Acne is one of the most common skin conditions and nearly 80% of people will suffer with it at some point in their lives. Despite this, there are still many common misconceptions that surround the condition. Until these myths are dispelled, we have a long way to go in providing people with the support they need. For example acne sufferers will often be told they are dirty or not washing enough, or their diet is poor, or they will simply grow out of it.
Top tips to combat acne:
- Firstly, do not suffer in silence. Seek support from a healthcare professional, ideally a qualified dermatologist. These are the only people properly trained in managing skin problems.
- Have a good skin care routine ensuring that cosmetics and sun creams are suitable for acne-prone skin and preferably “non-comedogenic” i.e. products that will not block pores.
- Regular use of a topical retinoid product. These are a class of compounds related to vitamin A that cause the skin’s outer layer to grow more quickly, stimulate collagen production, and exfoliate the top layers of skin cells. This all helps to reduce the formation of comedones (blackheads or whiteheads) and other acne lesions.
- Regular facials that involve steam extraction and manipulation of the skin to remove comedones and ease congestion.
This will create an immediate sense of improvement to the skin in addition to reducing the number of future inflamed acne lesions.
b. It is advisable to have this carried out somewhere reputable with experienced therapists as if done incorrectly, there is a risk of damaging or scarring the skin and making acne worse.
- Chemical peels will improve mild to moderate acne. They involve application of a chemical to induce an accelerated form of exfoliation. They can be used to treat active acne lesions, pigmentary change and superficial scars. The two most common peeling agents include salicyclic acid and glycolic acid.a. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that is safe to use in all skin types. It is anti-inflammatory and helps break down the outer layer of skin which makes it an ideal treatment for acne. Even at low concentrations e.g. 3%, it can help speed up resolution of acne lesions and comedones. Usually higher strengths of 20% or more are used and applied to the skin for 5 minutes. This should be avoided in those with aspirin allergy or pregnancy.b. Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that also reduces comedones and inflammatory acne. It also improves pigmentary changes in those that have darker skin types.
- For single, isolated stubborn large inflammatory acne lesions such as cysts, a dermatologist may occasionally use a small steroid injection directly into the spot. This is particularly useful if a quick response is required e.g. upcoming social event. The cyst usually flattens within 48 hours. There are potential side effects associated with this that your dermatologist will discuss with you.
- Light and laser treatments are an upcoming area in the management of acne. There are a number of these available on the market that seem to have benefit in mild/moderate acne e.g. Regenlite, photodynamic therapy.
- Oral medications are appropriate if there is a problem with persistent and/or scarring acne, or acne that is having a profound psychological impact on the individual. Your dermatologist may recommend:a. Antibiotics – e.g. Tetracycline, erythromycin, trimethoprim – that must be taken for a period of 3-6 monthsb. Spironolactone – a medication that was initially developed for blood pressure and heart failure but also seems to work in female adult acne by local action on hormones in the skin
c. Isotretinoin which is a vitamin A derivative usually reserved for severe, recalcitrant acne or acne that is leaving marks or scars on the skin.