How acne can be prevented

The skin condition acne is a common problem in Singapore, particularly among adolescents and young adults. Stress, hormones, a diet rich in dairy products and carbohydrates, a lack of sleep, and certain steroid medications can play a role in its development. Acne has also been associated with genetic factors.

Acne usually affects the face, neck, chest, back and shoulders. It can appear in a variety of forms such as:

  • Pimples (pustules and papules) – red bumps with or without pus
  • Whiteheads – closed clogged pores
  • Blackheads – open clogged pores
  • Nodules – large solid, painful lumps under the skin
  • Cysts – painful pus-filled lumps under the skin

How does acne develop?

Puberty causes an increase in hormones which stimulate the skin’s oil glands to produce more oil or sebum. When oil mixes with dead skin cells, the skin’s pores get clogged, trapping bacteria inside them. This causes redness, swelling and pus, which is the start of acne, explains Dr Lee Shan Xian, associate consultant in the Department of Dermatology at Changi General Hospital.

How to prevent acne

  • Gently cleanse your face at the end of the day to remove any dirt, sweat, bacteria and makeup that can accumulate and clog your pores.
  • Use makeup sparingly, and look for products that have the label ‘non-comedogenic’. Non-comedogenic refers to blackheads and whiteheads which are known as comedones.
  • Use a sunscreen of SPF 30 and above and wear a hat and protective clothing when you are out in the sun.
  • Limit consumption of dairy products and foods high in processed sugars.

“Use a cleanser that is gentle to the skin, as harsh ones can strip it of its natural moisture and make it too dry. It is also important not to wash too frequently as this can aggravate some skin conditions,” says Dr Lee.

How to treat acne

Acne treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Mild acne usually improves with a daily application of antibiotic creams, benzoyl peroxide antiseptic creams or retinoids.

Moderate to severe acne will also require oral medications such as antibiotics and the retinoid drug isotretinoin. Oral medications usually have side effects and may require blood tests before they are prescribed. Light therapy and chemical peels are also treatment options for acne.

Whether you have mild or severe acne, always consult a doctor for a treatment plan. And remember, “Never squeeze or pick at pimples as this can lead to infection and bad scarring,” stresses Dr Lee.