday lives are offered the support they need to treat the condition, both physically and mentally.”

Professor Nick Levell, Chair of the British Association of Dermatologists' Therapy & Guidelines Sub-Committee, added: “It is great that NICE has chosen to work with the British Association of Dermatologists which has co-badged these evidence-based guidelines to help people who are suffering with acne. 

“We all hope that this will improve care for adults and children, help reduce resistance to antibiotics, highlight areas where further research is needed and provide guidance to all those involved in looking after people with this distressing condition.”

The full Acne vulgaris NICE guideline can be accessed here