Acne Treatment in London & UK

Find Cosmetic/Beauty Treatments in London & UK »

Pimples, zits, blemishes, breakouts; only a lucky few of us go through life without our fair share of these and the spotty majority of us, whether we realise it or not, are suffering from acne. It is one of the most common skin complaints, affecting millions of people worldwide, most famously, teenagers. Teenage acne clears up around the late teens and early twenties; however, acne can affect almost anyone, at any age. It consists of blackheads, whiteheads and ‘spots’ which appear on the face and sometimes on the body, including the torso, the upper arms, the thighs and the buttocks. The condition can range from extremely mild to very severe and has several different varieties. Almost all varieties and severities of acne can be treated effectively by a doctor, a dermatologist or, in mild cases, at home.

Understanding Acne

Acne forms when the pores of the skin are blocked by sebum, an oil naturally produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. During adolescence the heightened activity of hormones (especially androgen) increases the production of this oil which is why around 80% of teenagers suffer from acne. When excess sebum is produced it cannot drain properly. This clogs the pores. Clogged pores attract dead skin cells, bacteria and dirt which form a blockage called a ‘comedo’. A closed comedo is called a whitehead, while an open comedo is called a blackhead. These blackheads and whiteheads are non-inflamed pores but if they are affected by bacteria they can become inflamed which causes different kinds of ‘spots’, known as papules, pustules, cysts and nodules.

The Causes of Acne

The overproduction of sebum (natural oil produced by the skin) is the cause of acne, yet exactly what causes the sebaceous gland to be overactive is unknown. In teenagers the cause is usually hormonal but the specific causes vary from person to person. The most usual cause of acne is a combination of the following factors:

  • Diet
  • Stress
  • Hormone levels
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Environment; notably humid, damp, oily or greasy atmospheres.
  • Some medications

Common Acne Myths

Not only are the exact causes of acne unknown but to confuse matters further there are a huge number of old wives tales about the condition. For example, it is widely believed that greasy and fatty foods such as chips and chocolate can cause acne. Happily, there is no real evidence that this is true. Likewise sex and masturbation cannot, and do not, cause acne. It is also a myth that the more you wash your face, the less likely you are to have acne. If your skin produces too much sebum then, chances are, you will get acne no matter how often you wash your face.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Acne

Acne is easy to recognise, a doctor or dermatologist will simply inspect the skin in order to make a diagnosis. Further testing is only necessary in extremely rare cases. It is also simple to diagnose yourself; however, if you are experiencing anxiety, discomfort, unusual symptoms or uncertainty it is important to consult a professional. The main symptoms of acne include:

  • Blackheads and/or whiteheads
  • Skin inflammations or ‘spots’ such as cysts, pustules, papules and nodules.
  • Redness and/or crustiness around these skin inflammations
  • Scarring from previous skin inflammations

Acne Complications: Cysts, Depression and Scarring

The short-term complications of acne are usually temporary and treatable. In severe cases of acne cysts can occur. These can be sore and often require medical treatment to reduce the swelling and scarring. Acne can also cause discolouration of the skin that can be treated by a dermatologist or doctor if it fails to fade.

While the physical manifestations of acne can be unpleasant there are more serious, permanent problems related to it. Acne is linked to low self-esteem, low confidence, poor social abilities, stress and depression. There is even a higher instance of unemployment among past and present acne sufferers. It is therefore important that if you are suffering from acne you seek treatment in order to avoid the permanent physical scarring as well as the emotional and metal scarring that having acne can cause.

It is also important to be honest with your practitioner about the effects that your acne has on you mentally. Acne can be a seriously debilitating condition and the emotional and psychological effects cannot be treated if they are not properly addressed.

Common Acne Treatments

Initially, for mild cases of acne, it is recommended that you attempt home treatment using simple measures such as washing your face once or twice a day with a gentle soap, keeping your hair grease-free and avoiding touching your face with your hands. If this does not reduce your acne after 4-6 weeks then over-the-counter products can be tried. These products are usually applied to the affected area as a cream or cleanser. You do not need to consult your doctor before using these products and they can range in price from around £2.50 to over £40.00 for 40ml although often the most expensive products are no more effective. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you on the best treatment for you.

If after 4-6 weeks over-the-counter remedies and a good skin-care regime have made little or no improvement you should consult your doctor or dermatologist. Treatments include oral antibiotics, topical antibiotic creams, Retinoic acid cream, birth control or hormone-control medication as well as other oral medicines. In severe cases your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist who may prescribe more aggressive drugs. One of the most common non-antibiotic tablets that dermatologists prescribe is Isotretinoin (Roaccutane or Accutane). It is usually prescribed when other treatments have been unsuccessful as it comes with numerous side effects. Pregnant women, or any woman who is likely to become pregnant in next 1-2 months, should absolutely not take Accutane, as it is known to cause birth defects.

Recently laser treatment and light therapy have received media attention. The results of these treatments are largely inconclusive and many doctors and dermatologists disregard them as ineffective and expensive, however, many people claim they can help. These treatments are almost never available through the NHS.

Understanding Acne »