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Skin Care 0123 – 2009
Acne is a skin disorder caused by changes in sebaceous (oil) glands and hair
follicles that occur during puberty. Most teenagers get some blackheads and
pimples and some develop more severe, widespread acne. Acne can be effectively
controlled with skin cleansers and medicines.
The common type of acne is cal ed acne vulgaris. It
develops mainly on the face, neck, chest, shoulders
and upper back. Skin lesions can be non-inflamed
(whiteheads and blackheads), or inflamed (red or
pus-fil ed pimples, nodules, and cysts). Acne may
be mild, moderate or severe and lesions sometimes
How does acne occur?
may be painful. They include smal papules (red
bumps) and pustules (bumps with pus) and larger,
deeper nodules and cysts. These inflamed lesions
develop when bacteria and oil irritate the blocked
hair fol icle and when blocked hair fol icles burst and
release bacteria, oil and irritants into surrounding
skin. Squeezing and rubbing inflamed lesions can
cause more inflammation and damage and increase
changing levels of sex hormones increase sebum
production and the shedding of skin cel s in the
What makes acne worse?
hair fol icle. The increased amount of sebum and
A person with a family history of severe acne has a
cel s can plug the fol icle which then swel s as more
higher risk of having severe acne. Things that may
sebum is produced. The plugged fol icle is cal ed a
comedo. Bacteria can then multiply in the blocked
hair fol icle and cause inflammation.
• Some skin care and hair care products
increase the amount of oil on the skin (e.g., oil-
• Working with oils and greases can increase the
amount of oil on the skin (e.g., frying foods)
• Scrubbing, scratching, squeezing or picking
• Pressure from tight-fitting clothes, headbands
• High humidity (e.g., a sauna, tropical climates)
• Hormonal changes (e.g., menstruation,
• Some medicines – ask a pharmacist or doctor.
Pharmacy Self Care is a program of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia
treatments have been used for some time with no improvement.
• Read and fol ow instructions for acne products
• Some acne preparations can make the skin more
sensitive to the sun. Use an oil-free, SPF30+
• Improvement may not be seen for four to eight
• Some acne medicines (e.g., retinoids) should
• Consult a pharmacist or doctor if any acne
NOT be used shortly before or during pregnancy.
treatment stings or irritates your skin.
• Consult a doctor if non-prescription acne
Acne treatments aim to unblock hair fol icles, reduce
• Gently cleanse the af ected areas twice a day
sebum production, reduce bacteria on the skin
and after exercise. A specific acne cleanser can
and reduce skin inflammation. Many products are
be used morning and night and a gentle soap
available to treat acne – ask a pharmacist or doctor
substitute at other times. It is important to use a
cleanser that is not oily and does not block skin
pores or irritate skin. Use lukewarm water. Pat
• Skin cleansers and antiseptic washes
– mild, non-oily products help control skin
• Do not pop, squeeze, rub or pick at acne.
• Oil-based creams and cosmetics can make
• Salicylic acid and sulphur
creams, gels and
acne worse. Use oil-free, water-based makeup,
moisturisers and sunscreen. Avoid strongly
• Benzoyl peroxide and azelaic acid
• Thoroughly remove makeup at the end of the
gels and lotions – reduce comedo formation
• Keep hair clean and away from face and neck.
• Zinc supplements
– may help some people.
• Eat regular, healthy meals, including plenty of
Prescription medicines and
fruit, vegetables and grain foods. Limit foods
– topical (e.g., clindamycin,
• Exercise at a moderate level for at least 30
erythromycin) and oral (e.g., doxycycline,
minutes on al or most days of the week.
erythromycin, minocycline) – have anti-bacterial
• Drink enough water every day to satisfy
your thirst and to keep your urine 'light-
– topical retinoids (e.g., adapalene,
coloured' (unless a doctor advises otherwise).
isotretinoin, tazarotene, tretinoin) reduce
comedo formation, inflammation and scarring.
Related fact cards
Oral isotretinoin (e.g., Oratane, Roaccutane
reduces sebum production, but is reserved for
severe acne, due to the risk of adverse ef ects.
• Sense in the Sun (website only – ask your pharmacist)
(e.g., some oral contraceptive pil s)
For more information
– can reduce sebum production and may help
Australasian Col ege of Dermatologists
(e.g., laser and light treatments)
New Zealand Dermatological Society Inc
• Zinc supplements
– may help some people.
Consumer Medicine Information (CMI)
leaflets – your
pharmacist can advise on availability.NPS Medicines Line
– phone 1300 888 763 Monday to
Friday, 9am to 6pm EST.The Poisons Information Centre
– in case of poisoning
phone 13 11 26 from anywhere in Australia.
Your Self Care
Pharmacists are medicines experts. Ask a pharmacist for advice when choosing a medicine.
Pharmacy Self Care is committed to providing current and reliable health information.
Information in this card was current at the time of printing: Published June 2009.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia www.psa.org.au
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