Acne is one of the most common types of skin condition. It is most common among older children, teenagers and young adults, and will affect most people at some point during their life.  


Acne causes spots to develop on the skin, usually on the face, back and chest. The symptoms of acne can range from mild, through to moderate or more severe.


The spots that develop as a result of acne can range from whiteheads or blackheads (which are usually mild in appearance), to deeper, inflamed cysts or pus-filled pustules. These can be more severe, long-lasting and often painful. Spot of this nature can lead to scarring of the skin.


Some people avoid seeking treatment for acne, due to embarrassment or the perception that they will ‘grow out of it’. Acne however can cause great distress, and can have an adverse effect on a person’s quality of life and self-esteem.  


Understanding Acne 


Despite being one of the most widespread skin conditions, acne is also one of the most poorly understood and there are a wide range of myths about it:  


  • Acne is not directly caused by poor hygiene.  Most of the reactions that trigger acne occur beneath the skin and in fact, excessive washing may make it worse.  
  • Squeezing blackheads, whiteheads, and spots could make symptoms worse and may leave permanent scarring.  
  • Acne is not infectious, and it cannot be passed from person to person, regardless of contact.
  • Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during the menstrual cycle, can also lead to episodes of acne in women.  
  • There is no evidence that chocolate, sweets, or fatty foods cause acne or make acne worse.  
  • There is also no evidence that sunbathing or sunbeds will help to clear acne. 


Treatment for Acne


With treatment, the outlook for acne is generally good. Treatments can take between two to three months to work but, once they do, the results are usually effective. If you're concerned about acne you should seek help with the condition - visit your doctor or your local pharmacist. 


The treatment you receive will depend on whether the acne is mild, moderate or severe.


Mild acne can be treated initially with over-the-counter medications.  You should discuss your individual symptoms and affected areas with your pharmacist for advice on products. Initially products should be tried for a period of six to eight weeks to find out if they are working. Mild acne is treated using gels or creams.  Products that contain benzoyl peroxide and can be used either once or twice a day.  It should be used sparingly as too much can harm the skin.  They work by breaking open blocked follicles and increasing skin turnover. Anti-inflammatories such as nicotinamide in Freederm gel are useful for reducing the redness and inflammation sometimes associated with acne.


Moderate acne is usually treated using a combination of medications and in some cases; oral antibiotics may also be used, when prescribed by the GP.


Those suffering from severe acne will be referred to a dermatologist. A combination of oral antibiotics and topical treatments are usually the first treatment option. If this proves to be ineffective, a medication called isotretinoin (Roaccutane) may be prescribed by the hospital consultant.


It is important to take acne seriously, as it can have a huge impact on quality of life.  Some simple steps can also help in combination with medication.  These include cleansing the skin twice a day with a cleanser or soap with warm but not hot water. Perfectly Clear™ or Clearasil® both produce a range of excellent cleansing products.Avoiding greasy make-up and ensuring all make-up is removed daily.  Resisting the urge to pick or squeeze at spots.  Most importantly when treating acne patience is required as treatments can take up to a couple of months to take effect. 


A 'tip' that is commonly found on websites suggests that toothpaste can dry up individual spots. While toothpaste does contain antibacterial substances, it also contains substances that can irritate and damage your skin.There are more effective and safer treatments available from pharmacists or your GP. Using toothpaste in this way is not recommended.


Products described are available at most pharmacies and Gordons Chemists does not endorse any individual product. Always consult your pharmacist in relation to your individual symptoms.