The first thing that most of us do after getting up in the morning is to look ourselves in the mirror! And, many a time we find some spots on our face, which may sometimes be acne. While acne can seem a very minor thing, for those who suffer with it, it can be a major problem leading to confidence issues.

Online you can find lots of tips to treat and prevent acne, but seeking professional help is definitely a safer bet! On today’s show I spoke to Dr Milan Shah about acne. He said that acne is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point. It causes spots to develop on the skin, usually on the face, back and chest. The spots can range from surface blackheads and whiteheads which are often mild to deep, inflamed, pus-filled pustules and cysts, which can be severe and long-lasting and lead to scarring. He said that we have oil naturally secreted by our skin, which is what makes it look shiny and supple but when this oil becomes excessive and blocks certain pores is when we tend to get black heads or white heads which are actually a type of acne. They can then develop further into things like inflammation or red skin, papules, pustules etc.

Dr Shah said acne is not always flared up and painful but there are some triggers that might cause it to flare up. At a very young age, especially from the age of 12 to 20, our bodies can undergo hormonal changes and these often trigger acne in teenagers. Acne can also be hereditary – if your parents had acne, it’s likely that you will also develop it. More than 80% of cases of adult acne occur in women which are caused by the changes in hormone levels that many women have during their periods, during pregnancy or maybe if they are suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome. Also some cosmetic products, steroid medications, smoking or regularly wearing items that place pressure on an affected area of skin, such as a headband or backpack can also be a trigger for acne.

Dr Shah said that acne is a very common condition particularly in younger people and teenagers, so people should not feel worried about it. It does get better but he said that it may take many months or even years to improve so it’s important for people suffering from it to be patient and even after getting treatment people may need to be on some sort of preventive treatment to keep it at bay. He said that it is important for people to go and seek treatment and to not just suffer in silence thinking that there is no solution to this problem. Also he added that it is important especially with Asian or darker skin that acne is treated early to avoid any scarring or inflammation.

Sometimes acne might come and disappear on its own without the need for any treatment at all. Dr Shah advised that every person should decide as to how acne affects them and then they can decide when to go and see a doctor and when it is not necessary to do so. Acne can also have a physiological effect on people especially the younger generation and they can have confidence issues. He suggests talking to the GP who will at least be able to give some advice and tips to the children and help them feel better.

At times if there is a lot of acne there might be some scarring on the face even after the acne has gone. Dr Shah said that the first and the most important thing to do to avoid scarring is to make sure that we do not scratch or touch the spot too much and cause it to burst or get inflamed and in turn cause scarring. In Asian or darker skin this can cause pigmentation and can take a longer time to disappear. The spot or acne may go away after a few weeks but the scar can take from a few months to a year to get better.

Talking about the treatment of scarring, Dr Shah said that the first thing to do would be to avoid scarring. But if there has been a lot of scarring then the GP will refer the person to a dermatologist who will decide on the necessary type of treatment.

Dr Shah gave the following tips to people who suffer from this problem

  • 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
  • Don’t 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
  • Completely remove make-up before going to bed
  • If dry skin is a problem, use a fragrance-free, water-base cream
  • 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
  • Having a good and healthy diet is also very important for avoiding acne and also for over all good health.