Acne is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point. It causes spots, oily skin and sometimes skin that’s hot or painful to touch.
Acne most commonly develops on the:
- face – this affects almost everyone with acne
- back – this affects more than half of people with acne
- chest – this affects about 15% of people with acne
Types of spots
There are 6 main types of spot caused by acne:
- blackheads – small black or yellowish bumps that develop on the skin; they’re not filled with dirt, but are black because the inner lining of the hair follicle produces pigmentation (colouring)
- whiteheads – have a similar appearance to blackheads, but may be firmer and won’t empty when squeezed
- papules – small red bumps that may feel tender or sore
- pustules – similar to papules, but have a white tip in the centre, caused by a build-up of pus
- nodules – large hard lumps that build up beneath the surface of the skin and can be painful
- cysts – the most severe type of spot caused by acne; they’re large pus-filled lumps that look similar to boils and carry the greatest risk of causing permanent scarring
What can I do if I have acne?
The self-help techniques below may be useful:
- Don’t wash affected areas of skin more than twice a day. Frequent washing can irritate the skin and make symptoms worse
- Wash the affected area with a mild soap or cleanser and lukewarm water. Very hot or cold water can make acne worse
- Don’t try to “clean out” blackheads or squeeze spots. This can make them worse and cause permanent scarring
- Avoid using too much make-up and cosmetics. Use water-based products that are described as non-comedogenic (this means the product is less likely to block the pores in your skin)
- Completely remove make-up before going to bed
- If dry skin is a problem, use a fragrance-free, water-based emollient
- Regular exercise can’t improve your acne, but it can boost your mood and improve your self-esteem. Shower as soon as possible once you finish exercising, as sweat can irritate your acne
- Wash your hair regularly and try to avoid letting your hair fall across your face
Although acne can’t be cured, it can be controlled with treatment. Several creams, lotions and gels for treating spots are available at pharmacies. If you develop acne, it’s a good idea to speak to your pharmacist for advice.
Treatments can take up to 3 months to work, so don’t expect results overnight. Once they do start to work, the results are usually good.