The Independent Pharmacy

Your Top 12 Acne FAQ's Answered By Medical Professionals

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 24 Oct 2023

While non-life-threatening, acne vulgaris certainly has the power to destroy sufferers’ confidence. Often a long-term condition, particularly for the hormonal teenage years, acne is caused when the skin follicles become clogged with oil and/or dead skin cells, causing pimples and skin flare-ups.

When it comes to causes and treatment, many of the same questions come up time and again. How should I treat it? When will it go away? What works and what doesn’t?

We all want clear, healthy-looking skin. Therefore, we’ve put together this post to answer your top 12 acne FAQ's once and for all.

1 – Do acne scars fade over time?

Acne scars happen when healthy tissue is damaged and replaced with fibrous tissue. Often the result of picking and squeezing spots, it can take some time for them to heal. For some, acne scars can become permanent.

Do acne scars go away on their own? Much like stretch marks, acne scars will usually fade in colour over time, but the pitted indentations can remain. There are various treatment options available for acne scars, including laser treatment, skin surgery, chemical peels and fillers.

If you prefer something simpler, you can try over-the-counter creams, aloe-based gels, or vitamin C serums – all of which have an anti-inflammatory effect that can help to heal and fade acne scars.

2 – Do acne creams and tablets work?

The first stage of acne treatment is creams, ointments, or gels usually containing a drying agent, such as benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide is also an antibacterial that helps to clear excess oil and dead skin cells. Examples of these treatments are Acnecide, Skinoren, Epiduo and Differin.

Skinoren 20% Cream
Skinoren 20% Cream
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Topical antibiotics, sometimes combined with drying agents, are the next step. These help to kill acne-causing bacteria and dry any excess oil on the skin. Zineryt, Dalacin-T, Duac, Treclin, and Zindaclin are examples of these treatments.

Oral antibiotics, such as Tetralysal or Oxytetracycline, are usually very effective at clearing up large areas of inflamed spots when used in a 3-6 month course. But still, finding the right treatment for the individual can be challenging. Click through to find out more about Oxytetracycline acne applications and Oxytetracycline side effects.

The main thing to remember is that with any treatment, it takes time. Sometimes people feel disheartened when they don’t see instant results, but perseverance is key. Acne doesn’t heal overnight. In the meantime, natural treatments like tea tree oil can help to aid the process.

3 – Can acne be genetic?

Yes, genetics can play a role in determining how likely you are to have acne. But just because it can run in families, doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed. Acne is more usually a combination of genetic, hormonal and environmental factors.

While there’s not much you can do about your genes, you can help to clear your acne by addressing the hormonal imbalance and pursuing a healthy lifestyle, along with the right treatments.

4 – Did acne exist in the Middle Ages?

Let’s just say, you’re certainly not the first person in history to suffer from spots. Experts believe people did suffer from acne in the Middle Ages, but the extent and frequency are debated. The widespread availability of processed food and dairy products likely hasn’t done modern civilisation any favours when it comes to having bad skin.

In an era rife with plague and smallpox, acne likely would have been the least of the population’s worries during Medieval times. Cover-ups at the time often contained lead powder, which would have been very bad for the skin. Queen Elizabeth wore this powder every day to cover her scars.

There is some speculation that cavemen wouldn’t have had acne, due to the lack of processed food and preservatives in their diet. But this argument fails to account for hormonal acne, which presumably would still have occurred.

5 – Does acne go away?

Of course, we often associate acne with our teenage years and early 20s, when our hormones are changing and we become prone to breakouts or cystic acne. In fact, around 80% of teens suffer from spots at some point during these years.

But acne can still affect us at other times in our lives, particularly if we have a poor diet, are stressed, or have naturally oily skin. Excess sebum is one of the biggest contributors to acne.

The best way to cure acne is to find and deal with the root cause – but if the reason is out of your control, there are things you can do to manage and reduce your acne, such as treating it with medication, topical creams, a healthy diet and a good skincare regime.

6 – Which acne products work best?

There are lots of roundups out there that claim to cover the best anti-acne products on the market right now. However, the best treatments often differ depending on the individual and their skin type. When it comes to acne, there isn’t always a one-size-fits-all solution.

From exfoliating cleansers to balancing moisturisers and targeted spot treatments, it’s worth doing your research and shopping around to find what works best for you. If your acne is severe or painful, it’s worth speaking to a professional to discuss possible medical treatments.

7 – Where acne is on your face – and what it means

Where acne occurs on your body can actually provide some insight into why it’s happening. Here’s a guide to common acne zones and what they might mean.

  • Acne on the chin and jawline – this is usually caused by hormone fluctuations over-stimulating the oil glands
  • Acne around the hairline – this could have something to do with your hair care routine
  • Acne on the cheeks – it’s possible that your phone and pillowcase are harbouring spot-causing bacteria. Be sure to clean/wash them regularly
  • Acne on the forehead and nose – this is usually due to excess oil. Use gentle cleansers regularly to help alleviate oil buildup

9 – Would antibiotics help acne?

Antibiotics can work to improve acne by killing the bacteria that cause it and reducing inflammation. They can be applied topically or taken orally. As with all antibiotics, it’s important to complete the full course. Some topical and oral antibiotics can be taken together to fight acne from both sides.

The Independent Pharmacy stocks Tetralysal (Lymecycline) capsules for acne, as well as Dalacin-T Lotion, Oxytetracycline tablets and many more acne treatments.

10 – Does acne itch?

Itchy pimples can be particularly annoying, and resisting the urge to scratch them is difficult. The itch is due to bacteria becoming trapped inside the pores, which is what causes the redness and swelling. With cystic acne, it’s the same principle, except the infection goes deeper into the skin.

Itching is a common side effect of acne, and sometimes a symptom that a breakout may be on its way. Some patients opt for medical treatments to reduce itching and subsequent scarring.

Itchiness can also happen if your skin becomes excessively dry from using too many astringent cleansers. Gentle, non-oil-based cleaners and clarifying moisturisers are sometimes the best defence.

11 – Will acne go away after pregnancy?

Many women experience bouts of acne during pregnancy. This is perfectly normal and the result of changing hormones in the body. For some, their skin will return to normal once the baby has been born. For others, the decline in estrogen after birth means the acne may hang around a few more months as the hormones re-balance.

12 – What acne treatment is right for me?

If you’re unsure what acne treatment is right for you, you can take a free online acne assessment with our medical team for impartial help and advice. Top priority is to identify the underlying causes of your acne, in order to find the best way of curing it. If non-prescription treatments have so far not worked for you, now is the time to speak to us.

These were your top 12 acne FAQS, answered by medical professionals here at the Independent Pharmacy. Get in touch today to help find the best treatment for you.

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