What causes acne?
Acne is caused by blockage of the hair follicle and its associated oil gland, leading to the lesions seen in acne. Blockage of oil glands results in the build-up of oils, dead skin cells and bacteria resulting in red, tender, swollen acne lesions. This occurs in skin areas richest in oil glands, commonly affecting the face, neck, chest, shoulders and upper back.
In many cases acne is mild including oily (seborrhoeic) skin with blackheads (open comedones), white heads (closed comedones) and occasional papules and pustules limited to the face. In others it can be extensive and include tender and painful nodules and cysts that without early effective treatment result in scarring. Both active acne and acne scars can have an enormous personal impact.
What acne treatments are available?
A range of effective treatments are available that can be tailored to your personal acne needs. For mild acne the right skincare and medicated topical creams can give good results. When acne fails to respond adequately to topical therapy, is more severe and/or when scarring is starting to occur a range of tablets can be effective including low androgenic oral contraceptive pills, antibiotics and vitamin A derivatives.
The right diet (a low GI diet combined with exercise) can help a bit in many with acne, however for those with significant acne the benefits from diet alone are limited and this needs to be combined with other proven skincare and acne treatments. In females acne may be part of the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which can present with acne and irregular or infrequent periods.
For active acne, chemical peels including a series of peels containing salicylic acid, mandelic acid and glycolic acid can prove useful. Laser and light treatments can also be utilised such as the Kleresca® Photonic Acne Treatment.
Appropriate skincare, including the right cleanser, medicated or active treatment products together with the right moisturiser and sun-protective products are key to good acne control. A mild pH balanced ‘soap free’ cleanser is suitable for most with acne. Salicylic acid containing cleansers are also beneficial. Non-prescription acne treatment products containing salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid and nicotinamide/niacinamide can be beneficial in mild acne or combined with other treatments in more severe acne. Many moisturisers and sunscreen products can worsen acne, look for ones labelled ‘oil free’ and suitable for acne prone skin.