Adult Acne

What is adult acne?

Acne grades | The Harley Medical Group

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. 

Acne - What's in a name?

There are many types of acne (Acne Vulgaris):

  • Whiteheads

The pore is completely blocked, trapping sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells, resulting in a white spot to appear on the surface.

  • Blackheads 

The pore is only partially blocked, allowing some of the trapped sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells to slowly drain to the surface. The colour comes from the melanin in the skin reacting to oxygen in the air.

  • Papules 

Inflamed, red, tender bumps with no head which if squeezed may cause scarring

  • Pustules

An inflamed red circle with a white or yellow centre, this is the standard spot you want to squeeze but shouldn't really!

  • Nodular

Large, hard bumps under the skin's surface which can repeatedly flare up. The acne spots which are much larger, can be quite painful, and can sometimes last for months, scarring is common. They should not under any circumstances be squeezed as it may cause the nodule to last longer than it normally would. Nodules are a severe form of acne.

  • Cysts 

Share characteristics with nodules but are filled with pus, scarring is common.  They should not under any circumstances be squeezed as it may cause the cyst to become infected and more painful to last longer than it normally would. Cysts are a severe form of acne.

  • Acne Rosacea 

​Appearing most commonly on the forehead, cheeks and nose, Rosacea looks like ared rash with bumps and skin blemishes. Rosacea itself is not a form of acne but is often seen alongside acne. 


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. 

What are Acne Grades?

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 cure 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. 


There are a number of very effective adult acne treatments available at all our clinics across the UK.

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 breakouts

Learn 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 treatment

Learn 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 skin

Learn 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 treatment

Learn 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 breakouts

Learn more


To ensure you get optimum results we highly recommend a good daily homecare routine. Your practitioner will a design bespoke skincare package tailored to your specific needs which may include some of the following products:


Dermaclear Cleanser

Dermaclear Cleanser | Harley Medical GroupSpecially formulated with Mandelic Acid, this cleanser is ideal for all stages of acne, yet is particularly beneficial for breakouts. Proteolytic Enzymes, plant extracts and willow bark calm and soothe irritated skin as Tea Tree Oil assists in calming irritated blemishes for faster healing.

Shop Skincare


Dermaclear Serum

Dermaclear Serum | Harley Medical GroupClear and control breakouts with our signature anti-acne serum without over drying. A combination of Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids purify while exfoliating, reducing the pore-clogging oils that cause future blemishes, while hydrating MDI Complex® keeps skin supple.

Shop Skincare


Dermaclear Pads

Dermaclear Pads | Harley Medical GroupA nemesis of breakouts, our clarifying pads help remove impurities and excess oil from your skin. Fortified with Salicylic Acid, which penetrates the skin to reduce impactions and clogged pores, our pads are an effortless way to refresh and cleanse anywhere, anytime. Banish breakouts and temper acne with our cooling, exfoliating pads.

Shop Skincare


Dermaclear Mask

Dermaclear Mask | Harley Medical GroupThis gentle clay mask has a tranquil, soothing effect on acne and inflamed skin. Crafted with Salicylic Acid, Willow Bark, Orange, Sea Fennel and Lilac Stem Cells, our calming mask cools and protects tender skin while brightening post-acne discoloration. A relieving lifeline for those with acne concerns, this mask lessens congestion without dehydrating skin.

Due to the highly active ingredients in our SkinBrite Serum in can only be purchased from your local clinic, where our expert team will be able to advise you of usage.


Dermaclear Spot Treatment

Dermaclear Spot Treatment | Harley Medical GroupSoothe and treat sensitive and inflamed acne. Our Benzoyl Peroxide spot treatment targets blemish-causing bacteria without causing dryness.

Due to the highly active ingredients in our SkinBrite Serum in can only be purchased from your local clinic, where our expert team will be able to advise you of usage.


Dermaclear BHA Cleanser

Dermaclear BHA Cleanser | Harley Medical GroupExpel your acne concerns with our phenomenal cleanser as dirt, oil and debris are crisply washed away. We use Salicylic Acid to diminish blackheads and relieve congestion, restoring the effortless allure of a smooth, clear complexion.

Due to the highly active ingredients in our BHA Cleanser in can only be purchased from your local clinic, where our expert team will be able to advise you of usage.


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.


Book your free, no obligation, consultation