Teens Put a Price on Zit-Free Life
What would the average teenager pay to be zit-free for life?
That's what a study in the August issue of the Archives of Dermatology reports. Researchers at the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco asked 266 acne-ridden teens (ages 14-18) what they would pay to never have had acne and to never have it in the future; other scenarios to which they attached costs included getting their face 100 percent acne-free and keeping it that way for the rest of their lives, clearing all their acne but having scars, and reducing the amount of acne on their face by half.
Total, life-long freedom from acne was worth a median of $275, whereas being zit-free from this day forward, with no scarring, was only worth $100. The teens would pay a scant $10 to reduce their acne by half. As for the prospect of total clearing with visible scarring, teens said they'd pay zilch.
For perspective, the same questions were posed to the teens' parents -- the ones actually paying the bills. Parents' responses nearly matched their kids'; they'd pay top dollar -- a median of $250 -- for their teens to be once-and-future acne-free but much less for the other outcomes. (Sixty-five percent of the parents reported having had acne themselves.)
The teenagers (but not the parents) were also asked how much of their expected life span they'd be willing to trade for those same outcomes; the results (which in the study are presented not in simple years or months but via a ratio between the kids' actual life expectancy and the years of acne-free living they'd bargain for) were in keeping with the how-much-would-you-spend answers, with teens viewing life with scars as barely better than life with acne. In both instances, the kids who thought their acne was severe were willing to part with more money and time to be rid of it.
When I was a teenager, I had the worst acne of anyone I knew: I'll spare you the ghastly details, but, believe me, it was bad. If you had asked me then what I would have given to be rid of it forever and never to have had it, I would have pledged thousands -- and perhaps my first-born child.
On the other hand, now that that first-born child is 14 and dealing with a mild case of acne of her own, my perspective has shifted. Having acne was hardly the worst thing ever to happen to me, and in many ways it was character building; after all, it takes a lot of courage to get through your day with a face full of zits. And then there's this unexpected benefit: the knowledge that the people who liked and loved me did so on the basis of who I was, not what I looked like.
The study notes that acne has been linked to anxiety, depression, embarrassment, lack of self-confidence, social dysfunction, and unemployment.
But from where I sit, it seems to me as though teens today might handle these kinds of things better than some of us did in the 1970s. Nobody blinks at braces any more; hairstyles and clothing choices seem less rigidly dictated and more accommodating to a broader variety of personalities and physical types, and, though I have no science to support this, kids I know seem to accept acne as a natural part of growing up. Of the teens I know, I never see any of them hiding their acne behind their hand, and I see no evidence that they pick at their zits the way I did. (Of course, those kids who are bothered by their bumpy skin now have access to lots of anti-acne treatments and products that we didn't have three decades ago.)
I asked my daughter whether she would pay money or time to have avoided acne altogether. No, she answered after a moment's thought. If she'd never had acne and then had a child who did, she reasoned, how could she understand what that child was going through?
Does the teen in your life have acne? How does he or she handle it? Does seeing those zits bring back memories of your own face-off with zits?
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