How our skin specialists can help treat Acne:
Acne causes physical discomfort and can affect your self-esteem and confidence. People of all ages and skin types suffer from acne. Fortunately, it is a very treatable and mostly curable condition. The dermatologists at Complete Skin Specialists have over 20 years combined experience in the effective treatment of acne. We understand that because there are a variety of acne types every patient’s treatment regime must be individualised. A treatment regimen developed by a dermatologist provides the best chance of effective management. At Complete Skin Specialists, we offer dedicated acne clinics which provide convenient appointment times for all our patients including school-age patients.
There are many myths about what causes acne and how to treat it. As doctors, dermatologists understand the causes of this skin condition and are experts in the medical treatment of acne. We can combine both prescription medication with other treatment options such as extractions, peels and light-based therapies to create an effective treatment plan for every situation.
What is Acne?
Although acne is most common in teenage years, it can affect people of all ages and skin types. The problem starts with a blockage in the hair follicle (pore) which then, with its associated oil (sebaceous) gland becomes infected and inflamed. Whiteheads, blackheads, pustules and cysts are all forms of acne and they are most commonly seen on the face and trunk where the oil gland is most active. Fortunately, it is usually very treatable and even curable in most cases.
What causes Acne?
There are many contributing factors in the formation of acne but the exact reasons why certain people are affected their degree of severity are poorly understood.
Genetic predisposition is one of the strongest factors and is likely to determine the age of onset and severity. Acne commonly runs in families but the hereditary nature of it is not fully understood.
Hormonal changes tend to trigger the onset of acne and this can be from as young as 8 years old in certain individuals. The “male hormones” (androgens) increase in both boys and girls during puberty and these hormones result in increased oil production and cell turnover within the pores, increasing the change of them blocking up. Women may experience long-standing hora on all acne which flares in a cyclical nature with the menstrual periods.
Exogenous (external) hormones such as corticosteroid medications or anabolic steroids can also cause acne.
Once a pore is blocked then it becomes prone to both infection and inflammation. This is what causes a red, inflamed or pus-filled lump known as a pimple. Bacteria known as Propionibacterium acne is typically found in acne lesions but other factors may also be involved in the inflammation around the follicle. Stress and certain dietary factors are commonly described as exacerbating factors in acne and it is likely that this is as a result of other hormonal cascades in the body.
Further studies are required to establish the nature of the link between diet and acne but some evidence suggests that high glycemic index (high sugar) diets cause worsening of acne.
What are common symptoms and signs of acne?
Acne can be very varied in appearance and can progress through multiple stages.
Blackhead, whitehead or comedone – represent a blockage within the pore and is generally the primary lesion in all pimples. It appears as a small black, white or skin coloured bump in the skin with little or no surrounding redness. Sometimes the skin needs to be stretched to show the extent of the acne.
Papules and pustules – generally a small red bump with or without a yellow pus-filled head. This lesion represents infection and inflammation of the pore.
Cysts and nodules – large, deep and variable redness.These lesions are often long-lasting and painful. They often represent significant inflammation in the deep skin which often results in scarring down the track.
What lifestyle changes can support treating acne?
While we’d all like to be able to fix our acne with the right diet and lifestyle choices, unfortunately it’s not that easy.
In many cases the cause of the acne is strongly genetic and it either needs to run it’s course or be managed with appropriate treatment.
Acne and acne scarring have a significant psychosocial impact on sufferers and acne scarring can be difficult to treat, so proactive treatment of early acne is preferable.
Some simple things though can make a difference for some people but professional advice is always advisable. Reducing intake of high glycaemic index (high sugar) food and excessive amounts of dairy foods may help some people. Similarly minimising stress where possible may reduce inflammation in the body.
Avoiding heavy makeup and oils (in particular mineral oils) is important in those prone to congestion and blocked pores. Non-comedogenic makeup though is safe to use.
Avoiding irritation of the skin can also reduce inflammation and acne lesions. Those prone to acne have a tendency to over-cleanse and use harsh products on the skin which are usually counter-productive. These can actually cause an increase in oil production and skin cell turnover resulting in more blocking of the pores and more acne lesions.
Skin care in acne is very important and in some cases can help enough to avoid medical treatments.
Products should be anti-inflammatory (including ingredients such as niacin aide) and gently exfoliating (AHAs and BHAs) to help unblock the pores. Topical vitamin A (retinoids) will also help reduce the formation of blocked pores.
How can I manage my acne?
How can I manage my acne?
Acne treatments need to be tailored to the individual and can vary greatly. There are many options to suit different skin types, lifestyles and personal preferences.
Mild acne can be managed effectively with non-prescription treatments.
These may include:
- Skin care – Alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, benzoyl peroxide, topical retinoids
- Skin peels – to unblock the skin and reduce inflammation
- LED anti-inflammatory light treatment
- Acne extractions
If acne is more severe or cystic, not responding to the right skin care, causing distress or problems with self-confidence or showing any signs of scarring, it should be treated more aggressively.
Medical treatments may include:
- Topical or oral antibiotics
- Anti- androgen therapies (such as the oral contraceptive pill or spironolactone)
- Topical or oral retinoids (isotretinoin)