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10th January 2011

Acne Explained

What is acne?
Whilst the term acne is commonly used to describe any number or type of spots, pimples or blackheads, true acne is a separate clinical disease that means the epidermis surrounding a blocked pore thickens and swells, causing unsightly and painful red bumps.
Hormones are thought to be at the root of the problem, with the male hormone, testosterone, considered the main culprit. Because of its hormonal connections, the onset of acne is most likely to occur during adolescence, although adult acne is becoming increasingly common.

I think I’ve got acne, what should I do?
Your priority is to tackle the problem before it gets worse, and thus prevent scarring. You must see your GP for a proper diagnosis before experimenting with different products.

Should I squeeze my spots?
Spots and blackheads contain waste material that the body does not want to re-absorb. The act of squeezing can cause more problems, by introducing infection into the area and damaging the surrounding skin, leading to scarring. Because acne spots are so large and delicate, avoid squeezing or touching them.

Will I really grow out of my acne, or is there a cure?
Some people find their acne becomes less severe as they mature, but others find it reoccurs at intervals throughout their lives. The first line of treatment is usually benzoyl peroxide, a topically applied solution that many people find is all they need to keep their acne at bay. The next line of fire is usually antibiotics.
However, if your condition is extremely severe or persistent, you may be referred to a hospital for drug therapy. Anti-acne drugs are very strong and are only subscribed under hospital supervision. However, because each case is individual, you may have to try several courses before you see a result, and each will require around four months to take effect.

Can I wear concealer and foundation?
The idea of letting spots ‘breathe’ is largely a myth. You can wear make-up on a daily basis provided you take care of your skin too. This means thorough cleansing morning and night, and utilising a proper make-up removal routine.

Choose a gentle foaming wash to cleanse your face. Look for anti-bacterial, spot-zapping and oil-free skin care ranges, but do check with your doctor that they won’t interfere with any topical treatments you’ve been prescribed. So long as you take care of your skin, keep applying your prescribed treatments and do not suffer any adverse reactions, you can continue to use concealer products.

Where can I find more Information?
Consult your doctor for more information. More details of the condition can also be found on the NHS Choices website