Acne is a common skin condition that affects most people. It causes spots, oily skin and sometimes skin that is hot or painful to touch. Acne is quite common in teenagers and younger adults. It most commonly develops on the: face, back and chest.


There are six main types of spot caused by acne:

Blackheads: A small black or yellowish bumps that develop on the skin; they are not filled with dirt but are black because the inner lining of the hair follicle produces pigmentation.

Whiteheads: These have a similar appearance to blackheads but may be firmer and will not empty when squeezed.

Papules: These are small red bumps that may feel tender or sore

Pustules are like papules, but have a white tip in the centre, caused by a build-up of pus.

Nodules are large hard lumps that build up beneath the surface of the skin and can be painful.

Cysts are the most severe type of spot caused by acne; they are large pus-filled lumps that look like boils and carry the greatest risk of causing permanent scarring.

Causes of acne 

Acne is most linked to the changes in hormone levels during puberty. However, acne can begin at any age.

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

This type of oil changes the activity of a usually harmless skin bacterium called P. acnes. This bacterium (germ) becomes more aggressive. This causes inflammation and pus.

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

Self-help tips

If you have acne, the self-help techniques below may be useful:

Do not wash affected areas of skin more than twice a day as frequent washing can irritate the skin and make symptoms worse.

Wash the affected area with a mild soap or cleanser and lukewarm water. Extremely hot or cold water can make acne worse.

Do not try to "clean out" blackheads or squeeze spots - this can make them worse and cause permanent scarring.

Do not use too much make-up and cosmetic - use water-based products that are described as non-comedogenic (this means the product is less likely to block the pores in your skin)

Completely remove make-up before going to bed

Use a fragrance-free, water-based emollient if you have dry skin.

Regular exercise cannot improve your acne, but it can boost your mood and improve your self-esteem. Shower as soon as possible once you finish exercising, as sweat can irritate your acne.

Wash your hair regularly and try to avoid letting your hair fall across your face.


Acne cannot be cured but can be controlled with treatment. Several creams, lotions, and gels for treating spots are available at pharmacies.

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

The most common topical cream used for acne is Benzoyl peroxide which can be bought over the counter however you might need something stronger.

When do you get in touch with Sandsclinic?

If your acne is making you feel very unhappy or you cannot control your spots with over-the-counter medication, speak to Sandsclinic.

Also speak to Sandsclinic if you develop nodules or cysts. These will need to be treated properly to avoid scarring. Try to resist the temptation to pick or squeeze the spots. This can lead to permanent scarring.

In addition, we could refer you to a dermatologist if you need further specialist treatment.