Teenage Acne

From lecture, the role of medicalization allowed us to gain control over our bodies and behaviors through medicine. This idea allows us to conceptualize our body as universal, there is a universal healthy person and that person is absent of disease. Through the use of medicine, such as antibiotics, one can reach the universal normal body. While later, the role of biomedicalization allowed us to enhance our bodies and behaviors through the use of medicine. This idea allows us to not only see our body in a universal health state, but gives us the flexibility to customize our bodies. After all, we are all individuals and your bodies should be too! Further, your body is quantifiable and a commodity. Your body can get you places in this world (get a good job, be a model, attract a mate, etc.) meanwhile, the health care industry can make money off it. Therefore, if you use medicine you will have a better life because you will be more efficient and enhanced version of yourself. You just have to pay a certain price for these enhancements. In essence, you are still you, but you are a better you. Plus, people get to keep their jobs and make more medicine to enhance you even more because you bought their products. And the cycle continues.

This summary of medicalization and biomedicalized is a wee bit dramatic, but I think it gets the point across. Our culture heavily relies upon medicine to not only treat illness but to make us “better” people. Meanwhile, the health and self-enhancement industries pump out more medicine to keep us satisfied and ensure profits are increasing. We have grown up among medicine, pills, treatment, and doctors. We see them as the gatekeepers to a better life lived. We often seek to be culturally ideal (in some form or another) and if we have access to the best technology and medicine we can live a healthy and successful life. For example, some college students believe if they use ADHD medication they will be smarter, get better grades, and have a better outcome later in life because they took these magical pills to help them with their homework. Or maybe you are diabetic, but you do not what to change your lifestyle? Well if you take the medication that Paula Deen does, you can! In these examples, you see that our culture has an obsession with quick fixes. We always want to be more efficient, like a machine really. In order to do that, we want to take the quick route. Instead of putting aside more time to study, I could just take Ritalin. That way I can party all the time and still do well in school. Or if I am overweight and do not what to change my lifestyle and eating habits, I can just take a diet pill to fix that problem. In some ways, medicine has become the magic of the modern age.

Clean & Clear & Confident <– Link to video.

I see the treatment of acne as something that has been highly biomedicalized. In this short Clean & Clear advertisement one can see cultural ideologies associated with the development of acne. This advertisement displays their product as a remedy for acne and specifically targets young girls. Our society puts an emphasis on flawless skin, and when girls start developing acne around the age of puberty (which is already a lot to deal with) they see themselves deviate from the cultural ideal. The social role of these girls is to have perfect skin so their acne will not distract others. An added bonus to using Clean & Clean spot treatment is that the “real” you can shine through. Doctors have no social role in this ad. You do not need an adult to tell you what to use on your face for acne treatment, because you are an individual and can decide for yourself. And there is the strategy – target the young girl who feels self-conscious, who is going through all of these changes, who feels like she cannot talk to anyone, feels ugly because she has acne, and who lacks confidence because of it. Tell her it can all be fixed and she can have her individuality back. Show her images of relatable young girls without acne. Girls who are just like her. I have to say their presentation is well thought out. I remember being a young girl with acne and feeling like people could only see my blemished skin. Now a few years older, I see that idea as pretty ridiculous. Rather, we should be showing young girls that acne does not block your personality or the “real you,” because who you are will show regardless.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Emily Tassoni says:

    Easily the biggest social force that pushed the reframing of acne to an illness is the media. Ever since the invention of the silver screen, people have had a whole new way to measure themselves by society’s standards. The people we see on TV and movies are often the cream of the crop, the ideal citizens. How many of the main characters in a movie or TV show do you see with chronic acne? Not very many, that’s for sure. What was once viewed as a normal part of growing up has now been reframed as a skin disease, as it deviates from the expectations of the norm provided by the media. The media stresses that having clear, beautiful skin is a quality of someone who is socially successful in our culture. Another perspective as to why acne is considered a disease is basic sexual selection. Since most people only have acne in their teen years, acne implies that the affected person is too young, immature, and under developed to be an acceptable mate. In this day and age, late puberty is often the time when people become sexually active, so teenage acne becomes inhibitory to one’s expected social role and therefore can be framed as a disease that should be treated as such.

    Bloom, Dale. “Is acne really a disease?: A theory of acne as an evolutionarily significant, high-order psychoneuroimmune interaction timed to cortical development with a crucial role in mate choice.” Medical Hypotheses 62 (2004): 462-469

  2. Francesca Rogers says:

    You make a great point when you say we should be showing young girls that acne does not block the “real you” or block your personality. Many things contribute to how young adolescents perceive themselves. A huge social contributor is indeed the media; the advertisements that are on every minute of every day saying things like this Clean & Clear commercial says does nothing to boost the young people of this generation. People are falling more in line with technology these days and this is where advertising companies get the idea to host thirty second acne advertisement. In an article by the University of Heidelberg, they found that acne can have severe consequences for the personality development of young adolescents such as depression and suicide. The reason for this is because society has made acne out to be a really bad guy. It hinders other people’s ability to see us for who we truly are, but this is not the case. Historically, acne has been around as long as humans have been on the earth. Economically, advertising companies and dermatology agencies push to make the big money by showing these ads on television and disfiguring how we look at each other. Acne is nothing other than what we obtain when we go through puberty. Others may have worse cases of it, but it should not impact how we view ourselves and the people around us.

    Uta Jappe, “Pathological Mechanisms of Acne with Special Emphasis on Propionibacterium acnes and Related Therapy,” Acta Derm Venereol 83 (2003): 241–248.

  3. Jenelle Dushane says:

    As far as culture goes with acne, I see that is highly looked down upon. Smart kids who are often doing the best they can to maintain a clear face often cannot complete this act with over the counter products alone. Some ingredients may end up being more harmful to them than not treating the acne at all. Culture has a way of showing those who are flawed as not having fun while others perceive as superficially perfect having fun, friends and popularity. Medicaliaztion has expanded the category of acne so that it is easier for teens to obtain prescription medicine. My brother, who is more lazy than having an actual skin issue, was given a cream so powerful it made his whole face turn red and itch. People should turn back to history to answer now a day problems such as these, such as making their own soap, taking baths daily, washing their face twice a day and eating healthy. But now instead of trying these things people turn to the easy way out such as prescriptions and surgeries, which have not been out long enough to find out long term effects. Like in the pill movie, ” We’re all a big clinical trial.”

  4. sarah rousakis says:

    Really enjoyed your post. It is very evident that young girls especially are feeling more pressure to have the “perfect” look, which includes having the best clothes, perfect hair and flawless skin. The media obviously has a significant role in defining teenage acne as an actual “illness.” Advertising companies take advantage of the fact that these young girls are naive and very impressionable, and they use their advertisements to convince these girls that their skin is not attractive and is not ideal. They make them believe that their lives will be so much better if they use their product and have clear skin. Historically, acne was just seen as a sign of going through puberty, when a boy or girl was going through physical and chemical changes that causes their skin to break out. It wasn’t seen as something that actually needed special attention and that made people feel so severely self-conscious and ashamed. An article stated that acne affects between 40 and 50 million people in the United States. The researchers were conducting a study in order to determine if certain environmental factors were linked to the development of acne and they found that in comparison of nonwestern societies, that their was significantly less incidence of acne in nonwestern societies than in the United States. Some groups of people ages 15-25 in nonwestern societies showed no incidence of acne at all. These findings lead them to believe that their is some connection between environment and development of acne. This significant incidence of acne in the US is the perfect opportunity for the media to use this condition and portray it as an actual illness that needs to be treated in order to make profit.

    Cordain, Loren. “Acne Vulgaris: A Disease of Western Civilization.” JAMA Dermatology 138(12):1584-1590.

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