What is adult acne?

Medically reviewed by The Harley Medical Group Clinical Governance Board on 4th March 2020.

Spots and acne are small skin lesions or inflammations of the skin - they develop when sebaceous glands (oil glands) become clogged and infected, leading to swollen, red lesions filled with pus.

Whether you call them pimples, zits or something else even solitary spots are still regarded as acne which is why nearly all of the adult population with experience some grade of acne.

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Time to stop a myth here, acne is not the result of someone not washing, on the contrary it could be because they wash too much! Acne is also not contagious! There are many causes for acne including:

Hormonal acne

Acne can be the result of overstimulation of the sebaceous glands, the sebum oil which is produced mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria on the skin's surface and blocks the pores. Within the blocked pore the bacteria multiplies and causes an inflammation which leads to the spots and pustules associated with acne. Pregnancy and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) are two of the most common causes of hormonal acne among women.

Stress acne

A side effect of stress can be an increased production of hormones, i.e. cortisol, being produced and aggravating the skin. The body also takes longer to heal when under stress which aids in the development of acne.

Genetic predisposition

Genetics does play a part in susceptibility to acne. Our genetic blueprint influences thickness of skin, oily tendencies of the skin and basic hormone responses, this does not mean however that you will get acne because your parents did.

Bacteria

(Propionibacterium acnes or P-Acne Bacteria) is a bacteria that feeds on fatty acids in sebum, found in the sebaceous glands, thriving in the low oxygen environment deep in the follicle. The bacteria itself does not cause the acne, rather the inflammation is a result of the immune system over-reacting and sending out large amounts of white blood cells, the response can even be triggered by dead bacteria.

Medication

This is a very common cause of acne. The birth control pill, for example, utilises hormones that are synthetically made to mimic pregnancy, these hormones may have strong Androgenic (male hormone) responses which affect the creation of sebum.

Pollutants

Pollution and pollutants from everyday living are also a cause of acne. Dirt gets trapped in the pores and causes an inflammation which is why it's good practice to wash the dirt of the day off your face when you get home.

Chemicals and oil-based make-up

Heavy oil-based makeup on the skin can encourage the skin to create more sebum - rather than less as expected - to compensate which can cause greater inflammation.  This is why it's very common to see actors who wear heavy makeup with acne prone skin.

Acne is graded from one to four on a severity scale.

Grade I

​This mildest grade of acne consists primarily of blackheads and whiteheads that suffer no inflammation or reddening and are most often seen in adolescents, and sporadically in adults, on the nose and forehead.

Grade II 

Moderate acne where blackheads and whitehead can break out in greater numbers. They can come in larger papules with some appearing as large pustules with slight inflammation getting obvious. The outbreaks now appear on the cheeks, chin and jaw in addition to the nose and foreheads.

Grade III 

Considered severe and is often Grade II left untreated and made to worsen by squeezing the pimples and maintaining the oily dirty face that attracted those bacteria at the onset. The main difference now is the level of inflammation with the skin suffering Grade III acne exhibiting more profuse reddening and a greater number of inflamed papules and pustules. This is the grade when infection spreads and becomes deeper and the risk of scarring gets highest.

Grade IV 

The most serious and is Grade III left untreated. The condition is medically referred to as nodulocystic or cystic acne where the skin displays numerous pustules, papules, pustules, with large cysts. There is severe inflammation and pain as cystic acne is very painful. Often the infection spreads beyond the face and into the neck, shoulders and upper arms. The deep infection makes scarring inevitable and may even require cosmetic surgery after to restore a decent looking skin.

It is fundamental to understand that acne cannot be cured, but it can be managed to reduce and in many cases prevent breakouts. if you suffer with it there are ways to reduce the redness, swelling and other visible symptoms, by following a healthy lifestyle and using specialist sebum control skincare. It also helps if you avoid touching the skin, as the natural oils on your hands, as well as bacteria we all pick up in daily life, can make spots spread or become more inflamed.

If you also choose to undergo a new skincare regime or treatment package it is very important to understand what to expect for your skin, and to follow through with the recommended course. At The Harley Medical Group we meet many people who become disheartened after the first couple of weeks of trying a new approach to manage their acne as their breakouts have gotten worse. We explain that this is actually a good thing, it shows that the skin is bringing all the detritus to the surface and after that breakout has cleared the skin will be vastly improved. You can expect a small breakout after each treatment as the skin continues to expel debris that's clogging the pores until, eventually, you are left with clear skin.

If you’ve been left with acne scarring, redness or rosacea, we can help you to regain smooth, even and radiant skin. Our years of experience in the field of Cosmetic Surgery ensure that you can rely on The Harley Medical Group to assist you with a tailored treatment programme for acne. We offer free consultations with qualified Medical Professionals, as well as a thorough after care service to ensure that your experience is positive throughout your entire journey.
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HOW THE HARLEY MEDICAL GROUP CAN HELP

SALICYLIC REFURFACER

The Salicylic Resurfacer penetrates and decongests follicles, reducing redness and inflammation associated with acne while preventing future breakouts.

  • Ideal for sensitive skin
  • Deeply exfoliates, clearing the pore of all debris and oil
  • Releases hardened sebum while quashing oil
  • Reduces future breakoutsLEARN MOREISOLAZ IPL LASER

    Isolaz is the only laser treatment for acne which has been approved by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) for the treatment of the four different types of acne, which are otherwise difficult conditions to treat.

    • Improves skin texture
    • Reduces pore size appearance
    • Helps remove blackheads, oil, and debris
    • Deep pore cleansing acne treatment

    LEARN MORE

    dermaclear skincare range

    Including:

  • Dermaclear Cleanser
  • Dermaclear BHA Cleanser
  • Dermaclear Serum
  • Dermaclear Pads
  • Dermaclear Clay Mask
  • Dermaclear Spot Treatment
  • LEARN MORE

SALICYLIC REFURFACER

The Salicylic Resurfacer penetrates and decongests follicles, reducing redness and inflammation associated with acne while preventing future breakouts.

  • Ideal for sensitive skin
  • Deeply exfoliates, clearing the pore of all debris and oil
  • Releases hardened sebum while quashing oil
  • Reduces future breakoutsLEARN MOREISOLAZ IPL LASER

    Isolaz is the only laser treatment for acne which has been approved by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) for the treatment of the four different types of acne, which are otherwise difficult conditions to treat.

  • Improves skin texture
  • Reduces pore size appearance
  • Helps remove blackheads, oil, and debris
  • Deep pore cleansing acne treatmentLEARN MORESALICYLIC SKIN PEEL

    The Salicylic Skin Peel is similar to the Salicylic Resurfacer but it contains 30% Salicylic Acid, the Resurfacer contains 20%, making it ideal for acne grade 2 and above.

    The ideal treatment for acne grade 2 and above, this

  • Actively reduces redness and inflammation
  • Strong anti-inflammatory properties protecting skin cells from external damage
  • Releases hardened sebum while quashing oil
  • Continues to address acne concerns after treatmentLEARN MOREdermaclear skincare range

    Including:

  • Dermaclear Cleanser
  • Dermaclear BHA Cleanser
  • Dermaclear Serum
  • Dermaclear Pads
  • Dermaclear Clay Mask
  • Dermaclear Spot TreatmentLEARN MORE

ISOLAZ IPL LASER

Isolaz is the only laser treatment for acne which has been approved by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) for the treatment of the four different types of acne, which are otherwise difficult conditions to treat.

  • Improves skin texture
  • Reduces pore size appearance
  • Helps remove blackheads, oil, and debris
  • Deep pore cleansing acne treatmentLEARN MORE

    SALICYLIC SKIN PEEL

    The Salicylic Skin Peel is similar to the Salicylic Resurfacer but it contains 30% Salicylic Acid, the Resurfacer contains 20%, making it ideal for acne grade 2 and above.

    The ideal treatment for acne grade 2 and above, this

  • Actively reduces redness and inflammation
  • Strong anti-inflammatory properties protecting skin cells from external damage
  • Releases hardened sebum while quashing oil
  • Continues to address acne concerns after treatmentLEARN MORE

    MODIFIED JESSNER PEEL

    The Modified Jessner Peel was clinically designed to comprehensively manage severe acne, which suffers from greater inflammation, pustules and papules.

  • Anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties
  • Effectively hampers stubborn breakouts including cysts
  • Kills P bacteria and create a more even skin tone
  • Gently hydrates the skinLEARN MORE

    OBAGI NU DERM SKIN CARE AND BLUE SKIN PEELS

    A leading deep rejuvenation treatment which helps eliminate blemishes, acne scars, and uneven pigmentation whilst increasing overall texture and tightness.

  • Stimulates the creation of new cells
  • Supports the body’s natural regeneration and rejuvenation processes
  • Tones and balances the skin
  • Reduces and prevents future breakoutsLEARN MORE

    dermaclear skincare range

    Including:

  • Dermaclear Cleanser
  • Dermaclear BHA Cleanser
  • Dermaclear Serum
  • Dermaclear Pads
  • Dermaclear Clay Mask
  • Dermaclear Spot TreatmentLEARN MORE

ISOLAZ IPL LASER

Isolaz is the only laser treatment for acne which has been approved by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) for the treatment of the four different types of acne, which are otherwise difficult conditions to treat.

  • Improves skin texture
  • Reduces pore size appearance
  • Helps remove blackheads, oil, and debris
  • Deep pore cleansing acne treatmentLEARN MOREMODIFIED JESSNER PEEL

    The Modified Jessner Peel was clinically designed to comprehensively manage severe acne, which suffers from greater inflammation, pustules and papules.

  • Anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties
  • Effectively hampers stubborn breakouts including cysts
  • Kills P bacteria and create a more even skin tone
  • Gently hydrates the skinLEARN MOREOBAGI NU DERM SKIN CARE AND BLUE SKIN PEELS

    A leading deep rejuvenation treatment which helps eliminate blemishes, acne scars, and uneven pigmentation whilst increasing overall texture and tightness.

  • Stimulates the creation of new cells
  • Supports the body’s natural regeneration and rejuvenation processes
  • Tones and balances the skin
  • Reduces and prevents future breakoutsLEARN MOREdermaclear skincare range

    Including:

  • Dermaclear Cleanser
  • Dermaclear BHA Cleanser
  • Dermaclear Serum
  • Dermaclear Pads
  • Dermaclear Clay Mask
  • Dermaclear Spot TreatmentLEARN MORE
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