Consider mental health support for some people with acne, says NICE

In final guidance published today (25 June), NICE has for the first time recommended mental health support for people who are severely affected by their acne.

Acne is a common skin condition that affects 95% of people in England at some point in their lives. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and are caused when tiny holes in the skin, known as hair follicles, become blocked.

While most individuals will experience some acne in their teens and early 20s, around 3% of the population have acne past the age of 35. The condition is also tied to genetics and can run in families. 

Though the type and severity of acne can vary, 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.

The new guideline is the first by NICE to address acne vulgaris, and offers recommendations on pharmacological and photodynamic therapies, which will help the majority of people with the condition.

Recommendations also emphasise the importance of supporting the mental health of individuals who are experiencing significant psychological distress as a result. The guideline advises clinicians to consider referral to mental health services where appropriate, especially for those with a current or past history of severe depression or anxiety, body dysmorphic disorder, suicidal ideation and self-harm.

Dr Paul Chrisp, director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, said: “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. 

“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: “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.”

Access the full guideline here.