Updated 04 July 2014

New treatments make acne easier to manage

According to a well known US dermatologist, things are so much better nowadays because there are so many more options for treating acne.


No cure exists for acne yet, but new treatments make this common scourge of adolescence easier to manage, dermatologists say.

"Things are so much better today because there are so many more options for treating acne," said Dr Sarah Taylor, a dermatologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Acne risk factors

"The prescription world has really changed in the past 10 years or so. We're much better equipped to deal with all different types of acne," Taylor said in a medical centre news release.

Read: Understanding acne

Every skin pore contains a gland that produces oil, known as sebum. When these glands produce too much oil, the pore can become blocked. Meanwhile, dirt, bacteria and dead skin cells can build up inside. This causes whiteheads, blackheads, pimples and other lesions to form on the skin.

Anyone can develop acne – men and women, and people of all races. Although it's commonly viewed as a teenage problem, adults develop acne, too. It's estimated that eight out of 10 people have outbreaks at some point in their lives.

Hormonal changes may play a role in acne. This would help explain why teens and pregnant women often get acne. The skin condition can also run in families.

Successful treatment takes time

Although effective treatments exist, experts cautioned it may take time before patients notice an improvement.

"Over-the-counter products can work in many cases," Dr William Huang, another Wake Forest Baptist dermatologist, said in the news release. "But no matter what the TV ads may say, they take time, usually six to eight weeks."

For more severe cases of acne that don't clear up within a couple of months, dermatologists can prescribe stronger medications.

Successful treatment regimens often include medication applied directly to the skin as well as oral antibiotics. This strategy helps target various causes and side effects of the condition.

"The treatment depends on the severity of the acne, the type of acne, where it's located and the patient's individual preference and motivation for treatment," Huang said. "But these multilayered approaches that are tailored to the individual patient do work well."

However, acne treatments are only effective if they are used as directed by a dermatologist, the experts said.

Read: How Victoria Beckham banished her acne scars

Other, more invasive ways dermatologists can treat severe forms of acne include chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser technologies. This has helped dermatologists offer hope to patients who are emotionally distressed by their condition.

Read more:
The Pill – an alternative treatment for acne
What to do about adult acne?

How to manage problem skin

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Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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