“You can’t walk around with Photoshop on your face”: experiences of acne and contemporary media


  • K. Adkins
  • A. Thompson
  • J. Moses
  • P. Overton


Background: The sociocultural model of body image proposes that mass media has a pervasive influence on how women feel about their bodies. However, existing research neglects women’s experiences of media and living with an appearance-altering skin conditions. The study aims were to identify and examine young women’s experiences of acne in the context of contemporary media (e.g. internet, social media, advertising). Method: Semi-structured interviews, incorporating photo-elicitation, were conducted with 15 women with chronic acne. Interviews and images were analysed using a dual-deductive inductive approach to thematic analysis, informed by the sociocultural model of body image. Results: Three themes are discussed: (1) ‘Media portrayals of acne’, reveals frustration with ‘perfect skin’ as the societal ideal, the absence of acne in the media, and stereotypes about people with acne; (2) ‘Skin-dissatisfaction’ looks at how women with acne negatively compare themselves to images of ‘perfect skin’, judging themselves as deviating from this ideal, and seeking to meet this ideal through the use of airbrushing, make-up and the multiple treatments; and (3) ‘Media as a source of information’ considers how women seek, use, and appraise different sources of information on acne. Discussion The results of the study can only be partially understood in relation to existing sociocultural theory, and theories of appearance comparison. The study adds to the existing literature, by revealing, in detail, women with acne’s use and perceptions of modern media and the influence that this has on their psychosocial wellbeing. Furthermore, participants raised ideas for how societal attitudes could be changed.





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