Acne affects more than 50 million Americans, making it the most common skin condition in the United States. But while many patients get professional help to control their breakouts, the toll acne takes on their mental and emotional health is often overlooked.
Alberto Martinez began suffering with long-term acne as a teenager. He was uncomfortable in his own skin, and by the time he was 26, it was really taking a toll on his self-esteem.
“I was very shy, and just the fact that I was breaking out and had a lot of scars, it just made me more afraid to approach people – even women as well,” Martinez told FoxNews.com “I was very introverted as a result of that.”
After years of suffering and trying everything from medicated creams, to pills and cleansers, Martinez went to see a dermatologist.
“When we met Alberto, we really tailored a plan for him, and his plan involved oral medications, topical medications and lasers and light treatments – including the blue light photo dynamic therapy,” said Dr. Eric Schweiger, a dermatologist and owner of Clear Clinic in New York City. “The blue light acts to directly kill the bacteria, very similar to the way an oral antibiotic would.”
Schweiger noticed that Martinez and many of his other patients were not getting the help they needed to deal with both the physical and mental side effects of acne.
“Half the patients had never seen a dermatologist and the other half of the patients had been to… 10 dermatologists, and they were looking for something besides the oral and the topical treatments,” said Schweiger. “For those patients, we started doing lasers and light treatments, which really kill the acne bacteria and change the glands on the face so they're less hospitable for the bacteria to live.”
Schweiger opened the Clear Clinic – the first and only dedicated acne treatment center in New York. Complete with a staff psychologist, the Clear Clinic aims to help patients overcome their acne issues from the inside out.
“We found that patients with acne also had low self-esteem,” Schweiger said. “We had a lot of skin pickers, and they were hesitant to go to a psychologist,” said Schweiger. “But when we told them that we have one in our office, they were much more likely to go to the doctor.”
Studies show that acne goes hand-in-hand with depression and anxiety, and mental distress can actually contribute to the skin condition worsening. In fact, some acne patients have reported experiencing social, psychological and emotional issues similar to people with chronic health problems – such as epilepsy, diabetes and arthritis.
“If someone is very depressed, then they're going to perhaps be at risk for suicide or hurting themselves,” said Laura Feder, a clinical psychologist at Clear Clinic. “Or on a lower level, maybe it would interfere with their functioning – with their relationships, with their school, with their work. Those are the kinds of things we see particularly with cases of depression but could also go on in anxiety or low self esteem.”
Patients at the Clear Clinic are assigned a personal acne coach or a physician’s assistant to help them through their treatment program. Members of the Clear Club – which Schweiger said he likens to a gym membership of sorts – receive email access to their coach for questions and prescription refills, as well as discounts on treatments based on their needs.
After just three weeks at the Clear Clinic, Martinez saw the results he had always desired.
“I thought that I would never have clear skin and look at me now – I can't believe it,” he said. “As soon as I wake up in the morning, I'm like, ‘Wow, is this reality?’ It feels great.”
For more information, visit the Clear Clinic website at ClearClinic.com.