What is Acne?
Acne - a skin condition that occurs when hair follicles in the skin become clogged with oil and dead skin cells from the sebaceous, or oil-producing, glands. Acne covers a wide array of conditions caused by clogged pores, such as whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. These can be embarrassing to have, especially when clear and glowing skin is a highly desirable trait. Not only is acne unsightly, but it can also be painful and cause irritation to those who have it, especially with the more severe symptoms of cystic lesions and nodules.
Common Confusion Between Acne and Pimples
The main difference between acne and pimples is that acne is a skin condition akin to a disease caused by a variety of reasons. Pimples are one of the symptoms of acne and are not a condition on their own. Acne symptoms vary from person to person, but are most commonly found on the face, chest, and back. Acne is especially prevalent in teens as they undergo drastic hormonal changes during puberty.
Symptoms of Acne
The symptoms of acne are as follows: blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, nodules and cystic lesions
- Blackheads are open, clogged pores that turn black at the surface due to oxidation of the sebum.
- Whiteheads are closed, clogged pores that are “white” as they stretch the skin’s surface. As the trapped sebum is not exposed to air, it does not turn dark after oxidation.
- Pimples are most commonly associated with acne. They appear as small, red bumps (papules), sometimes with pus at their tips (pustules).
- Nodules are large, painful, solid bumps caused by dead skin cells and sebum trapped deep beneath the skin. They do not heal as quickly as regular pimples, often remaining as lumps hard to the touch for weeks or even months.
- Cystic lesions are one of the most severe symptoms of acne, and manifest as large, painful, pus-filled lumps under the skin.
Causes of Acne
Acne occurs as a result of these 4 processes in the skin:
- Overgrowth of acne-causing bacteria in the skin
- Inflammation of the skin
- Excessive oil production from sebaceous glands
- Hair follicles or pores being clogged up by dead skin cells
These processes may be triggered or worsened by several factors, the most common of which is hormone changes caused by puberty or stress. This explains why acne is common in teens undergoing puberty, with flare-ups related to the stress of school. However, acne has become increasingly prevalent in adulthood too, with many experiencing a worsening of acne when they face stress at work, and for women, during their pre-menstrual, pregnancy, and perimenopause period.
The good news is that acne is a fairly treatable condition, with excellent recovery expected when the right treatments are applied. At our clinic, we offer a wide range of acne treatments and provide a customised treatment plan tailored to each individual's unique condition. From gentle and non-invasive treatments such as medical skincare and medical facials to stronger treatments such as lasers, our doctors will take your lifestyle and needs into consideration to craft the correct treatment plan for you.
Types of Acne Treatment
Depending on your condition, our doctors will customise a skincare regimen to prevent and treat acne symptoms while actively encouraging the regeneration and healing of your skin. This may include clinical-grade facial cleansers that gently cleanse without irritating the skin. Medical skincare products may also be prescribed to unclog pores presenting as whiteheads and blackheads, slow down sebum production, reduce inflammation, as well as improve skin exfoliation. These prescription products are formulated to target the underlying causes of acne effectively without stripping away the skin’s natural moisture barrier, while encouraging scar healing.
Oral Medications are commonly prescribed when hormonal changes due to physiological or lifestyle factors trigger acne breakout. Oral antibiotics work by reducing inflammation and eliminating acne-causing bacteria. However, these are not prescribed for long durations to prevent the body from developing antibiotic resistance. For females, anti-androgens or oral contraceptive pills may be prescribed. These work by blocking the effect of androgen hormones on sebaceous glands, reducing excessive sebum production. Stronger oral medication may be prescribed in severe cases or when other methods have failed to control acne symptoms satisfactorily.
Medical facials are recommended as supportive therapy for acne control once active outbreaks have settled down. They allow for gentle, deep cleansing without irritation, removing the build-up of dead skin and excess sebum. Comedone extractions are also part of the treatment to unclog whiteheads and blackheads. Penetration of active ingredients and light therapy effectively reduces inflammation, cuts down on bacteria load, and enhances skin healing.
Steroid injections may be recommended to control severe acne nodules and cystic lesions. Due to the nature of such lesions, topical medication will not be as effective as they cannot penetrate deep enough to where the lesions are. In comparison, steroid injections allow for anti-inflammatory ingredients to be directed straight into the nodular or cystic lesions. You should be able to see the injection taking effect within 1-2 days of the procedure.
After stabilising acne outbreaks, it is crucial to prevent symptoms from coming back. As the main causes of acne are excessive sebum production, inflammation and bacteria, laser treatments are helpful in preventing future acne breakouts, as well as in treating stubborn acne symptoms.
At our clinic, we provide several different laser options based on the your lifestyle and needs. We offer Q-Switch and Pico lasers such as the Spectra XT and PicoPlus, as well as vascular lasers like the Dual Yellow and Clarity II.
Q-switch and Pico Lasers
Q-switch and Pico Lasers like the Spectra XT and PicoPlus help control sebum production and comedone formation - also known as black-and-whiteheads - by shrinking sebaceous glands. This effectively reduces the number of comedones, which translates to better acne control. Pores are minimized, scars are lightened, and skin texture is also smoothened as a result of these lasers.
To treat active breakouts, vascular lasers such as the Dual Yellow and Clarity II may be used to destroy acne-causing bacteria and control sebum production. The Dual Yellow and Clarity II lasers are able to penetrate deep into the skin’s layers to shrink blood vessels that fuel inflammation. They also stimulate collagen remodelling which helps to accelerate acne scar healing.