Understanding and treating your acne
In this month’s journal I discuss one of the most common inflammatory skin conditions, acne. I’ll cover the causes and the range of treatments I use in my clinic every day to help patients feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and skin confident.
Your journey to clearer skin: understanding and treating your acne
Acne is incredibly common, affecting 3 out of 4 people between the ages of 11 and 30, but it can affect people at any age, even newborn babies. In my practice I see patients with acne as young as 7 or 8 years old and patients well into their 50s who are still suffering with the condition. It is a myth acne only affects teenagers and that we “grow out of it.” I see many adults who are experiencing acne for the first time. On ‘breakout’ days you might feel self-conscious and avoid social interactions. Severe, untreated acne can cause scarring. Whilst there is no cure, there are a range of very effective treatments to manage the condition and help patients feel more skin confident. This blog will help to explain how understanding and treating your acne can help.
What is acne?
Acne is caused by congestion and inflammation of the follicles within our skin and predominantly affects the face, chest and back. Glands connected to these follicles produce oil (sebum), which when combined with dead skin cells may form a plug. Follicular plugs may then be colonised with bacteria and become inflamed. These processes lead to the characteristic skin lesions seen with acne including comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), and/or papules (raised, red areas of skin), pustules and nodules.
What causes acne?
Acne is what we call ‘multifactorial,’ meaning that a combination of genetic, hormonal and lifestyle factors contribute to the development of the condition.
There is a large genetic component to acne, a strong family history of acne means one is more likely to be affected. Hormones play a role in the condition as well, as certain hormones cause our sebaceous glands to produce too much oil leading to follicular plugging. The bacteria which colonise our skin, such as Cutibacterium acnes, may then cause inflammation within these follicles leading to red, swollen spots.
Lifestyle factors can have an impact including an imbalanced diet (especially increased intake of high-glycemic foods such as refined sugars), lack of sleep and exposure to pollution and environmental stressors. When we’re stressed, we produce more cortisol which triggers a cascade of other hormones that may stimulate the oil glands within the skin and promote inflammation, leading to acne breakouts. A mismatched skincare regimen, one that is over or under-zealous, or simply not right for your skin can allow acne to take hold by causing irritation or allowing build-up of oil and debris. Sometimes acne can also be caused by medications prescribed for other health conditions.
Can acne be cured?
At present there is no ‘cure’ for acne, however there are many treatments available to help control and manage the condition. It is especially important to treat deep, inflammatory acne in order to prevent long-term scarring.
Which acne treatment is right for me?
A detailed medical history and skin assessment are important to help determine the appropriate acne treatment plan for you. Together we will work on a regime that is tailored to your skin. Some of the treatments we may consider include:
- Lifestyle and dietary modifications
- Topical prescriptions such as benzoyl peroxide and retinoids
- Oral medication including hormonal medications, oral antibiotics and Roaccutane
- LED treatments
- Chemical peels
- Daylight PDT
Treatments for acne scarring might include:
Understanding and treating your acne is not a quick fix but we have a variety of options to help!