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Acne FAQs

What is acne / acne vulgaris?

Acne vulgaris, more commonly known as acne, is a condition that is caused by bacteria and affects the skin. Known for its inflammatory properties, acne appears when the sebaceous glands become inflamed, resulting in spots.

What causes acne?

Male sex hormones called androgens are considered to be the main cause behind acne. These hormones increase the sebum production in the sebaceous glands of the skin. Initially beneficial for the skin, these glands primarily work to protect the skin. However, androgens can significantly increase the production of sebum, causing the pores to become blocked. As a result, the skin will become greasy and acne spots will form.

Is acne all the same?

Acne is generally known by specific characteristics, with the most common form of acne being recognised as an inflamed spot. However, there are six different types of acne - blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, nodules and cysts - with each type classified according to their severity.

Does acne develop on just the face?

No. Although acne is most commonly known to develop on the face, it can also develop on the chest and back.

Why are some people more prone to acne than others?

Acne is associated with hormones and hormonal changes. Changes in androgens therefore lead to the sebaceous glands producing increased levels of oil in the skin. This results in the skin’s pores becoming blocked and inflamed, thus spots arise. Young people, in particular teenagers going through puberty, (where hormonal changes are at their most rife) are therefore inclined to suffer from acne vulgaris, although acne can still occur years after puberty and way into adulthood.

Likewise, because of hormonal changes, women who are pregnant or are going through their menstrual cycle are also more likely candidates to experience acne. Other conditions that can cause a person to suffer from acne include Cushing’s syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Certain medications, steroid creams and cosmetics can also affect the skin’s condition and cause acne.

Can my diet affect acne?

Despite the common misconceptions, there is no proven evidence to suggest that a person’s diet can contribute to acne. Likewise, according to various health studies, there is insufficient proof to prove that foods like chocolate can lead to acne. It is, however, recommended that in general you follow a healthy diet for both your heart and your health. Some people may notice that specific foods trigger their acne; in these circumstances it is suggested that you eliminate such foods from your diet.

Will squeezing the spots help get rid of acne?

Squeezing or picking whiteheads, blackheads or any other type of acne spot will damage your skin and worsen the condition. It could also lead to scarring, which may be permanent. Similarly, frequently touching your face can aggravate your skin and cause the bacteria to spread.

Can I reduce my chances of getting acne?

There are a number of things that can be done to reduce your chances of getting acne. Washing your face at least twice a day to remove the build up of oil and diet is recommended. Using mild soap or cleanser to wash your face and using lukewarm water can prevent the skin from becoming irritated. Washing your face too regularly, however, can actually aggravate your skin and worsen the condition. Using beauty products labelled as non-comedogenic is also greatly advised, as this can prevent the build up of oil. Likewise, removing makeup before bed can also help to reduce a person’s chances of getting acne. Avoiding touching your face too much and preventing hair from frequently touching your face can help to reduce your chances of getting the condition.

Although following these tips may help to reduce your chances of getting acne to an extent, they may not be enough. Not only can you not control your hormones completely, but also for some people acne is hereditary and therefore cannot be completely prevented.

Are over the counter acne treatments effective?

Marketed as cost effective acne cures that do not require a prescription, the effectiveness of over the counter treatments will largely depend on a number of factors such as the severity of the person’s acne and how well they react to treatment. Containing ingredients like azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, alpha hydroxyl, sulphur and salicylic acid, these treatments come in the form of gels, lotions and creams and are considered to be an effective option for mild forms of acne. Over the counter treatments are initially recommended if you begin to develop acne. However, if the condition worsens, or if you are experiencing moderate to severe acne, than prescription acne treatment may be necessary.

How do I know if prescription treatment is needed?

If over the counter medication has not proved to be successful and the condition is not only affecting your confidence but also causing you great distress, than prescription treatment may be required. Treatments such as Minocin, Oxytetracycline and the oral contraceptive Dianette have proven to be effective in treating acne and greatly improving the appearance of acne-prone skin. If used correctly these treatments will help the skin to heal in a few months. Your doctor will advise you on the treatments available and help you to find the most suitable treatment.

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