Acne is extremely common and about 80% of people between the ages of 11 and 30 experience it. In fact, most of us will have spots or pimples at some point in our lives. Acne usually appears on the face, chest and back and can appear as anything from a small pimple or blackhead to a severe outbreak, and it may even cause scarring. Severe acne affects about 15% of people.
Acne is most common during adolescence, but women in particular may be affected in their mid thirties. Its cause is usually linked to our hormones, which is why we're more likely to experience it during key changes in our life, such as puberty, or with hormonal disorders that affect women such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCO).
Treating your acne
If you have acne it's important to keep your skin clean by washing with a mild soap or cleanser twice a day to prevent further breakouts. You shouldn't wash with very hot or very cold water, as this can irritate the skin and make the acne worse. You should also avoid squeezing or bursting your spots, as this can make them worse and may lead to scarring. Over the counter creams and lotions may help improve your spots. Acne also improves under UV light, so moderate sun exposure may help.
For severe acne, our dermatologists may prescribe a stronger cream or gel containing an antibiotic. Oral antibiotics can also help, but you may need to take these for several months for the treatment to be affective. Creams that contain retinoids (vitamin A) can also be useful. There are a number of acidic treatments (known as keratolytics), which may also help. These involve applying a cream containing an ingredient such as salicylic acid, or azelaic acid, to the skin. These creams help reduce the growth of skin cells that can block the pores and cause acne.
For women, hormonal treatments such as a contraceptive pill containing progesterone may help.
In the most severe cases, oral Vitamin A may be needed. This is a last resort treatment only given if the acne is very severe. This medication can cause side effects, so our dermatologists will discuss this with you in detail, should they feel that this is the best treatment for you.