Image of acne on a patient's back

Image of acne on a patient's back

How can I get rid of my acne? – Coping with acne

Acne is a very common skin condition, which can cause high levels of stress and self-esteem problems in some more severe cases. Whilst acne cannot always be cured, it can most often be managed well and to good effect. This can help minimise both the physical and psychological effects of this condition for patients. This condition usually starts at puberty and is experienced by most people to a certain extent over their lives, to varying degrees of severity. For example, somebody with just a few spots or somebody with a hundred spots would both be described as having acne.

Acne causes spots to develop, commonly on the face, back and chest. The type of spots which present may vary from surface spots to deeper, inflamed spots.


NHS Choices provides some useful information about the symptoms of acne and also explains the different types of spot which acne sufferers may experience. This is worth reading if you are looking to find out more about your acne.

How do I cope with my acne? 5 basic steps

1) It is very important to keep the acne-affected skin clean. A mild, gentle, unscented cleanser can be useful. A daily bath or shower is also recommended as part of a standard skincare regime. In particular, avoiding scrubbing or exfoliating the skin is often recommended, as this may irritate the skin further. Specifically, scrubs, exfoliators, cleansing granules and astringents should be avoided. Washing the skin regularly will not prevent new spots from developing, however this is a good basis from which to start further treatment. It may also help combat the ‘oily skin’ which is often associated with the condition of acne. Do not wash more than twice a day and be sure to use lukewarm water, as very hot or cold water may exacerbate the problem. Use your hands when washing your face, as a flannel or other abrasive material may cause acne spots to burst.
2) Sometimes the tendency for patients with acne is to presume they have naturally greasy skin and thus avoid moisturising at all costs, as they feel this will exacerbate the problem. However, it is important to care for acne-prone skin too and many good emollients are developed for use on acne-prone skin. Look out for non-comedogenic products. This is especially important for those who experience dry skin as a side effect of some acne treatments. Make sure not to neglect your skin’s need for moisturisation due fear of your skin becoming ‘greasier’.
3) Avoid picking, scratching or squeezing the spots. Whilst this may provide a temporary and short-term feeling of relief if the size of the spot is visibly diminished, it is absolutely to be avoided, as this may contribute to scarring in the future. It is recommended to let spots heal naturally and not to intervene by squeezing them. Whilst this will not necessarily improve the appearance of your acne in the short term, it is important, as it will avoid future scarring and so is a positive change to make.
4) Use make-up and cosmetic products very sparingly. If it is important to you to be able to wear make-up sometimes, look out for non-comedogenic, water-based products. Choose an oil-free foundation or concealer, as heavy products may block the pores and exacerbate the condition. You will find the ingredients of products on their information labels, so be sure to check they are appropriate for use by those suffering from acne. Ensure that you remove all make-up at night before going to bed.
5) It is a good idea to speak to your pharmacist for advice, as many cases of acne can be successfully controlled with over-the-counter treatments. Benzoyl peroxide is one of the active ingredients in some over-the-counter acne treatments, which, in a low concentration, has proven successful in many cases. These treatments work by killing the bacteria associated with the condition and also by preventing dead skin cells from further clogging up the pores. In coping with acne, it is important to recognise that you cannot always sort your skin problem alone and your pharmacist is a useful source of help and advice.

Here are some more useful skincare tips from the Acne Academy.

What if my acne is not clearing up when following these steps?

Sometimes, acne cannot be controlled by a basic skincare regime and over-the-counter treatments alone. If the condition is also affecting the skin on your chest and back, as well as your face, this is one of the signs that you may be experiencing a more severe form of the condition, which can often be treated successfully with antibiotics or other prescription treatments. Antibiotics work by ridding the skin of the bacteria associated with acne and also reducing inflammation. Doxycycline, lymecycline, minocycline and oxytetracycline are oral antibiotics used for treating acne. Dianette tablets are a hormone treatment option for females. Dalacin, differin, duac, epiduo, skinoren and zineryt are prescription treatments applied to the affected skin.

Try to remain positive about dealing with this condition. Even if the effects of a treatment you have started are not immediately visible, it may take up to a couple of months to notice a difference. It is worth persevering to experience the benefits, as long as you are not experiencing too many side effects from the treatment.

Acne is a skin disorder primarily associated with adolescence and thus it generally clears up in later life. Few patients report cases of acne after the age of 25. However, this does not mean the condition should be dismissed as something that will eventually just go away. Whilst it has a very good prognosis for improvement in later life, this does not mean the condition does not severely affect the self-esteem of some sufferers. If you are under 25 and feel your condition is affecting you psychologically, use the Get Connected free, confidential helpline if you need someone to talk things over with. Make sure to use the help available to you to treat your acne.

Acne myths – are they true?

Many myths about treating acne circulate, most likely because patients are so keen to find a solution for their condition. However, talking to a medical professional, for example your pharmacist, is a good choice. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you on an appropriate treatment option for your version of the condition.
• It is definitely not caused by poor hygiene. There is no evidence to suggest it is actually improved by cleaning the skin. Obviously, good hygiene is an important component of any skincare routine, but it is only a basis for further treatment and altering your cleansing routine may not have any effect on the condition. Actually, excessive washing has been indicated to worsen the condition.
• Diet is not an important factor in contributing to acne. In fact, diet alone has little to no effect on the condition. Often people attribute acne-prone skin to diets which favour sugary and fatty foods, such as chocolate, however there is no evidence for this assumption. In terms of general health, not just focusing on your skin condition, a good diet including plenty of fruit and vegetables is still recommended.
• It is likely that stress alone does not cause acne. Indeed there is some correlation between stress and acne, potentially because patients experience stress due to a loss in self-confidence as they perceive the condition to be unsightly.
• It is not an infectious condition and, as such, cannot be passed on to others.
• It is sometimes stated that sunlight is beneficial in ‘treating’ acne, however there is little evidence to support sunbathing as a treatment option or support intentional exposure to other UV light sources.

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