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.
I am using a topical acne application but it doesn’t seem to stop new spots from appearing. Why is it not working?
When using a topical application to treat acne, you must make sure that you are treating the whole area where the problem occurs, not just on the spots themselves. It is also important to give an acne treatment time to work; it can take around four months for these treatments to be completely effective, so you might not notice an immediate improvement in your condition, particularly within the first month of using it.A topical application is preventative, as it stops lesions from developing rather than treating the spots you already have on your skin. For the best results, you must treat the whole area, not just on the individual spots.
What else can I do other than use medicines to improve my acne?
Unfortunately, you cannot cure acne. However, you can relieve redness and reduce spots and scarring. Some acne treatments that you can try at home are:
- Washing your hair regularly and trying to keep hair from off your face. This reduces oil transferring across your face or back.
- Washing the area affected with a mild cleanser and lukewarm water to reduce irritation. It is advised to not wash your face any more than twice a day as this may worsen your skin.
- Remove all makeup or oil products such as sun cream before going to bed
- Try and exercise more, as this is proven to improve your mood
- Use fragrance-free and water-based products where possible on effected areas
Do not pick or pop acne spots as this can spread infection and cause scarring
Can acne scars ever be removed?
Once you have cleared the spots and infection from the skin, you can be left with pockmarks or blemishes across your face. Many people can become self-conscious of acne scarring and it may cause low mood. Fortunately, there are now numerous treatments you can undergo to reduce the appearance of acne scars and uneven texture. For instance, dermal fillers have started to be used to fill deep pockmarks on the skin. However, fillers are temporary, and so will need to be repeated around twice a year to maintain results. Microdermabrasion has become a popular option for those suffering with acne scars.The specialist treatment involves using tiny crystal jets to power exfoliate the skin. It is effective at reducing red scar marks across the face. Again, this may take a few sessions to clear the skin. If you are worried about indented scars, microneedling treatments may help to reduce their appearance. The process involves using a pulse of energy and heat, with microneedles which penetrate the skin and break down difficult scar tissue. This remodels collagen and can significantly reduce deep pockmarks in the skin.
I wash my face religiously but my acne is not getting any better. Why?
I have just been on holiday and my acne got better. Shall I start using a sunbed to improve my acne?
I have been told to stop smoking. Will this help my acne?
Is it safe to purchase acne antibiotics & creams online?
Should I squeeze my spots?
I am due to sit my exams and have more spots than usual. Can this be stress related?
Does acne run in the family?
Can eating certain foods, like chocolate, give you acne?
Can contraceptive pills cause acne?
What is the best way to remove blackheads?
Can acne be caught from close contact, kissing or touching?
Can Acne persist into adult life?
Medicine Direct have an experienced clinical team of doctors, pharmacists and dispensers, all of whom are based in the UK. All are fully trained and qualified to provide appropriate and considered care across all areas of treatment we have available at our online pharmacy.
This means that no matter which member of our team is assigned to your case, you can rest assured that you are in the hands of a highly skilled medical professional, who possesses the compassion and clinical expertise to properly advise you on the best course of treatment.
We are fully regulated
All of our doctors and pharmacists are fully registered with both the General Medical Council (GMC), MHRA and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). Each member of our team has also worked in various clinic settings in the past, such as community pharmacies and NHS hospitals.