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Acne Help

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Written by: Kathryn Danzey
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Acne what is it?

Acne is a very common skin disorder that most young people get in early puberty. It is caused by inflammation of the small oil glands that surround the fine hair on the face and chest sometimes in severe cases spreading across the back and arms.

Acne can also cause one or more of the following

Blackheads (comedones)


Red or yellow spots

Greasy skin


Acne affects people of all skin colours. The processes that cause acne are exactly the same in people with brown or black skin but the impact is altered by the skin pigmentation.

Most people affected by acne are between 12 -25 and is estimated that 9 in 10 teenagers develop some degree of acne 3 in 10 teenagers have acne so severely to need treatment to prevent scarring. Acne tends to go away by the mid 20s however very sensitive people may continue to have the disorder until they reach their mid 40s.

What causes acne?

Acne is caused by the overactivity of the sebacaeous glands that secrete oily substances onto the skin. The subaceous glands of people with acne are especially sensitive to normal blood levels of a hormone called testosterone found naturally in both men and women.

These two effects combined cause a build up of oil in the hair follicles. This causes blackheads and whiteheads to form.

For the majority of people their acne does not progress beyond this stage. However in other people the build up of oil in the hair follicles creates a ideal environment for a bacterium called Propionibacterium acnes to grow.

These bacteria normally live harmlessly on your skin but when this ideal environment is created they grow. They feed off the sebum and produce substances that cause a response from your body’s immune system. This inflames the skin and created the redness associated with spots.

In more severe inflammatory acne cysts develop beneath the skin surface. These acne cysts can rupture spreading the infection into nearby skin tissue. This can therefore result in scarring.

What makes acne worse

There are a number of things that can make acne worse. These include the following

Picking and squeezing the spots may cause further inflammation and scarring

In women outbreaks may be affected by the hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle

Excessive production of male hormones such testosterone from conditions such as polycystic overies

Some contraceptive pills can cause acne to be worse

Some medications can make acne worse but never stop taking medication consult your GP.


Contrary to popular belief acne is not caused by –

Eating fatty food

Dirt (blackheads get their dark colour from thorough excess skin pigment)

Poor hygiene (excessive washing may aggravate acne)

Stress does not cause acne

Acne can not be cured by drinking lots of water

No evidence that sunbathing or sunbeds will help clear acne


Acne may cause you considerable emotional distress but there is a range of treatment options to help you tackle the problem. The aim being to prevent new spots forming, improve those already present and to prevent scarring.

Benzoyl peroxide

This is a common treatments. It has three actions – kills bacteria, reduces inflammation and helps to unclog pores. It works well to clear inflamed spots and helps to clear blackheads and whiteheads. Benzoyl peroxide can be purchased from pharmacies without a prescription. It comes in different brand names and strengths.


This is a good treatment in early stages of acne as it works to unblock pores. It also has a effect on reducing inflammation. A prescription is needed for all retinoid treatments.

Topical antibiotics

They work by reducing the number of bacteria and help with inflammation. However they have little effect if any on unblocking pores and can cause irritation. Good at treating inflamed acne but blackheads and whiteheads will remain. A prescription is needed for topical antibiotics

Tetracycline tablets

Work by killing bacteria that contribute to the cause of acne. The most commonly used oxytetracycline, tetracycline, doxycycline, lymecycline and minocycline.

Azelaic acid

A good treatment to clear and unblock pores. It has some effect on clearing on reducing inflamed acne but not as effective as antibiotics or benzyol peroxide. However it may cause less skin irritation than benzoyl peroxide.

The Pill

The oral contraceptive pill may help some women if their acne seems to be related to hormone change. It is the oestrogen part of the pill that is thought to help. The pill is available by prescription only.


Microdermabrasion elevates acne treatment to a powerful level. It activates circulation, deeply exfoliates the skin’s surface, and effectively clarifies pores of trapped oil deposits and other contaminants while diminishing acne scars. There are many different brands of microdermabrasion that use various different abrasion actions such as aluminium oxide crytals, diamond tip and wheat germ to name just a few. There are many benefits with microdermabrasion as there is no down time it can be used on all skin types and relatively painless.

Prices range from £35+ per treatments

Intense Pulsed Light

Intense Pulsed Light kills the acne bacteria that causes the infection leading to spots. The Laser light gently heats up the skin around the spots producing collagen that boosts the healing process causing the spots to minimise and prevent scarring.


LED light is a low level intensity light that works to kill infection and stimulate healing within the skin. Treatment is painless and results can typically be seen quite quickly with a treatment course of 10 sessions taken up to 3 sessions per week and then a maintenance program of 1 session per month. treatment courses are around £350 for 10 sessions

British Association of Dermatologists

0207 3830266


Acne Support Group

0870 8702263


About the Author

Kathryn Danzey
I have a passion to bring to you what really works in the beauty industry, from a moisturiser to the latest advanced treatment for anti ageing. After almost 4 decades in the industry I'm packed with info to share but never tire of looking for new things and would love you to share your experiences with us too. We're here to help you find that treatment or product that will make a change for you. Can't do without Moisturiser with sun protection, microdermabrasion and pedicures

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