Acne is a very common skin condition characterised by comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and pus-filled spots (pustules). It usually starts at puberty and varies in severity from a few spots on the face, back and chest, which most adolescents will have at some time, to a more serious problem that may be embarrassing, sap self-confidence and cause scarring.

For the majority it tends to resolve by the late teens or early twenties but can persist for longer in some people. Acne can develop for the first time in people in their late twenties or even their thirties.

In more severe cases, acne can cause scarring. Treatments such as creams and tablets are available:

1. Topical Treatments

  • Antiseptics – Antiseptics like benzoyl peroxide are usually available over the counter for acne treatment. They stop some of the bacteria in the spots rowing and making it worse.
  • Retinoids – These work by stopping the openings of the skin getting blocked which is what we think causes acne in the first place. They are usually only prescribed by the doctor.
  • Antibiotics – These are used a bit less nowadays as tablet antibiotics seem to be used more.
  • Combination therapies – Sometimes your doctor may prescribe more than one of these treatments for acne and some treatments may have a combination contained in one tube. It is important to tell the doctor if any over the counter treatments are being used as some will block the effect of the prescribed ones.

2. Tablets

  • Oral Contraceptive Pill – In women, contraceptives like Yasmin or Dianette can be used to control acne.
  • Antibiotics – Tetracyclines like Lymecycline or Doxycycline are sometimes used for acne (for a long period); Erythromycin can be used if someone is allergic to Tetracyclines.
  • Retinoids – Isotretinoin (what used to be called Roaccutane) is a very powerful drug for acne and can only be prescribed by a dermatology doctor. This is only used when other treatments have failed because it can cause side effects.

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