Living with acne… How to keep your skin healthy in the long term

Acne is a very common skin condition that affects most people at some time, particularly during adolescence. The key to managing the condition is to develop a regular three-step routine - cleanse, treat and moisturise – even when your skin seems to be clearer. It’s the best way to get you acne under control and keep any lasting problems at bay.

So what is acne?

Acne is characterised by spots, ranging from blackheads to pus-filled cysts, that tend to occur on the face, back and chest. It isn’t infectious and some people only get a few spots, while others can get lots which can cause scarring.

It’s commonly associated with adolescence because of hormonal changes which increase the production of sebum - an oily secretion produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. This mixes with dead skin cells to block pores, causing the spots. It also encourages more skin bacteria to grow, which can infect the pores.

Adopt a good skincare routine… And keep your skin clean, healthy and moisturised

There are so many acne treatments it can be tricky to decide which one’s best for you. So as a general rule you should always cleanse, treat and moisturise - even if you’re also using over-the-counter or prescription treatments, and even if you see improvements in your acne. It’s the best way to keep your skin healthy in the long term. Finding the products that work best for your skin might require a bit of trial and error, as everyone’s different. But if you need any advice at all, just come in store and ask the pharmacy team.

Step 1 – Cleanse

Always start with a mild soap or a non-perfumed cleanser. You may also need to use a separate make up remover to get rid of eye make up.

Step 2 – Treat

Apply your chosen treatment product taking care to read the label first. Too much cream or gel can irritate your skin and make the acne angrier, so apply each product only as recommended.

Step 3 – Moisturise

Finish by applying a moisturiser or an emollient. Choose non-comedogenic moisturiser that won’t block pores. A light moisturiser or moisturising gel is best for greasy skin and a richer cream is best for dry skin.

Over-the-counter acne treatment

There are two medicated acne treatments that you can purchase over the counter:

  • Nicotinamide products, eg Freederm. Applied twice a day these act as an anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling, redness and tenderness of the spots.

    Shop Freederm

  • Benzoyl peroxide products, eg Quinoderm. Applied once a day these work like a skin peel, killing the bacteria on your skin, and are available in different strengths: 2.5%, 5% and 10%. You should always try the weakest strength first before moving up to a higher strength if you need it. Using a high strength product first could irritate your skin leaving it very sore and red.

Treatments can be very effective but they do take some time to work, typically up to 8 weeks. It’s important to use your treatment as directed by your doctor or pharmacist and to read the information leaflet enclosed with your treatment. If you need any more advice, just come in store and ask your pharmacist.

Prescription treatment for acne

or severe, you may benefit from medication that’s only available from your doctor. Don’t forget that to get the most benefit from these treatments you’ll still need to follow the three-step skincare routine.

Topical and oral antibiotics. These reduce the skin bacteria associated with acne. They’re usually applied once or twice a day, often only for a course of ten to twelve weeks to prevent the bacteria becoming resistant to the treatment. Some people find that topical antibiotics can cause minor irritation.

  • Azelaic acid. Available as a cream or gel, this helps get rid of dead skin and kills bacteria. It’s usually applied once or twice a day. Side effects tend to be mild but can include redness and itching.
  • Topical retinoids. These reduce the amount of sebum produced by the skin and are applied sparingly, once a day. They’re usually used for about six weeks but you may be advised to use them for less time than this. You can’t take them when you’re pregnant and you need to avoid excessive exposure to the sun and UV light.

It’s important to take or use your treatment as directed by your doctor and to read the information leaflet enclosed with your treatment. If you need any more advice, just come in store and ask your pharmacist.

How you can help to achieve healthy skin and get the best results from your treatment

Top tips to achieving healthy skin

  • When you’re cleansing don’t scrub, it can cause irritation - and don’t cleanse more than twice a day as it can encourage your skin to produce too much oil, making the problem worse
  • Use lukewarm water when you’re washing - very hot or cold water can make acne worse
  • Try not to squeeze your spots – it can increase the risk of scarring
  • Don’t use too much make up and always take it off before you go to bed
  • Try to choose water-based make up that’s described as non-comedogenic – it’s less likely to block pores
  • Wash your hair regularly and try and keep it from flopping onto your face
If you have any concerns at all speak to your pharmacist or your doctor

We know that even mild acne can be upsetting, so if you have any concerns talk to your pharmacist. We can give you lots of advice on managing your acne to put your mind at rest, and we can tell you whether it’s a good idea to see your doctor. You can also talk to your pharmacist if any treatment you’ve bought or that your doctor has prescribed isn’t working, and we’ll try to recommend an alternative for you.

Remember, it’s important to speak to your doctor if:

  • You develop nodules (hard lumps under your skin which are often painful) or cysts (pus-filled lumps), as these can result in scarring
  • You suspect that a baby or young child has acne

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