What are the goals of treating acne?
There is currently no complete ‘cure’ for acne, but the treatments that are available can be very effective in preventing the formation of new spots and scarring.
The goals of treating acne are essentially to:
- heal existing skin lesions
- stop new lesions from forming
- prevent scarring
- reduce the stress that acne can cause, by improving the skin’s appearance.
Acne treatments are designed to reduce several problems that play a part in causing acne:
- clumping of cells in the follicles
- excessive oil production
- bacterial infection
- inflammation (soreness and redness)
What types of treatment are available for acne?
There is a range of different types of treatments for acne that are used in two main ways:
- Topical treatments – lotions, gels, creams, soaps or other products that are used on the entire surface of affected skin
- Oral treatments – medicines taken by mouth. These include oral antibiotics, oral contraceptive pills and isotretinoin capsules.
These treatments are available as either:
- Over-the-counter – available for anyone to buy in a pharmacy or other shop
- Prescription only – medicines that are only available on prescription from a healthcare professional.
Acne treatments can take time to work, so you need to keep using your treatment, according to the instructions. Doctors advise using an acne treatment for at least six weeks before thinking of changing or adding other treatments.
Many people with acne need more than one type of treatment – such as a topical treatment plus an oral medicine.
When should you see your doctor?
If you have acne but have had no success with over-the-counter products then it is probably time for you to visit your doctor.
You should also see your doctor promptly if you have severe extensive acne, with nodules and cysts.
What treatment is right for you?
Your acne treatment will depend on how severe your acne is – mild, moderate or severe:
- Mild acne: Mild acne is generally treated with topical treatments (gels or creams)
- Moderate acne: Moderate acne is usually treated using a combination of the medications, including the topical treatments used to treat mild acne.
- In some cases, antibiotic tablets (oral antibiotics) may also be used.
- Severe acne: If you have severe acne, you will usually be referred to a dermatologist (an expert in treating skin conditions). People with severe acne are usually treated with a combination of oral antibiotics and topical treatments. If this proves to be ineffective, some people may be prescribed a medication called isotretinoin (Roaccutane) Light and laser therapy are being developed for inflammatory acne, but have yet to be fully evaluated.