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Complications

Acne is a common skin condition that causes spots and oily skin.

The main symptoms of acne are spots on your face, back and chest. Your skin may be oily, or it may be hot or painful to touch.

You can often treat acne with creams and gels bought from a pharmacy. If your acne is severe, a GP may prescribe stronger medicines or antibiotics.

Acne is often linked to changes in hormone levels during puberty, but can start at any age. It's also known to run in families.

Read more on the NHS website.

The main symptoms of acne are spots on your face, back and chest. Your skin may be oily, or it may be hot or painful to touch.

Symptoms of acne

Acne most commonly develops on the:

Picture of acne spots.

Types of spots

There are 6 main types of spot caused by acne:

Read more on the NHS website.

You can often treat acne with creams and gels bought from a pharmacy. If your acne is severe, a GP may prescribe stronger medicines or antibiotics.

Self-care

These self-help techniques may be useful:

  • Do not wash affected areas of skin more than twice a day. Frequent washing can irritate the skin and make symptoms worse.
  • Wash the affected area with a mild soap or cleanser and lukewarm water. Very 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.
  • Avoid using too much make-up and cosmetics. 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.
  • If dry skin is a problem, use a fragrance-free water-based emollient.
  • 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.

Although acne cannot be cured, it can be controlled with treatment.

If you develop mild acne, it's a good idea to speak to a pharmacist for advice.

Several creams, lotions and gels for treating spots are available to buy from pharmacies.

Products containing a low concentration of benzoyl peroxide may be recommended, but be careful as this can bleach clothing.

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

Medical treatments

See a GP if your acne is moderate or severe, or medicine from your pharmacy has not worked, as you probably need prescription medicine.

Prescription medicines that can be used to treat acne include:

If you have severe acne, your GP can refer you to an expert in treating skin conditions (dermatologist).

For example, if you have:

  • a large number of papules and pustules on your chest and back, as well as your face
  • painful nodules
  • scarring, or are at risk of scarring

A combination of antibiotic tablets and topical treatments is usually the first treatment option for severe acne.

Hormonal therapies or the combined oral contraceptive pill can also be effective in women who have acne.

But the progestogen-only pill or contraceptive implant can sometimes make acne worse.

Many of these treatments can take 2 to 3 months before they start to work.

It's important to be patient and persist with a recommended treatment, even if there's no immediate effect.

Read more on the NHS website.

Acne is often linked to changes in hormone levels during puberty, but can start at any age. It's also known to run in families.

Read more on the NHS website.