How to Deal with Acne Emotionally Using Self-compassion

How to Deal with Acne Emotionally Using Self-compassion

4 minute read

Self-compassion is the antidote to self-criticism, the way we tend to judge and punish ourselves when we see acne breakouts in the mirror. Developing a kind and friendly relationship with ourselves is essential for learning how to deal with acne emotionally and promote clear skin. 

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What is self-compassion
  • Which elements are necessary to become self-compassionate
  • How to deal with acne emotionally by practicing self-compassion

Self-compassion is an underrated skill that is necessary to improve your skin

If you find yourself in a situation where you feel like you've tried everything to heal your acne, have you looked at the state of your mindset? Self-compassion is an underrated skill that you need to reduce stress and improve your skin.


Self-compassion is a form of stress-management that helps you foster feelings of kindness towards yourself. When you find yourself struggling, it’s about first recognizing the pain you’re experiencing and being aware that everyone feels this way sometimes. Rather than isolating and feeling shameful for having acne, self-compassion helps you see that breakouts are a very common human experience. 

Knowing you aren’t alone in this suffering is a powerful mindset shift that allows you to stop the self-pity and give yourself the kindness you need to avoid stress, frustration and self-criticism when you need it most.

Self-compassion isn’t selfish, nor is it being self-indulgent or self-centered. It isn’t about being lazy, giving up your goal to reduce breakouts or pampering yourself into clear skin. It’s a necessary skill you need to make progress with your acne and protect your emotional health.


According to expert Kristen Neff, there are three key elements of self-compassion.

1. Self-kindness versus self-judgement

Self-compassionate women understand that imperfection, making mistakes and failing is an inevitable part of life. When confronted with painful experiences, they are gentle and kind with themselves rather than getting angry when life falls short of their ideals.

It’s true - we can’t always be or have what we want. When we fight this reality, our suffering only increases in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism that makes acne a lot worse. When we accept this reality and cultivate feelings of sympathy and kindness, we are able to overcome the emotional burden that comes with having acne.

2. Common humanity versus isolation

I’ve been there - extremely frustrated by not having clear skin despite my years of tireless efforts. This feeling often creates an irrational sense of isolation as if I am the only one suffering with acne right now. 

The reality is that all humans suffer, and according to the Canadian Dermatology Association, acne affects 5.6 million Canadians, which is nearly 20 percent of the population! Interestingly, women make up 75 percent of adult cases, likely due to societal pressures and the added stress that comes with being a woman. 

Self-compassion teaches us that we are not alone in this suffering, that we do not need to isolate ourselves from friends or family and feel shameful for not having perfect skin. Instead, we recognize that it’s a shared human experience, one that can help us find community and common humanity.

3. Mindfulness versus over identification

When it comes to acne, it’s common to suppress the negative emotions we experience or exaggerate them in a moment of suffering. Self-compassion helps us see our situation as part of a larger picture by being mindful in-the-moment. 

Mindfulness is a non-judgemental mental state where we can observe our thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. In fact, what we resist will persist and so being aware of how you’re feeling and processing the emotion is critical to reducing stress and improving your skin.

According to Neff “We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.  Mindfulness requires that we not be “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings, so that we don’t get caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.”


Self-compassion is a skill that you can develop with practice. The next time you start to feel self-conscious about your acne, walk away from the mirror, find yourself a comfortable seated position and play the following video to help you cultivate feelings of kindness towards yourself.

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