Why do I have acne?

Acne appears around puberty and during teens, but may also start in the twenties. It usually occurs on the face, chest and back, where there is an abundance of oil-producing sebaceous glands. These glands are active during adolescence and produce sebum (oil).

A few factors contribute to development of acne. During puberty, an increase in male hormone level results in excess sebum production, with some individuals producing more sebum than others. As a result, oil glands are blocked and comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) develop. This affects skin texture and causes “bumpiness” on the skin. To make things worse, bacteria acts on the sebum in the blocked glands to cause inflammation, resulting in a large red pimple. Pus may then develop and progress to painful swellings (nodules and cysts). Permanent scars can subsequently form, and they may be sunken or raised (keloid).

I hate my pimple! Can I squeeze it? Pleaseeee……

Do not squeeze your pimples! It is a definite no-no to apply deep pressure to squeeze the spot, as sebum and pus may go further into the skin and worsen the pimple, causing more inflammation and deeper scarring. Consult your dermatologist for rescue remedies to deal with the zit!

Can I cover up the pimple with cosmetics?

Cosmetics which are very greasy make acne worse. Choose water-soluble oil-free cosmetics which have the phrase “non-comedogenic” on it, as these products do not cause pimples. If you need help to assess your current cosmetics, let us know!

Help me to get rid of acne!

Consult a dermatologist early. Do not think that this is just a passing phase in adolescence and acne can be “outgrown”. Always aim to prevent development of deep acne scars.

1. Application treatment for mild acne

This includes topical anti-inflammatory preparations containing benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics (erythromycin and clindamycin), and vitamin A-derived topicals (adapalene and tretinoin). These act to reduce inflammation, unblock the pores and improve skin texture and scarring.

2. Oral Treatment for moderate acne

When application treatment alone is inadequate, you will need oral antibiotics for a few months to further reduce inflammation and to prevent new pimples.
Oral contraceptive pills may be given in some women to regulate hormone levels.

3. Oral Isotretinoin for severe acne

Isotretinoin is a natural vitamin A derivative given for severe acne. Long term results can be expected following a complete course of treatment. Ask your dermatologist if this medicine is suitable for you.

Oily skin with enlarged pores

Low dose isotretinoin, in combination with appropriate application treatments, can reduce oil production significantly and improve skin texture.

Are there foods to avoid?

The association between diet and acne remains questionable.
Some believe that acne may be aggravated by:

  1. food with high glycaemic index (rich in carbohydrates, causing rapid sugar release)
  2. excessive consumption of dairy products.

Otherwise, no specific dietary restrictions are required.