Acne is a common skin condition which is characterised by comedones commonly known as blackheads and whiteheads. Some lesions are also pus filled and are called pustules. This condition affects the face, chest, neck and back. Acne usually begins at adolescence and resolves for the majority in their late teens. However, for some it persists for longer.

The cause for acne is not known, but it is known that the sebaceous glands of people prone to acne are more sensitive to androgens which are hormones found in both males and females. This sensitivity leads to overproduction of sebum by the glands, and coupled with increased dead skin cells not being shed off properly leads to formation of the comedones. Propionibacterium acnes that reside normally on the skin then cause inflammation on the comedones causing the pustules.

Acne is diagnosed by its appearance that includes oily skin, pus filled spots, blackheads and whiteheads. The severity of acne varies from mild to severe where one can have few comedones to having large cysts and scarring of the affected areas when they heal.

One must however remember that not all spots are acne and you should consult your dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

The treatment for acne depends on its severity and this encompasses topical creams and gels, oral antibiotics, oral contraceptives and in some cases isotretinoin. Your dermatologist will guide you and prescribe the appropriate medication depending on the severity of the acne. So far acne does not have a cure but is manageable with the treatment outlined above. When one starts treatment for acne, they should expect to see improvement in at least 2 months.

While on treatment, it is important to have a good skin care routine as this will go a long way in managing the acne. This includes, not picking at the spots, avoid over the counter treatments, cleaning your skin with mild soap and avoid scrubbing the skin too hard to get rid of the black heads as this can irritate the skin.

There is little evidence that any foods cause acne such as chocolates and fast foods however a balanced diet is beneficial for your overall health.

A person with acne can use make up as long as its oil free or water based and remember to use sunscreen!


Adapted from the British Association of Dermatologists.