A person’s physical appearance is the first thing seen by others in social situations. The skin is one of the most important components of an individual’s physical appearance. In man, the face has evolved to become one of the most important visual tools in communication with thirty or more muscles to control facial expressions alone. The skin on the face, and secondly on the hands is therefore under almost constant scrutiny during normal day-to-day life.
Also, beauty is a visual impression of form or colour. It is also a subjective appreciation of that quality, as not all objects defined as beautiful by one will be found as such by another. However, in any one particular society, there will generally be much agreement as to what or who is beautiful or attractive. If a person’s form or colour is damaged then beauty may be lost. Unfortunately, in society, individuals with an atypical facial appearance are often prejudiced against, and a person with a facial disfigurement may experience severe social handicap.
The majority of people with cosmetically disfiguring skin disorders likely experience considerable psychosocial rejection which is mainly determined by feelings of stigma due to their skin lesions.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an example of a chronic non-contagious dermatological disorder associated with cosmetically disfiguring skin lesions, which can often have severe social impacts on a patient. It cannot pass to or harm an individual without the disease. Many patients avoid social activities such as swimming, sunbathing, communal baths or showers, playing sports and attending a hairdresser because of their psoriasis. Choice and colour of clothing can also be affected and some patients have such social phobia that they avoid leaving their own homes because of their psoriasis. Sexual relationships can be inhibited by their psoriasis, especially in those who have psoriasis affecting the groin area.
Also, the majority of patients feel that people stare at them because of their psoriasis and that non-sufferers may incorrectly regard their condition as contagious. Many feel ‚untouchable’ or ‚like a leper’ and regarded their bodies as ‚unclean’ because of their psoriasis. Understandably, most patients feel that the worse factor about psoriasis is the general appearance of their skin. Many psoriasis patients experience outright rejection such as being asked, due to their psoriasis to leave places such as a swimming pool, gym or a hairdresser. It is not surprising, therefore, that psoriasis patients, anticipating rejection, avoid public places or interpersonal situations such as swimming pools and thus reduce the quality of their life and social opportunities.
What is acne?
Another skin condition that has been associated with social stigma is acne which may lead to depression. Acne vulgaris is a common skin complaint, especially in adolescents. It has been shown that the severity of acne can determine the extent of embarrassment and enjoyment and participation in daily social activities, in a way, handicapping the individual. Unfortunately, such a skin disease should occur in this age group, especially as this is the age at which self-identification and relationships with the opposite sex are most important. Also, at this age, many teenagers will be comparing themselves to the next person and any atypia will be keenly spotted and felt in the form of jibes, and comments. These conditions illustrate the profound cosmetic impact of skin disorders on body image and the resulting emotional burden that patients with cosmetically disfiguring skin disorders must carry.
Individuals growing up in Western society learn to believe that attributes such as clear skin, strong nails and clean hair are what is needed if one is to achieve that elusive quality of beauty. Therefore, if one lacks these features, because of a skin disorder then one is no longer seen as attractive or beautiful.