Is there a cure for acne?

Sadly there is no single cure for acne. Acne is a highly complex skin condition and isn’t something that can be easily cured, but it can be minimised.


Acne has always been an issue for teenagers but in the last decade it’s fast becoming the most common skin problems of adult women and men.


Although both men and women have seen a rise in adult acne, women suffer far more than men from adult acne.


During teen years, girls and boys suffer fairly equally from acne, but when it comes to adult acne twice as many women than men get adult acne.


Research shows that a whopping 50% of women between the ages of 20-30 and more than 25% of women between the ages of 40-50 suffer from adult acne.


The reasons for the dramatic rise in adult acne in women are not conclusive but some suggestions are the numbers of women coming off the contraceptive pill (which can help control acne), increasing daily use of multiple beauty products (the average woman applies up to 20 different products to her skin every day), later pregnancies, higher stress levels, a more processed diet and higher alcohol consumption.


Not only is the problem of adult acne becoming more complex, so are the solutions.


Anti-acne treatments designed for teen skin are not suitable for adult skin as they dry the skin out and cause premature ageing, dryness and over sensitivity.


The worrying factor is that acne treatments for adult acne are becoming less effective due to the long-term use of acne mediations. Adult skin is becoming immune to typical acne treatments due to over use, meaning that acne symptoms are taking hold more aggressively in weakened adult skin.


The good news is that the problem (and solution) of adult onset acne is being increasingly targeted by modern skincare technologies and is more responsive to milder combination treatments over a longer period than teen acne.


The complexity of adult acne compared to teen acne is that it’s not simply due to hormonally linked oily skin, which is the case for teen acne. Most adult acne develops on either combination skin, so oily in parts and dry in others, or can also develop on very dry skin, such as if often the case with acne rosacea. Skin also becomes much more sensitive with age so adult acne can also be linked to more ‘dermatitis’ type acne which is due to skin reactions to various skincare and beauty or grooming products or sun creams.


Teen acne


What causes teen acne?


Teen acne is typically characterised by breakouts in the T zone, which is between the eyes, forehead and the nose and tends to appear as individual blackheads, whiteheads or pustules.


What is the skin type of teen acne?


The skin type of teen acne is usually either oily or normal with oily patches

How to treat and manage teen acne

Teen acne usually responds well over the counter acne treatment options containing anti-bacteria agents, namely benzoyl peroxide, which is a type of bleach for the skin. Because teenagers typically have oily skin, the over the counter acne solutions are geared toward this skin type. However over use or long term use of these products can lead to skin becoming drier and more sensitive, which in turn can then trigger sensitive skin adult acne later on.

Regular cleansing is very important for teen acne. Teens should wash skin twice daily with a gentle but effective cleanser for acne-prone skin. Most of these products contain an agent called salicylic acid. Salicylic acid can exfoliate the skin as well as decrease inflammation. The cells in the lining of the hair follicles of teens with acne tend to multiply quickly, and stick to one another. Salicylic acid works by dissolving this cement that holds those sticky cells together in the clogged pores.

Salicylic acid is very similar in composition to aspirin, so crushing up an aspirin and mixing it with some natural yogurt makes just as an effective (and cheap) facial exfoliant as more expensive exfoliating products containing salicylic acid.

All products containing salicylic acid or aspirin should be thoroughly washed off the skin after exfoliating as they can stain the skin permanently and cause irritation if left on the skin for long periods of time. 

However in recent news regulators warn that common teen acne treatments can cause allergic reactions

The skincare regulating body the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an urgent caution to consumers about two ingredients, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, which are present in most anti-acne treatments commonly available in chemists.

The ingredients are available in many forms of acne treatments from gels, to lotions, washes, cleansing pads, facial scrubs, toners and creams, all aimed at skin prone to acne.

Between 1969 and 2013 the FDA has logged a rising level of allergic reactions to these ingredients.

So even teen skin can be susceptible to sensitivity to harsh anti-acne treatments and may need to try a more gentle approach to treatment as suggested later for treating adult acne.

Cheap greasy formulation sun creams and heavy cover foundations or compacts can also add to the problem of teen acne by clogging up pores with additional grease or wax based agents.

Mineral sun creams containing zinc and multi-tasking lighter formulation foundations or tinted moisturisers with anti-bacterial and good skin flora agents in them can help keep acne breakouts to a minimum. In addition medicated spot cover ups can help treat and camouflage spots at the same time. 


Adult Acne

What causes adult acne?

The Pill & HRT

For the last 30 years the majority of women were on the contraceptive pill and then HRT. Both these medications help diminish acne.

However, in recent years, due to scares about breast and ovarian cancers, more and more women have come off the pill or HRT in preference for alternative treatments. This may have caused a spike in acne among adult women whose skin was being controlled by hormones medications.


Stress Androgens

Adult cystic acne is largely caused by hormonal disruptions.

Androgens, the male hormones present in both men and women, are thought to contribute to cystic acne by over stimulating the oil glands and altering the development of skin cells that line hair follicles in the skin.

Stress raises the levels of androgens in the female body. There’s evidence to suggest that women now working in high stress careers are seeing a rise in androgen levels, which may be contributing to the rise in adult acne in women.



Rosacea is an underlying and often inherited vascular skin condition which causes redness, bumpiness to the skin’s surface and small rash-like acne pimples. It is most common in women aged 40+ and is also on the rise.

Evidence suggests that the daily use of chemical skincare products and cosmetics over several decades could be making skin more sensitive over time, making rosacea an increasingly common skin condition in middle-aged women.


Lifestyle factors which can contribute to Adult Acne


There has been a sharp rise in alcohol consumption among women in the last decade, which some evidence suggests could be adding to the increase in acne among adult women.

High alcohol consumption can alter hormonal balances in the body, which can contribute to acne break outs.

Increased consumption of alcohol is also thought to be contributing to wider spread incidences of rosacea in women as it contributes to vascular dilation in the skin.


Fad Diets

Although whether what we actually eat plays a significant role in contributing is still unresolved, experts do insist that frequent radical diet changes from following fad diets such as shifting from low carb or low fat practised by many women (the average woman goes on 15 different diets in a lifetime) in order to lose weight may also be having a negative effect on skin as radical changes in diet can cause shifts in hormonal balances.

Reactions to skin, hair and cosmetic products

There has been a boom on cheaply manufactured cosmetics in the last decade which means not only are women putting cheaply manufactured chemicals on their skin, they are doing it more often as products are cheap to buy.

From a very young age women are wearing daily foundations and cosmetics on their skin, many of which contain chemicals which can eventually cause the skin to build up an intolerance, causing rashes, dermatitis and acne like spots in adulthood.

Cheap chemical foaming agents called sulphates and strong perfumes in most, low budget shampoos can also cause facial and neck skin to become irritated, causing spots and sensitivity.

With many women becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of UV damage to the face, the use of high factor sun creams on the face on a daily basis is now much more common than 20 years ago.

Many women, especially those who have had chemicals peels, botox, fillers, surgery or other anti-ageing procedures, opt to wear sun creams of SPF30 or more on a daily basis. While this is great for anti-ageing and reduces the risk of skin cancer, it’s a problem for acne.[/quote]

Most low-budget sun creams have chemical filters and are made from thick, greasy formulations which clog pores and can also irritate skin causing acne.


Over cleansing

Due to the rise in the use of cosmetics, cleansing has had to become a more industrial process than simply cleaning skin. Make up removers and cleansers that can take off thick foundations are a modern need.

However these cleansers, while effectively cleaning off the make-up, also strip the skin of its natural oils, meaning that over the time the skin produces excess oil to compensate, causing a cycle that ends in excess oil production that leads to acne.

Research has shown that for helping manage acne, gentle exfoliation as opposed to harsh cleansing is the best way to minimise acne breakouts.


What does adult acne look like?

Adult acne occurs lower in the face and is usually found around the mouth, on the jaw line, and on the chin and is often paired with sensitivity or dehydration, making treatment that much more difficult.

Adult acne is often formed as clumps of smaller pussy or bumpy spots under the surface rather than individual larger blackheads or pustules as with teen acne. Adult acne is often accompanied by a red, flushed rash.[/quote]


What is the skin type of adult acne?

Adult acne skin type is usually sensitive and combination skin, so oily in patches yet very dry and sensitive in others.


How to treat & manage Adult Acne

Adult acne responds well to combinations of more natural, gentle and multi-action anti-acne skincare regimes. It can’t just be treated with one method like teen acne

The key difference in treating adult acne as opposed to teen acne is maintaining the integrity and balance of the healthy skin around the acne, while at the same time attacking the bacteria getting into the acne lesions. It’s crucial that skincare regimes and products do BOTH, as skin is more fragile, drier and more sensitive.

Modern technologies have developed less invasive treatments for the long term management of adult acne without destroying or drying out skin.



Smart anti-microbials

Smart anti-microbials are ingredients that do not kill good skin flora and only target bad skin flora. The skin, like the stomach, contains both good and bad bacteria. The good bacteria is necessary for strong health skin and to prevent dryness and premature ageing. The bad bacteria is what gets into acne lesions and leads to pus and swelling (i.e spots).

Smart anti-microbials are able to distinguish between the two bacteria, leaving good skin bacteria to flourish and multiply, while killing off the bad bacteria

Anti-microbial silver is one of these smart-antimicrobials and is now being used in modern anti-acne products for adult acne as a means of controlling inflammation and puss. Used daily as part of a skincare routine smart anti-microbial treatments can help prevent or lessen acne outbreaks and make outbreaks less severe.  Skin Shop’s Silver Serum is a new smart-microbial anti-acne treatment containing pure anti-microbial silver.


Bacterial shields

These are new ingredients that literally produce an organic ‘shield, over the skin’s surface to prevent bad bacteria from entering.

Worn over areas prone to spots or over forming spots, these bacterial shields help create a surface that bacteria find hard to grip on to and so help prevent bacteria growing in the spot or the weakened skin barrier areas.[/quote]

Bacterial shields are made by a special bacterial fermentation process and are known as polysaccharides. One of these bacterial shields that has been developed for use in adult  anti-acne skin care products is called Teflose, derived from eth word ‘teflon’ as it forms a Teflon-like anti-bacterial shield over vulnerable areas of acne-prone skin to stop bad bacteria latching on, while not damaging o rinhibiting the healthy balance of skin under the shield.

Telflose has also been shown to help prevent the formation of biofilms, which dermatologists are now researching as a possible cause of persistent and treatment-resistant acne.


Skin Prebiotics

Skin prebiotics are literally ‘food’ for good skin bacteria.

A skin prebiotic works much the same as a food supplement prebiotic for the gut, except it’s for the skin.

Good skin bacteria feeds on the prebiotic and so grows faster making skin stronger and less prone to infection or weakened skin barrier, while bad skin bacteria are reduced as they don’t ‘palate’ the skin prebiotic as well as the good skin bacteria.

Skin prebiotics maintain a healthy balance of good and bad skin bacteria which helps skin fight off environmental damage which can leads to weak spots and allow bad bacteria to rush in a multiple leading to spots and inflammation. One of the most recent skin prebiotics is an ingredient called Biolin, which contains five different types of prebiotic that are perfect foods for feeding good skin bacteria.


Sebum preservers

Sebum is a protective substance that sits in the pores of the skin to protect it. We produce more sebum due to a number of factors including hormonal fluctuations, stress and to a degree diet.

Besides various fatty substances and water, sebum also contains salts, amino acids and urea.

Like any other natural substance, sebum rots when exposed to warmth, which is what often makes spots swell up, become painful and go yellow, green or black (blackheads).[/quote]

Sebum is a very attractive breeding ground for bacteria as it has a highly nutritious content for bacteria to feed off so it starts to rot quite quickly. Fresh sebum is almost clear or white. It goes yellow and sometimes green or black when it rots.

A new breed of anti-acne products contain special ingredients that act as ‘sebum preservers, so they effectively stop the sebum rotting so quickly and so prevent the formation of puss and swelling.[/quote]


General skin care and lifestyle tips for managing acne

Always use sensitive skin products in order to minimize skin irritation and reactions that can get infected and lead to acne.

Cleansers should be used twice a day, once when you get in from work at the end of the day, and once before bed. Cleansers should be water-free, mild and non-perfumed

Remove make up and sun creams as early as possible once in from work to allow the skin to air fro as long as possible per day.

Daily moisturisers are a must, but should be perfume and chemical free and contain a high levels of anti oxidants to fight the acne bacteria.

Use zinc based sun creams to guard against greasy pore blockages and bacteria build up

Avoid anti-bacterial washes containing Benzoyl peroxide as it dries the skin, especially adult skin

If you suffer from redness and sensitivity, try a skincare range containing non-chemical anti-redness ingredients, such as caper extract.

Do not have facials more than one a month

Do have facial massages as often as possible

Exfoliate regularly to clean pores, but do NOT exfoliate with abrasive exfoliants any more than once a week. Use a perfume and chemical free fine exfoliant for sensitive skin, preferably with a natural anti-bacterial ingredient in it.

Avoid topical antibiotics if possible as they kill off the ‘good’ bacteria on the skin’s surface which help keep skin healthy and guard against over population of the skin’s surface with bad bacteria that leads to acne.

Older skin scars more easily from infected acne lesions because it’d thinner, so popping and squeezing of spots should be completely avoided

Try meditation techniques to reduce stress levels if in a high stress job. Or do 30 minutes of stress busting, and preferable outdoor exercise at least four times a week to reduce stress levels.

Switch to non-perfumed and if possible natural shampoos so that they do not irritated the skin when running over the face or when sleeping on hair at night. Try and always tie hair back at night.

Wash pillows with washing agents for sensitive skin, preferably use a natural washing agent for bedding.

Cut down on alcohol generally, but try to avoid drinking alcoholic drinks three hours before sleeping and always drink a glass of water before bed if alcohol has been consumed.


What if you have spots but it’s not acne?

If you have spots, you tend to assume you have acne. But this is not always the case, in fact a lot of ‘spots’ are caused by other factors, including skin allergies, independent health conditions, infections or viruses.

However if you use anti-acne treatments on many of these other ‘acne’ conditions, it can make the condition far worse.

Here are some causes of spots that may not be acne;


Allergy Acne

Skin allergies to external irritants can also cause spots, but are not actually acne. Skin allergies to skin creams, beauty products and perfumes are very common and can cause small rash like spots to form of the sides of the face and neck.

Allergic spots can be repeatedly triggered by an irritant and so appear like normal acne.

Another common cause of allergy spots is from shampoo. Normal shampoos contain harsh preservatives and strong perfumes. When people with long hair sleep on their hair after washing it with shampoo, this can cause spots to form on the sides of the face and neck. Simply tying hair back at night and swapping to a non-chemical non-perfumed shampoo can often clear up allergy acne. 


How to know if you have allergy acne;

The spots itch at all

You suddenly develop spots and you are an adult with usually clear skin

You have spots mostly on the sides of your face

You have long hair and sleep with it loose at night

Your spots get worse of better when you change either skin creams, cosmetics or perfumes

You have spots just around your neck (this could be allergy spots caused by a reaction to a washing powder on the collar of your clothes)



Chemical steroids, plant-steroid ointments, emollients, omega oils


Acne Rosacea

Rosacea is a skin condition that causes spots, but is not like normal acne. Rosacea is causes by a dilation of the blood vessels just below the skin’s surface.

How to know if you have acne rosacea;

Your nose and/or cheeks are often red

The spots are small and pussy and only on your cheeks and nose

You were over the age of 30 when you started to get the spots (in particular if you are female as women are more prone to this skin condition than men)

Your facial skin feels bumpy

Your spots and redness get worse in the heat or the cold, in the sun, after drinking alcohol or eating spicy food or after you use certain skincare products



Antibiotics, anti-redness skincare 

Fungal Acne

Face Fungus (Tinea faciei) can also cause what looks to be small ‘acne like’ spots on the face


How to know if you have facial fungal acne;

The spots are small and always puss filled with not much inflammation around them

You have or have had other fungal infections elsewhere on your body in recent months

The spots gets worse with anti-acne treatments

The spots itch

The spots are located mostly on the chin, upper lip and mouth area or among facial hair or stubble

You have a white coating on your tongue.

You also have dandruff.



Topical anti-fungal creams


Scalp Acne 

Scalp dermatitis/eczema can cause small spots to appear around the hair line and on the neck as well as the scalp because the actual dermatitis causes small scabs on the scalp that then block sebum in the hair follicle causing pussy spots. 

Scalp dermatitis/eczema can be hereditary or can be caused by a reaction to shampoo, hair sprays, hair dyes or any other perfumed or chemical hair products. Frequent blow drying at high temperatures can also lead to scalp eczema.[/quote]


How to know if you have scalp dermatitis/eczema acne;


The spots you have are mostly clustered around the hairline, behind the ears and on the neck


You have an itchy scalp


You have spots on your scalp


You have a flaking scalp


Your scalp flakes likes dandruff but does not improve with anti-dandruff shampoos




Dry scalp hair products


Herpes Acne


The Herpes Simplex virus lives in eth base of the spin but lies dormant in the skin cells. The most common skin problem caused by the Herpes Simplex virus is cold sores.


However Herpes sores can appear on the skin and not the lips and cause small fluid and puss filled blisters that resemble acne. If facial herpes appears without cold sores on the lips, the condition is often misdiagnosed as acne by doctors.[/quote]


How to know if you have Herpes acne;


The spots are only around the mouth area and on the chin


The spots contain lots of fluid and burst easily, even without squeezing


The spots are large and quite red


The spots felt hot and itchy before they could be easily seen


You have had cold sores in the past




Anti-viral skin treatments for cold sores


Hives Acne


Hives on face are raised, flat-topped bumps that are smooth to the touch, typically red in colour. They can occur anywhere on your face and neck, including the ears.


Hives are genetically linked and sufferers get several outbreaks over a long period of time. Facial hives are rarely correctly identified by doctors.[/quote]


How to know if you have hives acne;


The spots rarely come to a head, but can look red and raised like normal acne before puss appears


The spots are very itchy


The spots appeared after sun exposure and the face stayed very red


You recently took a course of antibiotics


You were recently bitten by an insect


You also get hayfever


 You recently had a severe flu, tooth infection or sinus infection


 The face is slightly swollen 




Specific anti histamines or oral corticosteroids


Pustular Psoriasis


Psoriasis is a skin condition that is caused by the over activity of skin cell division and is genetically linked, although certain lifestyle factor scan trigger it or make it worse such as stress, smoking, obesity, depression, physical and emotional trauma, some medications and viruses.


[quote]There are two types of psoriasis, pustular and gutate. Pustular psoriasis on the face can look just like acne. Some people only get psoriasis on their face[/quote]


How to know if you have pustular psoriasis;


You have red clusters of pussy spots on your cheeks, in between your eyes, near your hairline or on your neck.


There is some scaly greyish skin around the spot clusters


Your skin flakes a bit


Your spots gets worse with anti-acne treatments

The spot clusters are getting progressively bigger



Steroid creams, coal tar treatments, anti-plaque creams & washes


Heat Acne

Heat rash is more common than people think and can cause small rashy acne-like spots on the face.

Heat rash is not only causes by sun and can stay around for several days in come cases, which is why it is sometimes mistaken for acne.[/quote]


How to know if you have heat acne;

The spots are small and red and there are lots of them

You have had recent sun exposure

You have recently done excessive exercise or sweated profusely

You live or work in a very warm environment. 

Your skin feels prickly




Calamine lotion, hydrocortisone creams



Impetigo Non-Bullous Acne

Impetigo is a contagious, superficial bacterial infection of the skin and is most likely to occur in warm and humid environments and is most commonly spread by close contact (such as family members). 

There are two types of impetigo, bullous and non-bullous impetigo, the non-bullous type causes small pussy spots that look similar to acne.


How to know if you have non-bullous impetigo acne;

The spots start as small red bumps more like insect bites

Later the spots have puss in then that then turn to a honey coloured scab

The spots formation continues in one week cycles

The spots are mainly clustered around the nose and between the nose and lips 

Your lymph glands feel slightly tender

Other members of your family or people you have been close to have similar symptoms