Acne [or Acne Vulgaris] is a very common skin problem affecting nearly everyone from puberty onwards. The process that causes acne is complex. In simple terms, it is likely that the oil glands in the skin are too sensitive to the normal levels of male and female hormones in the body. This leads to many events. Too much oil and skin cells are produced forming a plug in the hair follicle, commonly called a blackhead, whitehead or comedo. Also, these follicles become irritated and inflamed, leading to red spots and pus. Bacteria are also involved making irritating enzymes and chemicals. Sometimes the inflammation becomes so severe that large lumps and cysts can form, leading eventually to scarring.
Despite popular belief, acne is not just a disease of teenagers and cannot be cured with just a few dabs of cream or a ‘magic cleanser’. Acne can last for years into early adulthood, and changes in nature over time. Thus acne treatment needs to be used long-term, and different treatments used to treat different stages of the disease. As there are different types of acne spots, and often at the same time, different acne treatments are used together to get the best result.
Acne skin has oily hair follicles, so it is best to avoid over-moisturising or over-hydrating the skin.
- Limit showers to just a few minutes each time
- Cleans the face with a slightly soapy cleanser.
- A light moisturising serum or lotion is best, if the treatment is too drying
- Spray-on sunscreens are better than cream or lotion sunscreens
When using treatment creams prescribed by your doctor:
- Use a small amount to cover the whole face, a pea-sized dab is often enough
- Start every-other day, this limits irritation. Once used to the creams, they may be applied daily.
- Moisturise lightly if there is too much irritation. Stopping the cream for a day or two is allowed to let the irritation settle.
- A small amount of redness and peeling is normal. Take breaks, but do not stop treatment completely.
Acne treatments can take up to 6 weeks to start working, and 3-4 months for full effect. Sometimes it seems more spots are coming up early on, please keep using the treatment, as things are likely to improve with time. Once the acne starts to clear, the creams need to continue for the long term, as they will prevent more acne from coming up. Your doctor or dermatologist would be best to advise you on the treatment required.