Acne is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point. It causes spots, oily skin and sometimes skin that's hot or painful to touch.
Acne most commonly develops on the:
There are 6 main types of spot caused by acne:
These self-help techniques may be useful:
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.
If you have mild acne, speak to a pharmacist about medicines to treat it.
If these do not control your acne, or it's making you feel very unhappy, see a GP.
You should see a GP if you have moderate or severe acne or you develop nodules or cysts, as they need to be treated properly to avoid scarring.
Try to resist the temptation to pick or squeeze the spots, as this can lead to permanent scarring.
Treatments can take up to 3 months to work, so do not expect results overnight. Once they do start to work, the results are usually good.
Acne is most commonly linked to the changes in hormone levels during puberty, but can start at any age.
Certain hormones cause the grease-producing glands next to hair follicles in the skin to produce larger amounts of oil (abnormal sebum).
This abnormal sebum changes the activity of a usually harmless skin bacterium called P. acnes, which becomes more aggressive and causes inflammation and pus.
The hormones also thicken the inner lining of the hair follicle, causing blockage of the pores. Cleaning the skin does not help to remove this blockage.
Acne is known to run in families. If both your mother and father had acne, it's likely that you'll also have acne.
Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during the menstrual cycle or pregnancy, can also lead to episodes of acne in women.
There's no evidence that diet, poor hygiene or sexual activity play a role in acne.
Acne is very common in teenagers and younger adults. About 95% of people aged 11 to 30 are affected by acne to some extent.
Acne is most common in girls from the ages of 14 to 17, and in boys from the ages of 16 to 19.
Most people have acne on and off for several years before their symptoms start to improve as they get older.
Acne often disappears when a person is in their mid-20s.
In some cases, acne can continue into adult life. About 3% of adults have acne over the age of 35.
Page last reviewed: Tue Jul 2022 Next review due: Tue Jul 2022