Acne happens when the sebaceous (oil-producing) glands in your skin are overactive. If too much oil is produced, this combines with dead skin cells to clog up your pores, resulting in whiteheads and blackheads. The clogged pores provide a perfect breeding ground for the bacteria that live on your skin, leading to inflammation and spots.
Acne is one of the most common skin problems, affecting around eight in 10 people between 11 and 30, but some people still get it in middle age.
It can cause a lot of distress if it's severe, especially as it can lead to scarring, but fortunately, there are treatments that can make a big difference.
There are six types of acne-related skin blemishes, which can be mild, moderate or severe:
Your GP will look closely at your skin to assess the types of spots you have and their severity. Your acne may be classed as follows:
Your GP may also ask you questions about other symptoms to find out if there’s an underlying medical cause.
If you have it severely, they may refer you to a dermatologist, a doctor who specialises in skin problems.
The exact cause of acne isn’t fully understood, but things that make it more likely include:
It can also be made worse by:
Contrary to popular myth, acne isn’t caused by:
You can often improve mild acne at home by:
For moderate or severe acne, your doctor can prescribe:
Scarring can happen due to damage in the deeper layers of the skin caused by inflammation from the spot itself, and also from squeezing or picking spots. Getting help for acne as soon as possible will reduce the risk of scarring, plus there are treatments that can help to minimise any scars you already have, including: