Acne is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point. It causes a range of difference types of spots such as whiteheads, blackheads, pustules and cysts. It can also cause oily, hot or painful skin. It most commonly develops on the face, back and chest.
Acne can begin at any age but it occurs commonly in puberty due to changes in the levels of certain hormones that cause the grease-producing glands next to hair follicles in the skin to thicken and to produce larger amounts of oil.
The oil causes the growth of a usually harmless bacteria that lives on the skin called P. acnes which in turn creates spots while the thickening of the follicle lining causes the pores to block. Acne can by hereditary and usually disappears altogether by the time a person is in their twenties.
Benzoyl peroxide which is available as a cream or gel works as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory to reduce the number of bacteria on the surface of the skin and therefore the number of acne spots. It can be used either once or twice a day and should be applied 20 minutes after washing to all parts of the face affected by acne. It can cause irritation (redness, peeling, burning and stinging) or sensitivity to sunlight and may also bleach hair and clothing. However side effects are usually mild and should pass once the treatment has finished. Most people require a 6-week course of treatment to clear up most or all of their acne. They may be advised to continue with treatment but less frequently to prevent their acne from returning.
Products such as Acnecide are available in the pharmacy as a wash or a gel.
Preparations for acne are available via the Minor Ailments scheme.