What is Acne?
Acne is a common skin condition which causes oily skin, spots or hot and painful areas of skin. It can affect people of all ages, and many people experience acne during their life. However, as it is linked to changes in hormones, teenagers and pregnant women are the most vulnerable to acne.
You can experience acne in varying degrees. Some people are fortunate to only have mild acne which comes up as the occasional few pimples. Unfortunately, some people can experience severe acne which can produce cysts and a flare up of spots.
Acne can be very embarrassing for many people, making them feel depressed and unhappy about their appearance. However, there is a wide range of treatment out there to treat both the internal causes of acne and the physical manifestations, such as pimples and redness to the skin. After an online consultation with a certified doctor, you can order acne treatments from our online pharmacy with a valid prescription. If you order by 2pm, we can offer you free next day delivery.
Most people who suffer from acne will have it on their face; more than half of the people affected by acne will also get it on their back, with around 15% getting it on their chest.
There are six different types of spots which are caused by acne. If you suffer from acne, you may have any of the following:
- Blackheads – plugged pores which are dark or black in colour
- Whiteheads – plugged pores which are closed and yellow or white in colour
- Papules – small red bumps which can feel sore or tender
- Pustules – large lumps that grow beneath the surface of the skin and can be sore
- Cysts – these carry the biggest risk of scarring; cysts are large pus-filled lumps that look like boils
Nodules – hard lumps that build up beneath the skin's surface; these can be painful.
What Causes Acne?
Acne is caused by a combination of biological processes on the skin. Usually, it begins with a change in hormone levels. For this reason it is very common for those who are pregnant, or going through puberty or menopause, to suffer from acne.
As hormones increase during these cycles, it disrupts the balance. Some hormones are responsible for increasing the oil production. An increase in oil, or sebum, on the skin causes acne in two ways.
Firstly, sebum blocks hair follicles, causing whiteheads or blackheads. Secondly, the increase in sebum irritates a usually harmless bacterium which lives on the skin, P.acnes.
P.acnes is the bacteria which creates pus and infection. Contamination may then occur, which causes papules, pustules, nodules or cysts. Contaminated spots are also the beginning of more moderate or severe acne.
If you do suffer with acne, there are some triggers which can cause it to worsen. These include:
- Cosmetic products such as makeup
- Medications – steroids, anti-depressants or some anti-epileptic treatments
- Wearing clothes which press on the problem areas such as head bands, caps or backpacks
If you are worried you have developed acne, you can visit your doctor. A GP will be able to confirm a diagnosis of whether it is mild, moderate or severe acne by looking at your skin. They will take a look at all areas affected by the spots.
Your doctor may count the number of whiteheads, blackheads or sore nodules on your skin to assess the severity of your acne.
If you think your acne is mild, a pharmacist will be able to offer advice on products and treatments to help get rid of acne. If your doctor believes you have severe acne, they may put you on a course of antibiotics and/or topical cream, or refer you to a specialist.
If your acne does not respond well to the use of over the counter products, it is recommended you that visit a dermatologist or GP. Topical retinoid creams such as Epiduo gel, Treclin gel and Isotrexin gel are common examples of prescription medication.
Retinol is derived from vitamin A, which works by breaking down the top layer of your skin and removing dead skin cells. By removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin it helps to reduce the risk of pores becoming clogged. By breaking down skin cells, it encourages the cell turnover cycle. An increase in cell turnover evens the skin and can remove redness.
Usually, retinoid treatments are introduced to your routine slowly. You may begin using a retinoid cleanser in the evening 3 times a week and build up to using it daily.
Antibiotics are also prescribed to treat acne. Common branded examples are Oxytetracycline, Minocycline, Tetralysal and Minocin. Anti-acne antibiotics kill excess skin bacteria and reduce redness. Antibiotic treatment is often paired with a benzoyl peroxide product so that the bacteria doesn’t become resistant to the medication.
Another acne treatment is azelaic acid, which is often used as an alternative treatment to benzoyl peroxide or retinoid cream if they have not worked. Azelaic acid works by killing bacteria and eliminating dead skin cells that can plug hair follicles, just like benzoyl peroxide products. Azelaic acid products are available to purchase from a pharmacy with a prescription.
Our pharmacists and prescribers follow NICE guidelines when prescribing various acne medications.