Acne

What does acne look like?

Acne consists of black spots the size of a pin (blackheads),and pimples or pustules with whiteheads which may be surrounded by redness and inflammation. More severe acne may also include cysts and swollen, inflamed areas (abscesses).

What causes acne?

Acne is a common skin condition which occurs mostly in teenagers but is not restricted to any age group. It is most common on the face, but can also be found on the back, chest, shoulders and neck. Research links acne to rising hormone levels during puberty causing the oil glands in the skin to become larger and produce more oil. Openings in the skin's surface become plugged allowing bacteria to grow and irritate the skin. Oral contraceptives may be a factor in the onset of acne, however they can also lessen the severity of increased symptoms at the time of menses. Although acne cannot be prevented, it can be controlled.

Is acne a serious condition?

Acne is not a life threatening condition and does not affect your general health, however, it can be upsetting and may have an adverse affect on self esteem. If left untreated, it can cause scarring in varying degrees, including severe disfigurement.

What is the treatment for acne?

Successful treatment for this condition is an ongoing process. There are many options available, depending on the severity of the condition:

  • Acne soaps of various strengths depending on oiliness of skin
  • Topical retinoids (Vitamin A Derivatives), such as Retin A
  • Topical antibiotics
  • Drying agents such as benzoyl peroxide
  • Acne therapy, including opening of pimples and removing blackheads and whiteheads
  • Glycolic acid skin care products
  • Glycolic acid peels
  • Oral antibiotics for moderate acne
  • Acutane therapy for very severe acne

Your dermatologist will outline the appropriate combination of therapies for your condition. It is important that you continue your treatment regime until the tendency for acne has passed or your dermatologist recommends discontinuing therapy.

Acne tips:

  • Do not wash your skin with harsh soaps. Use warm water and a mild non-soap cleanser.
  • Use oil free cosmetics and remove them every night.
  • Shampoo regularly as gels and hairsprays can irritate acne.
  • No food groups cause acne, however, if something in your diet clearly makes your condition worse, it should be eliminated.
  • Stress does not cause acne, but may create more severe symptoms.
  • Heat and humidity may intensify the symptoms of acne.
  • Sun improves acne for some people in the short term, but long term causes aging of the skin and increased risk of skin cancer.
  • Long, hot showers can aggravate acne, especially on the face and chest.