Webpage written by Kamand, Fatima and Basima, Year 13

Acne (spots)

What is acne?

Acne is a worldwide skin condition that affects a lot of people at various times of their life with varying severity, and even different types of acne.

It causes the skin to become different to its natural state, causing spots, oily skin and in some cases skin that is puffy and red which can also be hot and very painful to touch.

Acne can appear on various parts of the body, for example on the back, face and even chest. Some places are more common than others. The face can be more common than other places on the body, but you shouldn't worry if you get acne in other places.

Causes of acne
  • Cosmetics and make up 
  • Puberty and hormones
  • Genes. Acne is inherited, so if your parents suffered from acne you are likely to as well
  • Lifestyle Factors:
    • Diet
    • Smoking
  • Some medications

Acne is caused by the blockage of tiny holes in the skin known as sebaceous glands which make sebum (oil). Bacteria found on the skin surface mixes and contaminates the plugged glands causing papules, pustules, nodules or cysts which are all different types of acne.

Risks of not treating acne well

When acne is not treated, it can either go away by itself or it can develop into a more serious state.

Acne can become worse for many reasons. For example; popping or squeezing breakouts, sharing makeup and makeup brushes, you eat too many sweet and starchy foods. Even washing your face too much can irritate your skin and aggravate your acne to come back even worse!

Any type of acne can cause scarring. If you have a more severe case of acne and you leave it untreated, it will be more likely that you get lifelong scarring. This can happen when nodules and cysts (caused by infected skin) burst and damage nearby skin. Popping and squeezing breakouts can cause scarring. This is why it is important to leave them and resist the urge to pop them!

If this happens to you, you may feel anxious and uncomfortable with the way your skin has changed which is why it is also important to make sure your mental health and wellbeing is taken care of. There are many websites which can help to make you feel confident in your own skin.

If you are worried about any acne scarring, don't as there are many treatments that you can do!

 

What can you do to prevent acne?

The way that acne acts on your skin is mostly due to your genes however, there are many ways to lower the risk of your acne breaking out:

  • Gently cleanse your skin. Use a gentle cleanser and water, or an oil-free soap substitute. Don't exfoliate your skin. Scrubbing too hard can irritate your skin and make acne worse. Acne is not due to poor washing. 
  • Avoid picking and ‘cleaning out’ breakouts. By doing this, you are making it worse as it can cause permanent scarring on your skin. 
  • Avoid oil based products. Most make up, skincare and suncare products are oil based (also known as comedogenic). This can block the pores in your skin and block the hair follicles, ultimately creating a space for acne to develop.
  • Use water based (non comedogenic) products. These are much healthier for the skin, as they have a lower chance of blocking your pores.
  • Remove makeup and cosmetics before you get into bed as it can mix with oils that have built up on the surface of your skin and will lead to breakouts and clogged pores.
  • Sleep. To maintain a healthy mindset and wellbeing, it is important to get enough sleep at night. Science has proven that an adequate amount of sleep improves your body's ability to heal and fight disease, improve mood and mental health. Visit Teen Sleep Hub for advice. 
  • Diet.
    • Observational evidence suggests that there is a possibility that consuming foods which increase your blood sugar, for example carbohydrates, sugars and dairy, has a link to the development of acne.
    • However, there is currently no research based evidence that is strong enough to support the idea that diet and acne have a link.
    • If you do notice an acne outbreak triggered by eating a specific food, you can try avoiding it to see if it helps.

Sometimes despite doing all the right things, some people are unlucky and have very severe acne through no fault of their own. 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

How can I treat acne myself?

Follow the advice above: 

  • Gently cleanse your skin
  • Avoid picking 
  • Avoid oil based products
  • Get a good nights sleep
  • Eat a healthy diet 

Speak to your local community pharmacist about acne treatments you can buy over the counter such as benzoyl peroxide

If your acne is not improving, getting worse, causing scarring or affecting your mental health then speak to your GP. 

How long will it take for my skin to get better?

On average it can take between 1 and 2 weeks for acne pimples to clear up on their own. For severe acne it can take several weeks for acne to go away even with treatment.

Most acne treatments take time to work. You often need to use an acne treatment for up to 3 months before deciding whether or not it has been effective.

Scaring fades over time but the time it takes depends on the type of acne scarring, it may take 12 months or longer. 

If your acne is getting worse, affecting your mental health or causing scarring then speak to your GP. 

 

When should I see a doctor?

If you have mild acne, you should speak to a pharmacist for advice about treatment. You should probably speak to your GP if you have moderate or severe acne or if it is affecting your mental health. You should also speak to your GP if your acne is causing scarring.

There are many treatments out there for acne including:

  • Topical treatments (those that are applied directly to the skin). Some you can buy over the counter from a pharmacy and others you can only get on prescription
  • Oral antibiotics (tablets taken by mouth)
  • Oral contraceptive pills
  • Isotretinoin capsules (brand name Roaccutane®) only available from a dermatologist

Is it normal for acne to affect my mental health?

 Yes! This is a completely normal feeling, as almost 1 in 4 people who have acne will experience a change to their mental health. When acne changes the appearance of your skin, it can make you feel upset or distressed and perhaps make you have negative thoughts about yourself.

It's important to remember that there are many trained medical professionals who can help you with your emotional wellbeing. They can help you decide on the best course of action to address the issues you are experiencing with your acne and mental health.

Visit our page on mental health services for support or contact West Yorkshire Night OWLS

 Available 8pm to 8am every day for children, young people, parents and carers across West Yorkshire. Call free on 0800 1488 244 or text on 07984 392700. Visit the website to use the online chat function www.wynightowls.org.uk

What happens if I squeeze my spots?

When squeezing or popping a spot, it damages the skin and causes an increased risk of scarring and acne getting worse.  Instead of picking on your acne, you should use a safe and targeted treatment for the specific type of acne that you have. Speak to a pharmacist, your GP or a dermatologist for advice. 

How do I get rid of blackheads?

Applying a cream or gel with benzoyl peroxide once or twice a day after washing your face can reduce the number of blackheads on your face. Wash 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.

You can buy benzoyl peroxide (brand name Acnecide®) over the counter from your local community pharmacy. If your skin is getting worse, speak to your GP. 

 

Should I put toothpaste on my spots?

Although toothpaste does have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredients, it is important to not use it on your spots as it is a highly irritant substance. In some cases, it may cause severe discoloration (which is most common in darker skin types).

Should I use spot patches?

There's no harm in trying spot patches but they may not work.

Spot patches act as bandages that prevent you from touching spots e.g. picking them. Spot patches absorb the fluid, pus and prevent dirt and bacteria from getting to pimples, creating a moist environment for faster and improved healing and also reducing scarring.

The patch won't stop the next pimple from appearing, but the pimple may heal more quickly.

However, they might dry out or irritate the affected area. If you have dirt from clogged pores, blackheads, or whiteheads, or cystic acne they won't help. 

Should I put make up over my spots?

It depends on the type of makeup product you use. Some might cause acne to appear or make acne worse, but some may have no effect. Makeup that is heavy or oily in texture can block hair follicles which can trigger acne.

  • Avoid oil based products. Most make up, skincare and suncare products are oil based (also known as comedogenic). This can block the pores in your skin and block the hair follicles, ultimately creating a space for acne to develop.
  • Use water based (non comedogenic) products. These are much healthier for the skin, as they have a lower chance of blocking your pores.
  • Remove makeup and cosmetics before you get into bed as it can mix with oils that have built up on the surface of your skin and will lead to breakouts and clogged pores.

Which skin care products do you recommend?

Before buying any skin care products, you must know some essential information about your skin:

  • Firstly know your skin type, for example is it dry, oily or a mix of both
  • Check the ingredients of the products. Are you allergic to any ingredients in the skin product? Try the product on a small patch of skin first to see whether you could be allergic or not and so you dont harm your whole face 
  • Avoid oil based products. Most make up, skincare and suncare products are oil based (also known as comedogenic). This can block the pores in your skin and block the hair follicles, ultimately creating a space for acne to develop.
  • Use water based (non comedogenic) products. These are much healthier for the skin, as they have a lower chance of blocking your pores.
  • Remove makeup and cosmetics before you get into bed as it can mix with oils that have built up on the surface of your skin and will lead to breakouts and clogged pores.
  • Get advice from your local community pharmacist, GP or a dermatologist 
 Further information and support

 Acne Support offers expert advice and support on acne 

 British Association of Dermatologists Acne Leaflet 

Mental Health Support 

 West Yorkshire Night OWLS  is available 8pm to 8am every day for children, young people, parents and carers across West Yorkshire. Call free on 0800 1488 244 or text on 07984 392700. Visit the website to use the online chat function www.wynightowls.org.uk

 Kooth is an online counselling and emotional well being platform for children and young people. 10 to 18 year olds can chat one to one with counsellors, access self help articles and connect with peers through live moderated forums.

 Text Chat Health Leeds 07520 619 750, Calderdale 07480 635297 or Bradford and Kirklees 07312 263032. Chat Health aim to reply to your text message within 24 hours 8.30am to 4pm, Mon to Fri.