Zits, pimples, spots, breakouts, blemishes.
Whatever name you give it, acne is a most unwanted skin condition. And people spend vast amounts of money on products that claim to get rid of acne. But some of those products barely work.
To find what really works as an acne treatment, you need to understand what causes acne in the first place.
Here, we give you a comprehensive overview of acne and what causes it. We’ll also give you a guide to effective treatment and management of acne.
Acne is a very common skin condition that usually begins in adolescence. Acne happens when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin. Acne — including whiteheads, blackheads and inflamed pus-filled spots — appears where oil (sebaceous) glands are most active. This usually includes the face, neck, back and chest.
However, acne is not just a cosmetic nuisance. Severe acne causes big, red, painful nodules or cysts to develop. These very inflamed spots can scar.
Acne can also trigger poor self-esteem, anxiety and even depression in some people. Please reach out to a doctor if you notice mood changes when you have acne.
You may notice times when your acne flares, but at other times you’re relatively acne-free. You can manage your acne flare-ups with effective and safe treatment.
The main causes of acne include:
Acne usually improves or disappears following adolescence. But sometimes it can persist, or even begin, during adulthood. Medical or hormonal conditions often cause adult acne. Consult a health professional if you have adult acne.
Acne will usually go away on its own, but it can take 3 to 5 years (and sometimes persists). This is why it is important to seek professional medical help.
A doctor knows how to treat acne safely and effectively. Your doctor will aim to:
There are a variety of treatment options, depending on your medical history and preference:
You can easily request a script for your acne treatment with InstantScripts. Our team of RAGCP-accredited GPs will ensure you access the right treatment for your acne.
You may not need prescription products for your acne, especially if it is milder and less persistent. There are non-prescription products available, although they may not be as effective as prescription products.
Non-prescription products can have side effects. Check with a health professional if you experience irritation or dryness.
There’s a variety of ways you can manage or prevent a breakout.
The science is still developing around how much diet and exercise contribute to acne.
Exercise can help manage stress. And stress increases hormone levels (androgens) that trigger acne breakouts. So exercise may help reduce androgen levels and therefore reduce the production of oil.
In the lab, tests show that simple sugars and dairy drive production of acne-causing hormones. This means that things like milk, chocolate and cheese could play a role in causing or worsening acne.
However, we need more high-quality clinical studies to determine the role of diet and exercise in acne.
As a consumer, you need to be careful as you navigate the multitude of treatments spruiked for acne. Some ‘remedies’ aren’t very effective (at best) and could be harmful (at worst). Here are some of the common acne treatment myths:
MYTH: Tanning helps clear up acne.
Fact: There’s no link between sun exposure and acne prevention. But UV rays can cause premature aging and skin cancer.
MYTH: Having super clean skin will prevent acne breakouts.
Fact: Washing your face does remove dirt and oil from your pores. But washing too much can lead to dryness and irritation which can make acne worse. And, in fact, dirt is not the main culprit that causes acne.
MYTH: Squeezing pimples will help them go away faster.
Fact: Squeezing or popping a pimple may feel like it solves the problem, but can actually make things worse. When you squeeze or pop, you force bacteria, dead skin cells, and oil further into the skin, causing more swelling and redness. You could also damage your skin, causing it to scar.
MYTH: You shouldn’t wear makeup if you have acne.
Fact: Makeup has come a long way in recent years. Lots of cosmetics these days are non-comedogenic (they shouldn’t cause breakouts). There are even some cosmetics that contain ingredients (like benzoyl peroxide) that help treat acne.
MYTH: You can sweat acne out.
Fact: There’s no evidence to show that hot towels or steam therapy improves acne. In fact, some studies show that acne gets worse in hot, humid climates.