Acne and cystic acne are chronic skin conditions that appear as a result of the oil (sebaceous) glands in the skin at the base of hair follicles being clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria, leading to inflammation. Acne can appear most commonly on the face as well as shoulders, back, neck, chest, and other areas of the body.
While not a dangerous condition, acne can leave acne scars on the skin, causing emotional distress. The earlier you treat your acne, the lower your risk of acne scars and emotional trauma.
Depending on the severity of the congestion, acne comes in various forms, and hence, calls for different treatment protocols:
Acne is a common occurrence during adolescence (between 10 and 19 years old) but can also appear well into adulthood, also called adult onset acne.
During adolescence, boys and girls go through puberty, which sees an increase in the androgen hormone. This hormone initiates the skin to produce oil, leading to pubescent acne, and is more common in males although some females do get it too. In males, acne tends to be more acute, while in females, the condition is less severe but prolonged, often continuing as adult onset acne.
With all the above factors considered, the doctor will then work with the patient to come up with an acne treatment plan. The treatment plan can be simple, like applying a topical cream, or a complex one that involves a change in lifestyle habit, diet plus oral medication or a combination of treatments.
With this in mind, here’s a summary of acne treatment options the doctor may consider.
Mild acne (comedonal with few papules and pustules) can typically be treated at home with over-the-counter topical products such as gels, soaps, creams, lotions containing resorcinol, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and azelaic acid.
On top of that, to avoid the risk of acne scars due to accidental squeezing of acne, patients can also seek the help of facial therapists who are better trained and equipped to maximise results with minimal scarring.
Pricing: Over-the-counter products can vary from several dollars to the twenties or more.
A simple but effective therapy that can target a variety of factors that contribute to acne formation. Chemical peels are also known to enhance the effects of other topical treatments.
Chemical peels involve the application of a peeling agent in varying concentrations onto the affected area for a controlled amount of time.
While generally safe, these peeling agents should be administered under the supervision of a doctor for the treatment of acne as the benefits and complications of chemical peels vary among racial groups and skin tones.
Pricing: Professional chemical peels start from slightly over $100 per session.
A proven option in the armoury of acne treatments, there are several laser technologies that have been used with variable efficacy. Typically, lasers are used in combination with other therapies to enhance the overall result.
Patients may prefer laser therapy for acne as they do not desire or are able to use topical or systemic treatments. However, some drawbacks with lasers are potential pain and skin discolouration (especially for those with darker skin).
Pricing: SL Aesthetic Clinic’s Fotona Acne Laser, From $350 per session.
As acne is largely caused by bacteria, oral antibiotics can be taken as an acne treatment. This is typically prescribed by the doctor to treat moderate severity of acne.
Pricing: varies by the clinic and brand of medication.
This US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug provides long-term remission of acne symptoms in about two-thirds of people who take an adequate dosage (1mg/kg). However, it does come with several side effects such as cheilitis (drying of the lips), facial redness, dermatitis (skin dryness, dandruff), mood changes, and more. Birth defects are also a concern, which is why the drug is not given to women of child-bearing age.
Pricing: varies by the clinic and brand of medication.
A type of steroid injection, cortisone shots can be administered by a doctor for occasional use to treat a cyst or nodule. The injection can quickly reduce swelling and heal the lesion, thus helping prevent scarring. Patients typically prefer this as a last-minute treatment should an acne appear prior to an important social event.
Pricing: From $100 per injection.
Not sure which treatment option is best for you? Speak to our doctor for a personalised acne treatment plan. Schedule now.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. While not to be taken as medical advice, here are some tips that you can follow to reduce acne outbreaks:
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Acne can occur on any part of the body that has pores, but is most commonly seen on the face and upper body (back, chest, back of neck, shoulders) because these areas have a high density of pores producing skin oil. These pores are connected to oil glands underneath the skin via follicles.
Oil glands produce a liquid called sebum/skin oil to carry dead skin cells through the follicles to the surface of the skin. When dead skin cells, oil, and hair form a plug in the follicle, the pore is said to be clogged. And when it gets infected by bacteria (predominantly Propionibacterium acnes or P. Acnes), it starts to swell and become inflamed, developing into a pimple.
As the inflammation continues, pressure builds up inside the clogged pore, eventually breaking the walls of the pore and spilling its contents into the surrounding skin.
The body’s immune system then senses the spillage as “foreign” and activates immune cells, notably white blood cells, to fight the infection. This causes the acne lesion to become red and sore.
Eventually, the immune system reduces the attack on the “foreign” contents, and attempts to repair the damage the acne may have caused. However, if the immune system puts up an excessive attack, or does not heal the acne quickly enough, scarring can occur.
Acne is caused by multiple factors, such as Hormones, Inflammation or the body’s immune response, Genetics, Stress, Vitamin Deficiency, Diet, and even the use of certain medications, amongst others.
This is why treatment of acne is a highly individualised one; always speak to a doctor to find a suitable treatment plan that tackles your root cause of acne.