What is acne?
Acne is a common skin condition which affects most people at some point in their lives. It can cause spots to develop on the skin of your face, back, chest and buttocks.
If you struggle to control the symptoms, acne can cause distress and may lead to a feeling of unhappiness.
What causes acne?
Acne is caused when hair follicles become blocked by a naturally occurring substance, sebum. This substance is produced by the sebaceous glands which are attached to hair follicles near the surface of the skin and lubricates the hair and skin to prevent dryness. The onset of acne is thought to be initiated by hormonal change, specifically in teenage years where it is triggered by an increase of testosterone in the body during puberty.
When the body produces too much sebum it can mix with dead skin cells and create a blockage of the follicle which produces white or blackhead spots. The hair follicles can then become contaminated and infected by the harmless bacteria on the skin, leading to Papules, pustules, nodules or cysts.
What are the symptoms of acne?
Acne is usually common in those with oily skin and can cause spots which range from milder surface blackheads and whiteheads to inflamed pus-filled bumps and cysts which can be long-lasting and may lead to scarring.
Acne covers a wide variety of different blemishes, including:
- Blackheads are small black or yellowish bumps that develop on the skin. The dark colour is produced by the inner lining of the hair follicle.
- Whiteheads are similar to blackheads, but may be firmer and won't empty when squeezed
- Papules are small red bumps that can feel tender or sore
- Pustules are similar to papules but have a white tip in the centre, caused by a buildup of pus
- Nodules are hard, large lumps that build up beneath the surface of the skin and can be painful
- Cysts, the most severe type of spot caused by acne; they're large pus-filled lumps that look similar to boils and carry the greatest risk of causing permanent scarring
How do you treat acne?
It is important to note that acne cannot be ‘cured’ but it can be controlled with the right treatment. Whichever treatment is decided to be appropriate by your doctor, it can take several months for the symptoms to improve, so it’s important to stay the course.
There are several things you can do to limit the spread of acne and help manage its symptoms. Firstly, avoid washing the affected areas more than twice in one day as this can actually irritate the skin, making symptoms worse. When washing, avoid extremely hot or cold water as this can also be bad for acne. Although it may be tempting, don't clean out or squeeze the spot or blackheads as this can make them worse and lead to scarring.
Avoid using lots of makeup or cosmetics and use only fragrance-free, water-based products which are less likely to block your pores. When going to bed in an evening, make sure to remove all makeup fully with cleansers such as Cetaphil. Make sure to shower soon after any exercise as sweat can irritate the skin and wash your hair regularly and avoid letting it fall over your face.
In serious cases, acne can lead to superficial yet potentially unsightly scarring. Help is at hand with products such as Bio-Oil, an oil used to improve the appearance of scars and La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo[+], a skincare solution proven to fight blemishes and marks.
You can help treat the severity of acne with products such as Acnecide 5% Gel which contains benzoyl peroxide over-the-counter. Anti-inflammatories such as Nicam gel can work in reducing the associated inflammation caused by acne. Cetaphil gentle cleanser can also be used to help cleanse the skin.
If you find over-the-counter remedies are ineffective, you can speak with one of Pharmacy2U's online doctors. You can speak with an experienced, registered doctor about your acne and consult you on prescription acne treatments.
In cases of severe or long-lasting acne, please contact your GP for further action.