Acne is a common skin condition that occurs usually on the face, back and the chest. Blackheads and whiteheads are mild. Infected, inflamed pustules and cysts are severe forms of the condition and can cause scarring of the skin.
Acne is common in teenagers and younger adults, between the ages of 14 and 17 in girls, and between 16 and 19 in boys. Acne usually disappears when a person is in twenties. Sometimes, acne may continue into adult life. About 5 % of women and 1 % of men are suffering from acne over the age of 25.
If you feel distressed, unhappy or cannot control acne with simple over-the counter medications, you should consult your GP.
Causes of Acne
Sebaceous glands of the skin produce oily sebum to lubricate hairs and hair follicles to stop them drying out. Acne occurs due to blockage of hair follicles (small holes) of the skin with excess of skin oil (sebum). Blocked hair follicles with sebum causes whiteheads and blackheads. They can be infected with bacterial flora of the skin forming pustules and cysts.
- Testosterone hormone in teenagers.
- Acne is thought to run in families.
- Hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle in women.
- Hormonal effects of pregnancy.
- Poly-cystic ovarian syndrome.
- As a side effect of some drugs.
Diet, poor hygiene and sexual activities are not triggering factors of acne.
Management of acne
If you have mild acne (white heads and blackheads), you can treat with over-the counter cream or gel containing Benzoyl Peroxide and some changes to your lifestyle.
Do not wash the skin with acne more than twice a day. Use mild soap or cleanser and lukewarm water to wash. Very hot or cold water can aggravate acne. Frequent washing can induce irritation of the affected skin and worse the condition.
Do not squeeze white heads and blackheads because, it will increase the acne formation and the risk of infection.
Avoid or reduce using make-up and cosmetics. Use water-based non-comedogenic cosmetic products. Remove your make-up completely before sleep. If you have a dry skin, use a fragrance-free, water-based emollient.
Regularly wash your hair and try to avoid letting the hair fall across your face.
Wash your skin after doing exercise because, sweat can irritate your skin and worse the condition.
Medications for acne
If you have a severe form of acne and there is no significant improvement with over-the counter medications, consult your doctor to take prescription medications. Treatment can take up to two to three months to control acne.
- Local application of retinoids
- Local application of antibiotics
- Azelaic acid
- Oral antibiotics
- Alternatively combination of above medications
- Isotretinoin, if above prescription medications failed.
- Hormonal therapies can be effective in women.
(Photo courtesy Caitlin Regan)