Acne is a common skin condition that impacts millions of people worldwide and acts as a barrier on your journey to gaining smooth, glowing skin. When you are forced to manage persistent breakouts, the impact on your confidence can be devastating but London City Skin Clinic are committed to restoring your skin’s healthy texture.
Understanding that every person’s skin is unique and suffers from varying potential underlying conditions, is vital to understanding the most impactful treatment for acne. So, what causes acne, how can you prevent it, and what long-term treatments are available?
What is acne?
Acne is a skin condition that everybody is susceptible to at some point in their life. It usually appears on the:
- Face – Impacting almost everyone with acne.
- Back and shoulders – Impacting nearly 50% of people with acne.
- Chest – Impacting almost 15% of people with acne.
Pores in these areas can become clogged with hair, dead skin cells, sweat and sebum(oily substance).
Excess oil production in the skin can be a driving factor to acne , and resulting in spots that can be painful or tender to touch.
Although acne is most common in teens and people in their 20s due to hormonal influence, it can recur later in life and even become a life-long condition that impacts your confidence.
Types of acne
Acne can take many forms including:
Blackheads: Open pores that appear as black bumps on the skin. They are often filled with dead skin cells and excess oil, so the appearance can be of dirt, but this is actually the irregular light reflection of the clogged follicle.
Whiteheads: Whiteheads are a type of acne, similar to blackheads but are closed pores by dead skin and oil, forming a bump on your skin, also known as comedones.
Papules: Inflamed red or pink bumps that feel tender.
Pustules: These are similar to papules but have a white pus filled bump in the centre.
Cysts: Cysts are large pus filled spots that are often severe, painful and pose a risk of scarring.
Nodules: Hard lumps that develop under the skin and can be painful. These may not be visible to the eye.
Fungal acne: Fungal Acne is a type of acne that occurs when hair follicles become infected with a yeast fungus called Malassezia yeast. They appear as clusters of small, red and itchy bumps.
What are the causes of acne?
The cause of acne varies depending on the person and their skin type. It can occur at any age, and symptoms of acne may appear without warning or obvious reason.
Certain triggers can agitate acne-prone skin such as:
- Hormonal changes, particularly those related to the menstrual cycle and puberty
- Abnormal sebum increases the activity of harmless bacteria creating pus and inflammation
- Genetic factors, for example if your parents have acne-prone skin
- Certain medications
- Pregnancy – hormone change
- Excessive picking or touching of the face
- Bacteria on dirty clothing and bedsheets
- Greasy creams, serums, makeup and moisturisers
- Humidity and air pollution
How long does acne last?
Depending on the type of acne, pimples can take 1-6 weeks to go away without interference, although acne breakouts can last for longer periods of time depending on treatment used.
Acne can be a life-long skin condition that starts at the age of 10-12 and persist through your 30s and 40’s. Only 5% of women report the presence of acne past the age of 40.
During this time, there will be periods of severe breakouts, and times when acne may resolve itself. Due to the unpredictability of acne, it can be frustrating to control and have a distressing impact on the way you view yourself.
How to prevent acne
Acne cannot be prevented completely, but you can control breakouts by:
- Washing your face daily with warm – not hot water, and a mild cleanser or exfoliation cleanser to help exfoliate dead skin cells
- Only wash affected/acne prone areas once a day to avoid irritation
- Remove makeup before going to bed
- Avoid oil-based makeup, skincare products that may block your pores, also referred to as ‘comedogenic’ products
- Use fragrant-free emollients on dry skin
- Keep your hands and hair away from your face
- Use moisturiser routinely to help the skin barrier – only non-comedogenic moisturisers
Can you get rid of acne quickly?
Acne can be treated but it does take time to improve and there are no treatments that will eliminate it quickly, despite the impact it has on you.
On average a skin cycle is 5-6 weeks, and controlling acne can take up to 2 skin cycles. For this reason it is important to be patient and allow 2-3 months to see the effectiveness of your treatment. However, when you take care of your skin and seek long-term treatment, the results will be worth it.
Common acne treatments:
Skin varies from person to person and can only be treated with the appropriate method for your skin type. This will take an in-person assessment where a medical practitioner can examine the condition of your skin and discuss the most appropriate treatment options:
Skincare regimen: A skincare regimen of exfoliation, cleanse, oil control and skincare can be the most effective treatment for acne prone skin. This is most effective if acne is not persistent and is caused by environmental, stress related and other non-permanent causes.
The type of skincare regimen prescribed will depend on your skin type, the type of acne you suffer with and the cause of your acne.
Topical treatments: Topical treatments are recommended for those with mild to moderate acne. These are applied directly onto the skin in the form of a gel or a cream and contain products that control sebum production, unblock pores and encourage new cell turnover.
Topical treatments may include the following ingredients for acne:
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Salicylic acid
- Vitamin A derivatives such as retinol
Oral antibiotics: Another option for treating acne are oral antibiotics. These will take 2-6 months to see results and are an effective treatment for moderate to severe acne.
Antibiotics reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin’s surface and in hair follicles and have antiinflammatory properties. They are used as an ongoing treatment for acne and can only be prescribed by a medical professional. However, it is important not just to take antibiotics long-term without a break to prevent resistance, and also to optimise skincare.
Contraceptive pill: The contraceptive pill is used to treat hormonal acne by blocking hormones related to the menstrual cycle and reducing oil and sebum production.
It can take up to three months to see results from the contraceptive pill.
Isotretinoin Capsules (Roaccutane): This is a powerful acne treatment which can only be prescribed by a Consultant Dermatologist. It is used to treat severe acne and can have side effects so you will undergo blood tests with a specialist doctor prior to treatment. Your doctor will need to supervise treatment.
As with most acne treatments, your skin may get worse before it gets better. This is because your skin is purging what sits below the surface. Acne treatments likewise increase cell turnover which means it will shed more dead skin cells than usual.
How to get rid of acne scars
Any type of acne spot can leave scarring as a result of complications. It is most common when cysts and nodules burst and damage the surrounding skin. This can be through irritation of the spot, or picking/popping the spot yourself, which we advise you avoid.
There are three types of acne scar:
- Ice pick scars: Deep holes in the skin that look like needle pricks
- Rolling scars: Grouped depressions formed under the skin that creates a rolling appearance on its surface
- Boxcar scars: Round indentations in the skin
London City Skin Clinic offers skincare advice and microneedling to treat acne scars. Microneedling is performed with a Dermaroller or Dermapen. It uses needles to create columns of micro-injury to the skin, stimulating a natural healing response creating new collagen and elastin, remodelling scars, improving skin quality, tone and texture.
At London City Skin Clinic, we offer a wide range of treatments that eliminate acne and acne scarring to restore the even tone of your skin. Book your dermatology consultation today for a bespoke skin assessment and treatment plan with Dr. Robby Bajaj.