Advice for Acne

Treatment advice for Acne

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Acne and what causes it?

    Acne is caused by the production of excess sebum - the greasy substance that moisturises the hair follicle and the skin. Dead skin cells can mix with excess sebum and block the pores causing spots. The normal bacteria that live on the surface of your skin can multiply inside the blocked pores leading to pus filled papules.

    Acne mainly affects the face, but can also affect the neck, back and chest. It is very common amongst teenagers and usually resolves by itself over a few years, however it can persist on into later life in a small minority of people. As acne is visible to others, it can be very distressing and have a negative impact on you quality of life.

  • What are the best ways to treat Acne?

    Acne can be separated in to 4 categories, minimal, mild, moderate & severe acne. The treatment that is most appropriate for your acne will vary dependent on the severity of the acne. 

    Minimal & Mild Acne

    Minimal acne is mainly greasy skin with a few black or white heads on the forehead, nose and/or chin. There may also be the occasional papule.

    Treatment should be started with benzoyl peroxide, which can be bought over the counter. Panoxyl, Quinoderm or Acnecide all can be used for minimal acne. They need to be used for a minimum of 6-8 weeks and for the full effect it can take 4-6 months of use.

    If benzoyl peroxide has no effect after 6-8 weeks, or if you have many blackheads or whiteheads but they are not red and inflamed then trying a prescription strength retinoid would be useful. Differin or Isotrex would be appropriate to start with.

    An antibiotic preparation is recommended if you have angry red spots or papules rather than just whiteheads and blackheads. Antibiotics for acne can be topical (applied to the skin), for example Zineryt or Dalacin T, or oral (taken by mouth), for example Tetralysal (lymecycline).

    Other effective options are combination products, which contain benzoyl peroxide and either an antibiotic or a retinoid, such as Duac gel (benzoyl peroxide 5% and clindamycin 1%) or Epiduo (benzoyl peroxide 2.5% and adapalene 0.1%).

    Moderate Acne

    When you have more than 30 spots, a oral antibiotic acne treatment is required. Antibiotics like lymecycline, erythromycin or minocycline should be considered for the greatest effect.

    Severe Acne

    If you have more than 125 spots, cysts or any scarring then it is recommended you see a doctor in a face-to-face consultation. They may refer you to a specialist for further treatment.

  • What can make Acne worse?

    • Squeezing and picking at the spots
    • Chemicals, grease and damp in your working environment
    • Having menstrual periods
    • Reactions to medicines
    • Wearing too much make-up
  • I am using a topical Acne application but it doesn’t seem to stop new spots from appearing. Why is it not working?

    Firstly, you should ensure that you treat the whole area where the acne occurs, not just the spots themselves. Secondly, it can take approximately 4 months for acne treatments to be fully effective so you may not see see immediate improvement in your condition, especially within the first 4 weeks.

    Topical treatment is preventative in that it helps to stop lesions developing rather than getting rid of the spots you already have. You should treat the whole acne prone area, not just individual spots to get the most out of your treatment.

  • What else can I do other than use medicines to improve my Acne?

    By washing twice daily with a mild cleanser – but do NOT use an exfoliator as this may irritate the skin further. Keep hair clean and off your face and do not pick at the pimples. Avoid extreme cold and heat. Do not use lots of make-up especially oily foundations which may worsen the pimples. As with everything a healthy lifestyle is important; make sure that you eat well and drink plenty of water.

  • How can I prevent my Acne from scarring?

    Popping, picking or squeezing spots can cause scarring. Prevention is better than cure so treat spots early. You can use Bio Oil, Kelo-Cote or Cica-Care on scars to help them fade and lessen their appearance. Some markings will also fade with time.

  • Can Acne scars ever be removed?

    Unfortunately sometimes acne can cause scars or marks to be left on the skin, especially it spots are picked. The scars sometimes caused by acne can be removed by dermabrasion or laser treatment, which are treatments that are carried out by a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon. For less serious scars and marks caused by acne you may wish to try Bio-Oil, it has been shown to be highly effective in improving the appearance of scars and marks.

  • I wash my face religiously but my Acne is not getting any better. Why?

    Acne isn't caused by dirt, and excessive washing will strip natural oils from your skin.  This causes your skin to dry out as the natural oils help to protect the skin from moisture loss. As a result your skin will overcompensate and produce more oil, eventually leading to clogged pores and acne. Excessive washing may also irritate you skin.

    You should wash your face once daily using a mild soap or cleanser with warm, not hot, water.

  • I have just been on holiday and my Acne got better. Shall I start using a sun bed to improve my Acne?

    Acne is caused blocked pores becoming aggravated by bacteria found naturally on the surface of the skin. In warmer climates where sunlight is stronger, the light can kill off the bacteria and improve your complexion.

    UV light was used to treat acne but this practice has reduced due the worries over skin cancer. It would therefore not be advisable to use sunbeds as a method to treat acne.

    Some acne preparations, like Differin and Epiduo, make your skin more sensitive to light. During treatment, exposure to strong sunlight should be avoided to prevent burning and skin damage.

  • I have been told to stop smoking. Will this help my Acne?

    Stopping smoking has many health benefits. As well as improving our breathing, lowering your heart risk and improve your senses of taste and smell, it will also help to improve your complexion because nicotine promotes the production of white and blackheads.

  • Is it safe to buy Acne antibiotics & creams online?

    Yes, as long as you are buying from a website that is a legally operating and regulated pharmacy it is perfectly safe to buy acne antibiotics or creams online. The Independent Pharmacy is an NHS Online Pharmacy based in Bristol and has all the necessary regulation to be able to safely provide convenient access to genuine prescription acne treatments through our Online Pharmacy.

  • Should I squeeze my spots?

    You should not squeeze spots as this can cause scarring and will not guarantee that your acne will clear up any faster. Although it may be tempting, you should not squeeze your spots!

  • Does Acne run in the family?

    Like many medical conditions, acne can run in families. If your parents had acne, it increases the chance that you will.  However, acne also occurs sporadically for no obvious reason, usually around puberty.

  • Can eating certain foods, like chocolate, give you Acne?

    There is still no definite answer for this question. The original studies were done in the 1960's and compared patients to those eating sugar sweets. However, they didn’t compare high GI foods to lower ones. There is a mounting evidence to suggest that a lower GI diet has acne benefits. 

    This is further supported by the reduced occurrence/lack of acne in teenagers in non-developed countries. A low GI and high protein diet has been shown to be beneficial to acne suffers as they have fewer incidents of outbursts.

  • Can Acne be caught from close contact, kissing or touching?

    You cannot transmit acne from one person to another. Although the redness associated with acne is caused by bacteria, it's naturally present on everyone’s skin.


  • Can Acne persist in your 30's?

    Acne is most common in teenagers around the age of puberty, due to hormonal changes. However it can also be cause by the different stages of the menstrual cycle, polycystic ovary syndrome and even pregnancy. For this reason, acne is more common in women. Acne can also be a side effect from taking certain medicines like steroids, lithium or ciclosporin.

    No matter when you get acne, in yours teens through to your 30’s, the treatment regime is exactly the same, it is treated depending on the severity.

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