Acne

What is Acne?

Acne is a disease that affects the sufferer's skin, causing spots and blackheads. This can be of varying degrees from mild or moderate infections that cause one or two spots that clear quickly, to severe infections that can be painful, ongoing and covering the face and back. It is prominent in adult men and women, although it’s typically associated with teenagers and going through puberty.

The spots that acne causes come in a number of different types. Whiteheads...

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Acne Information

What is Acne?

Acne is a disease that affects the sufferer's skin, causing spots and blackheads. This can be of varying degrees from mild or moderate infections that cause one or two spots that clear quickly, to severe infections that can be painful, ongoing and covering the face and back. It is prominent in adult men and women, although it’s typically associated with teenagers and going through puberty.

The spots that acne causes come in a number of different types. Whiteheads and blackheads are extremely common, but there are also papules (small pimples that cluster together in a rash), pustules (like a papule but containing pus), nodules (a small swelling caused by an inflammation under the skin), and cysts (very painful pockets of tissue fill with pus or air). Acne spots can be painful, but the condition also causes psychological symptoms such as a knock to self-confidence, embarrassment and upset.

What causes acne?

The causes of acne differs greatly from person to person but are largely due to hormones. The male sex hormones, androgens, (occurring in both men and women), are responsible for sebum production. This means that the hormone controls the amount of oil on our skin and hair, so a high level of production can cause blockages. These blocked or clogged pores become irritated and show as spots, and the imbalance in these hormones is why acne is often accompanied by oily skin and greasy-looking hair.

The shift that causes the hormone imbalance is the part that changes from person to person and can be due to stress, weather, chemicals (in skincare products or cosmetics), pregnancy or a woman’s menstrual cycle. Because it varies from person to person, the best thing to do is make a mental note of certain triggers that lead to acne breakouts and try and tailor your routine based on that.

It’s also this hormone shift that means the condition is highly prevalent in teenagers. When girls and boys hit puberty, their bodies begin to create male and female sex hormones, including androgens. This significant hormone shift throws your body off balance and leads to spots, oily skin and blackheads.

There is a common misconception that acne is caused by poor hygiene. The blockages in your pores are not due to dirt, but due to oils that your body creates naturally. In fact, washing your skin too vigorously, too often or with too many chemicals can actually make acne worse, as you could end up washing all the sebum oil away and your body will produce even more to make up for this deficit.

While certain products may be irritating your skin or body, makeup as a whole is not a cause of acne. In fact, wearing makeup can minimise the psychological side effects of acne, as it can make spots less noticeable and sufferers less self-conscious.

How can I treat Acne?

Because acne is linked so closely to the hormones in your body, there is no way to cure it in its entirety (in the way that you can with a bacterial infection, for example). There is no “miracle” treatment, but there are plenty of ways that you can successfully manage the levels of androgens in your body and reduce the number of breakouts.

At Cloud Pharmacy, we stock a number of different prescription medicines to treat acne, including topical creams (to be applied to the affected skin) and oral tablets.  Another option for women is the contraceptive pill. While a lot of combined or progestogen-only pills can cause acne in the first place, some (such as Dianette) can regulate your androgen production and reduce the effects of acne.

The benefit to prescription medications is that they have been extensively tested and proven to work reliably, however you could also try some over-the-counter options. They may work on fewer people, meaning you’ll have to apply a trial-and-error tactic, but some of them can be highly effective. Be aware though that some can be too harsh and strip your sebum oils away, leading to a worsening of your acne.

As well as medical treatment, your lifestyle and diet could be contributing factors too. While there’s no evidence to suggest that chocolate causes spots (like many people believe), some foods can affect the delicate balance of your body and you should, therefore, keep an eye out for any triggers. Of course, prevention is always better than cure so take good care of your skin, of your body, of your health in general and you should notice fewer breakouts.

FAQ

  • What is Acne?

    Acne is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point in theri lives. It can cause spots, oily skin and sometimes skin that's hot or painful to touch. For more information on Acne, the NHS offers a detailed breakdown of how to control your breakouts. 

    Acne generally affects the face, however it can also affect the back, chest and neck. It is very common amongst teenagers or adolescnets, however it more often than not is self liminiting and will resolve on its own.

  • What Makes Acne Worse?

    Acne can be worsned by a variety of factors, some of which include:

    • Not washing straight after execise (build up of dirt and sweat)
    • Washing too often, this will strtip the sking of the protective and natural oils it produces
    • Squeezing or picking your spots makes your acne much worse because it draws inflammatory cells to the area where acne exists and causes more swelling and aggravation 
    • Menstruation or periods can worse acne
    • Side effects of certain medications
    • Using too much makeup 

  • How Do I Best Treat Acne?

    Acne can be broken down into 4 different categories, minimal, mild, moderate and severe acne. The type of treatment you take to cure your acne will be largely dependent on how severe your acne is. 

    Minimal and Mild Acne

    Minimal acne can be described as predominantly greasy skin with a few black or white heads on the forehead, nose and/or chin. Minimal acne can also lead to papules but not often. 

    For mild acne, it is recommended that you should be treated with benzoyl peroxide (acnecide), which can be purchased over the counter to help prevent your acne. This treatment should be used for a bare minimum of 6-8 weeks and for the full effect, you should expect it to take 4-6 months.

    If you do not see any positive effects after 6-8 weeks of using benzoyl peroxide (acnecide) or if you have several blackheads and whiteheads but they are not red and inflamed then trying a prescription strength retinoid would be useful such as Differin.

    Other effective treatments for acne are combintaion products which will contain benzoyl peroxide and either an antibiotic or retinoid such as EpiDuo (benzoyl peroxide 2.5% and adapalene 0.1%)

    Moderate Acne

    If you have more than 30 spots, an oral antibiotic acne treatment to help cure your acne is required. Antibiotics like lymecycline should be considered for the most effective results.

    Severe Acne

    If you have more than 125 spots, cysts or scarring then it is recommended that you see a doctor/dermatologist for a consultation to get a better understanding of the type of treatment you might need.

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