Acne 

Introduction 

Growing up

Teenagers talk about their experience of growing up and how they cope with the changes in their bodies.

Media last reviewed: 07/01/2013

Next review due: 07/01/2015

Warts on fingers

Five common skin conditions

Facts about five common skin problems, including causes and available treatments

Acne is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point. It causes spots to develop on the skin, usually on the face, back and chest.

The spots can range from surface blackheads and whiteheads – which are often mild – to deep, inflamed, pus-filled pustules and cysts, which can be severe and long-lasting and lead to scarring.

Read more about the symptoms of acne.

What can I do if I have acne?

Keeping your skin clean is important, but will not prevent new spots developing. Wash the affected area twice a day with a mild soap or cleanser, but do not scrub the skin too hard to avoid irritating it. 

If your skin is dry, use a moisturiser (emollient). Most of these are now tested so they don't cause spots (non-comedogenic).

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. Products containing a low concentration of benzoyl peroxide may be recommended, but be careful as this can bleach clothing.

If your acne is severe or appears on your chest and back, it may need to be treated with antibiotics or stronger creams that are only available on prescription.

When to see your GP

See your GP if you cannot control your acne with over-the-counter medication or if it is causing you distress and making you feel unhappy.

Also see your GP if you develop nodules or cysts, as they will need to be treated properly to avoid scarring.  

Treatments can take up to three months to work, so don't expect results overnight. Once they do start to work, the results are usually good.

Read more about treating acne.

Try to resist the temptation to pick or squeeze the spots as this can lead to permanent scarring.

Find out more about complications of acne.

Why do I have acne?

Acne is most commonly linked to the changes in hormone levels during puberty, but can start at any age.

It affects the grease-producing glands next to the hair follicles in the skin. Certain hormones cause these glands to produce larger amounts of oil (abnormal sebum).

This abnormal sebum changes the activity of a usually harmless skin bacterium called P. acnes, which becomes more aggressive and causes inflammation and pus.

The hormones also thicken the inner lining of the hair follicle, causing blockage of the pores (opening of the hair follicles). Cleaning the skin does not help remove this blockage.

Acne is known to run in families. If both your mother and father had acne, it is likely that you will also have acne.

Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during the menstrual cycle or pregnancy, can also lead to episodes of acne in women.

There is no evidence that diet, poor hygiene or sexual activity play a role in acne.

Read more about the causes of acne, including some common acne myths.

Who is affected?

Acne is very common in teenagers and younger adults. About 80% of people between the ages of 11 and 30 will be affected by acne.

Acne is most common between the ages of 14 and 17 in girls, and boys between 16 and 19.

Most people have acne on and off for several years before their symptoms start to improve as they get older. Acne often disappears when a person is in their mid-twenties.

In some cases, acne can continue into adult life. About 5% of women and 1% of men have acne over the age of 25.

Page last reviewed: 04/04/2014

Next review due: 04/04/2016

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Comments

The 18 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

learn10 said on 14 June 2014

My acne / rosacea was caused by demodex mites. It's worth investigating.

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User843481 said on 25 May 2014

I should say I have also tried Benzoyl Peroxide (All strengths), 2 types of contraception, antibiotics, all sorts of topical creams, diet changes etc. It's just not fair as I look after my skin, eat well, drink loads of water, exercise. The only thing left I can think of is I must have a tendency to have bad skin as my mother has large pores and oily akin and there is a family history of autoimmune disease and adrenal fatigue.

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User843481 said on 25 May 2014

I'm at the end of my tether with acne and reading these comments about some people still being affected late on in life makes me feel even more helpless. I'm 22 (female) and have had acne since I was 13. By the time I was 16 it was very severe and I didn't want to leave the house. My entire face, back, neck, upper arms, and chest were just covered in spots. After a rigorous course of co-cyprindiol and Isotretinoin things improved and my skin was excellent. However about 6-7 months after stopping these drugs (had to come off co-cyprindiol as my GP said people shouldn't be on it longer than 6 months) my acne returned. It is not as severe as it was but I still have frequent breakouts, heavy red scarring and pigmentation (I am very pale naturally), and large pores/very oily skin. I already hate myself and feel like a freak of nature. I need help but I find it so embarrassing going to the Dr's about this as I know they have to look at my hideous face.

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Faccini1 said on 20 March 2014

I started having troublesome pimples/postules on my face about six months ago. I was 27. I had had acne as a teenager, particularly, on my forehead but it had not scarred my face. I would regularly squeeze out the pus and the pimple/postule would die and disappear.

However, the "acne" I started getting last year was different. It was a mix of small whiteheads that would appear over night, repeatedly, and larger postules, also with white heads. They tended to accumulate around my jawline, on both sides of my face and, also, on my cheeks. I had a few on my throat area, just under my jawline.

The distressing thing about these was not only did they appear so frequently, were slightly painful and, of course, unseemly - but they left noticeable scarring. I decided not to squeeze them and let them 'die' naturally. However, they still scarred.

The result was that both of my cheeks and jawline soon became scarred with darkish patches. And, the "acne" kept appearing - nearly always near the jawline.

To try and get rid of the acne, I stopped taking vitamin pills, took antibiotics from the doctors, various creams, oils and face scrubs, aftershave. None of this had a discernable effect.

The thing that may, finally, have worked a bit (touch wood) is scrubbing my face with Dead Sea Salt Scrub. This is a mix of salt and various oils. I apply the salt mix to my face and leave it for a while (sometimes overnight). I then wash it off - sometimes softly scratching dirt out of the skin with my nails.

I am still intermittently getting the spots but they have eased. I have also tried to do more exercise. I can't be sure what is helping but I think the salt scrub, in particular, has been useful.

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User829062 said on 23 December 2013

and i am 16

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User829062 said on 23 December 2013

i did all of that but i still got it bad what can i do

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Celtica said on 14 October 2013

I experienced a bout of acne in my mid four ties and was prescribed ocytetracyline. They are working to a point but what I also noticed was severe mood swings and moments of feeling very low even suicidal. Previously nothing, no depressive episodes in all my life. I've worked in rehabilitation centres and with mental health issues as a social worker and can self analysis what is going on -thankfully. I'd be concerned about prescribing this drug to young people with acne who may be prone to low moods as it could be enough to push them over the edge. I cannot begin to explain how extreme the low moods are and if unprepared it could be lethal. I'm not sure the medical profession have really understood the side effects at least for some people. Worth thinking about for any gp's prescribing, especially to people who may be low in confidence in the first place as a result of acne.

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sean moore said on 06 October 2013

hi my name is Sean i am 50 years old and have got servere ance scaring on my face, i have had quite a few operations to try and remove scars but not had much luck with this.
I am really struggling with my confidence at the moment and feel that sometimes its hard to carry on.
Any advise would be greatly excepted.
Many thanks

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Sam321 said on 11 October 2012

I assume you are talking about teenage dream jade. I got this because I had a terrible outbreak of acne or spots whatever you call it on my forehead and chin and within three days the improvement was remarkable. My skin is completely clear now. Just in time for starting a new job.

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JadeMillen said on 20 June 2012

I used benzyl peroxide and it really dried my skin out so had to throw it away. Nothing else has been of any use to me. I use a natural treatment for acne. It has jojoba oil, east cape manuka oil and geranium oil and I got it on the web. It has been amazing the way it has cleared up all of my acne and it has also made my open pores smaller, which I didn't expect. My skin is almost flawless and I cannot recommend this product highly enough. The only downside is the price but my last bottle lasted three months. I don't need to use any moisturisers now so I suppose I am saving on that. Us students need to watch the pennies you know.

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GBloom said on 11 November 2011

I have to agree with ols post. I have been using Aknicare for years and it works brilliantly for my skin. It keeps the oiliness at a minimum and I get so few breakouts. I definitely recommend you give it a go.

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ols said on 25 May 2011

Hi I was recommended Aknicare by a Dermatologist in London. I have tried lots of treatments including Rocaccutane which worked for a short time but then the spots came back. I was so frustrated I went back to the Dermatologist. After using Aknicare for 2 weeks I started to notice my spots were drying up and I was getting fewer new ones. My skin was also a lot less oily. I have been using it for around 2 months now and my skin has continued to improve. I would definitely recommend Aknicare.

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User297576 said on 21 March 2011

PS, Benzoyl Peroxide cost me £3 for a tube which, I imagine, will last a while. You're only supposed to apply a thin layer to the affected area (not just the spots!) once a day.

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User297576 said on 21 March 2011

Hi Everyone. I'm not sure if this is going to help. I'm 30, suffer from acne on my face, always around my chin area and bottom of my cheeks. I've always had spots on these areas since early 20s. When some of my spots disappear, others always follow. I have just started using Benzoyl Peroxide which is an over the counter gel/cream. I've done my research on this and can explain how it works. The bacteria that often causes acne cannot survive in an oxygen-rich environment. Benzoyl Peroxide works by producing oxygen to the pores, thereby killing the bacteria.
It comes in a variety of strengths...I'm on 2.5% strength which is recommended for beginners. If there is no change in a few weeks, my pharmasist had advised me I can increase the strength.
I can't give you a personal experience of this yet as I've only just started using it. However, I do like the feeling of it on my skin and my spots feel a little drier and there is no excess oil on my skin.
Of course, always check with your Dr or pharmasist for advice and info into the side effects. I am not a Doctor or have any medical qualifications at all. Might be worth a try though, hey?

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mizz3 said on 04 March 2010

If you have tried several medications from your GP and have had the problem for years, make sure you are referrred to a dermatologist. This is a skin specialist at the hospital who will be able to supply stronger treatments that are much more likely to cure it (will depend on individuals circumstances).

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Luci05 said on 11 February 2010

I am 18 years old and have suffered from acne ever since i started puberty. It started on my face and then spread to my back and chest. A few years later it appeared on my inner thighs and on my vagina. Just recently it has flared up under my breasts and in my armpits. I end up having to wear plasters to cover them as they leak pus and sometimes blood and are very sore. The acne in my armpits sometimes smells, no matter how ofter i wash. I was put on Roaccutane (isotretinoin) 30mg for 5months and while my face and and back cleared, everything else has got worse not better. Please help me as it is very embarrassing and effects my social life. Please!

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SeanGauld said on 02 February 2010

Imogen,
Its hard to tell with you as you are only 16, If you are on any income support or any thing like that from the Job Centre then take it with you to your Chemist along with your Prescription and they will advise you.
I am currently on Oxytetracycline but trouble is, my body is getting immune to them. Tried another sorce of Antibiotics but they were Crap.
Seek advice from Dr though.
I know what you are going through and do feel for you.
Wish you all the best.
Sean

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Imogen-1993 said on 14 June 2009

If i'm 16, do i have to pay for acne creams and medicines from the GP?

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Teen boys 15-18

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