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Information and advice on acne
Acne is a skin condition which causes spots to appear on the face, neck, chest and back.
Spots appear when oil-producing glands in the skin get blocked. These sebaceous glands produce a substance called sebum, which can block hair follicles, and cause different symptoms, including spots, nodules and cysts.
There is no cure for acne but there are ways to control it. Acne treatment options include spot cream and over the counter medication. Acne is usually caused by hormones, genes or stress - it is not triggered by diet. Acne affects most teenagers due to hormonal changes during puberty, and can continue into adulthood.
Common symptoms of acne
Acne usually develops on the face, neck, chest and back when oil-producing sebaceous glands clog hair follicles. Acne can cause different types of spots to appear. These include papules, blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, cysts and nodules.
- Papules are the small, red bumps typical of acne
- Pustules are similar, but have a white tip caused by pus
- Nodules are sore, hard lumps which grow under the skin surface
- Cysts are the most serious symptom of acne - a large, pus-filled spot which is sore, red and similar in appearance to a boil. In extreme cases, cysts can cause lesions (tissue damage) – and sufferers are left with permanent scars.
There are two more common forms of spots, blackheads and whiteheads, which are not unique to acne.
Stress and hormonal changes, such as before a period, can also cause outbreaks. Take time to exercise and relax to help boost your mood.
Treatments and practical advice
The most common acne treatment is topical cream or lotion, available over the counter.
Most of these spot creams contain benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide helps by preventing dead skin cells from blocking hair follicles, and by killing bacteria on the skin. The cream or gel can cause skin to dry out and peel away, so it's advised to use sparingly. They should be applied to the whole acne-prone area not just directly to the spots as this helps prevent new spots arising. Benzolyl peroxide preparations should be used for at least 2 months before deciding if they are effective.
Although it is tempting, it's better to leave spots and blackheads alone, rather than try to squeeze them. Washing twice a day with warm water and soap, or a specialist spot wash or scrub, will help stop bacteria from spreading and reduce inflammation. Patting dry after washing your face is a better than rubbing, as this can cause spots to spread.
Try to avoid wearing make-up - if you can't go without, be sure to pick up non-comedogenic products, as these won't clog pores.