Acne is a common skin condition that causes spots and pimples to appear on the skin. Although the face and neck are mainly affected, acne can also occur on the back and chest. Acne usually starts at puberty with around 80% of people between 11 and 30 affected at some point. Some continue to have recurring episodes and are at risk of acne scars.
If you are seeking private acne treatment The Devonshire Clinic in London can offer you a full assessment. By offering a much more in-depth analysis of your skin than a typical skin clinic, The Devonshire Clinic’s consultants can devise a highly effective course of acne treatments.
What is acne?
Acne is worse than the occasional spot. People with acne have many spots and these are usually a mixture of different types:
- Comedones – more commonly called blackheads and whiteheads
- Pimples – red, raised areas of skin that do not have a head
- Pustules – deeper pus-filled spots that appear yellow and may burst easily
What happens in the skin?
One of the first changes is that the sebaceous glands, which normally produce small amounts of an oily substance called sebum, start to generate much larger quantities.
Instead of flowing up through the pores in the skin, the sebum tends to clog the pores, trapping dead skin cells and debris. As the pores become blocked the skin looks raised and these areas of skin can look either lighter than the surrounding skin (whiteheads) or darker (blackheads). The dark area on a blackhead is not dirt; it is melanin, the natural dark pigment in skin that accumulates at the peak of the blackhead.
If bacteria that normally live on the skin become trapped in a blocked pore, they can cause an infection, producing pus as the body tries to control that infection. This causes the angrier inflamed pustules with yellow tops that are typical of acne.
What causes acne?
Many different factors contribute to the development of acne or make it worse:
- Genetics – acne does run in families, so genetic factors are involved.
- Hormonal changes – most people have their first outbreak of acne during puberty. Many girls and women find that their spots go through stages of being better and then worse in response to the hormonal changes that occur during the normal monthly menstrual cycle. Pregnancy can make the acne worse, or you may find that your skin clears up entirely.
- Medication – some medications taken for other medical conditions have an impact on acne. The progestogen-only contraceptive pill, epilepsy medication and some ointments and steroid creams used to treat eczema can all make the spots worse. Illegal anabolic steroids also make acne more severe.
- Picking spots – the temptation to pick and burst spots is almost irresistible but this increases inflammation in the skin and raises the risk of bacterial infection.
- Hot conditions – being in a hot environment that makes you sweat more can mean more spots. Acne can also be worse on areas of the skin where clothing is tight, such as around a tight collar, waistband or headband.
Although many people believe the following make acne worse, this is, in fact, untrue:
- Make up – this rarely either causes acne or makes it worse and many people find that using a concealer makes them less self-conscious.
- Poor hygiene – washing too much with products that dry the skin actually make acne worse.
Why is acne a problem?
Acne is often uncomfortable. The skin feels hot and flushed and the spots may be tender or sore to the touch.
Having such an obvious outbreak of unpleasant looking spots on your face can cause embarrassment to anyone of any age. But as acne tends to occur in the teenage years, in the midst of raging hormones and emotions, it can be very difficult to cope with. Some young people with recurrent acne can become isolated and depressed.
Do acne treatments work?
Many people with acne think, quite wrongly, that this is something they have to live with. However, acne treatments are available and they can make a huge difference. The Devonshire Clinic offers consultations with expert Dermatologists who can assess your acne, recommend a course of medical treatments as necessary, and offer you advice on the best washing routine and products.
The acne treatment The Devonshire Clinic can recommend reduces embarrassment at the time of the outbreak and can also lower the risk of scarring.
Around 30% of people with acne develop scars. The main types of acne scars are:
- Ice pick scars or pitted scars – small, deep holes
- Rolling scars – scar tissue under the skin makes the surface of the skin look uneven
- Boxcar scars – craters or depressions in the surface of the skin
Scars are more obvious and persist for longer if the acne is left untreated and if spots are squeezed and picked.
Acne scarring treatments
A variety of methods are available to treat acne scarring including lasers, chemical peels, dermabrasion and microneedling. Methods such as Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) have also shown promise for treating acne scarring.