What is Acne and How to Treat It?

Apr 05, 2022 Acne

What is Acne and How to Treat It?

Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. It can cause blackheads, spots and sometimes skin that is painful to touch. 

Although acne is more common in teenagers, it can affect people of all ages. 

Acne can be treated with over the counter medicines, but it can be persistent. The bumps and spots begin to go away, and then others may crop up. Depending on the severity, acne can cause emotional distress and scarring to the skin. We recommend starting treatment as soon as possible and consulting your doctor if treatment isn’t working. 

Symptoms of Acne

Symptoms of acne vary on the severity of your condition:

  • Blackheads - These are small black or yellowish bumps that develop on the skin. They aren’t filled with dirt but are black because the inner lining of the hair follicle produces colour. 

  • Whiteheads - These have a similar appearance to blackheads, but may be firmer and won’t empty when squeezed. 

  • Papules - These are small red, tender bumps. 

  • Pimples/Pustules - These are similar to papules but have white tips in the centre, which is caused by a build-up of pus. 

  • Nodules - These are large, solid, painful lumps that build up beneath the skin's surface. 

  • Cysts - These are the most severe type of spots caused by acne, which are large pus-filled lumps under the skin. They carry the most significant risk of causing permanent scarring.

Causes of Acne

The four main causes of acne include: 

  • Excess oil production 

  • Hair follicles clogged by oil and dead skin cells

  • Bacteria 

  • Inflammation 

Acne usually appears on the face and forehead but can appear on the chest, upper back and shoulders. This is because these areas of skin have the most sebaceous glands, and hair follicles are connected to these. 

There are certain factors that may make acne worse: 

  • Hormonal changes -  Androgen hormones can cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more oil. 

  • Certain medications - These include drugs containing corticosteroids, testosterone, or lithium.

  • Diet - Some studies have shown that certain carbohydrate foods may worsen acne, however, more study is needed to prove this.

  • Stress - Stress isn’t a direct cause of acne, but if you have acne already, stress can may it worse. 

For women, in particular, acne can persist for decades, commonly flaring a week before menstruation. This type of acne tends to clear up when using contraceptives. 

Acne Myths

There are some particular myths related to the cause of acne, but they don’t have any effect. 

  • Chocolate and greasy foods 

  • Hygiene - Acne isn’t caused by dirty skin, in fact, scrubbing the skin too much or cleansing with harsh soaps can irritate further. 

  • Cosmetics - Makeup doesn’t necessarily worse acne. It’s best to use oil-free makeup and ensure you remove it before bed.

How to Treat Acne

There are a few ways to try to treat acne. We have recommended some self-help techniques, over the counter medicines and when to consult a doctor. 

Self-Help Techniques for Treating Acne

  • Don’t wash the affected area of skin more than twice a day, as frequent washing can irritate the skin more and make symptoms worse. 

  • When washing the affected area, use a cleanser with lukewarm water. 

  • Don’t try to squeeze blackheads or spots, as this can cause permanent scarring. 

  • Remove makeup before going to bed.

  • Regular exercise won’t improve acne, but it can boost your mood and self-esteem. Shower as soon as you finish, avoiding lingering sweat on the face.

Prescription Medicines


Differin gel is a gel-like cream that helps treat acne deep inside the pores under the skin’s surface and helps prevents the formation of new acne. 

It contains the active ingredient Adapalene, which helps work from deep inside the skin and reduces the appearance of acne, recreating the natural tone and texture of your skin. 

People with acne can buy Differin gel with a FREE prescription and can be purchased online at SimplyMeds. 


Lymecycline or its branded version, Tetralysal 300 (made by Galderma), is an oral tetracycline type antibiotic used to treat acne.

Essentially, Lymecycline capsules work by reducing the bacteria’s ability to multiply, meaning it can’t grow. The bacteria will eventually die and as a result, there will be a reduction in skin inflammation, redness, and spots. 

They are suitable for treating mild to moderate acne, where there is an active infection and visible inflammation. As well as this, Lymecycline can help other types of acne, including cystic, acne rosacea or hormone-related acne. 

You can buy Lymecycline capsules with a FREE prescription online at SimplyMeds. 

When to Consult Your GP 

If self-help techniques and over-the-counter medicines don’t clear your acne, we recommend consulting your GP. They’ll be able to prescribe you stronger medications or will refer you to a dermatologist. 

In older adults, a sudden case of acne may signal an underlying disease that will require medical attention. So, please consult your GP. 

Discover Various Acne Treatment Options 

Start your regime as early as possible by exploring SimplyMeds Online acne treatment options.

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