Acne is by far one of the most common skin disorders that people seek treatment for. The condition is thought to affect around 10 million people in the UK and varies greatly in severity from person to person. Some people may have just a few blackheads or white heads while others may have more severe nodular acne or cystic acne. Because the effects of acne are so visible, the condition can have a significant psychological effect as well as physical one by causing embarrassment and self-consciousness.
Acne is categorised as a "chronic inflammation of the sebaceous glands". This occurs when excessive oil production creates blockages in the glands or pores. These blockages appear as blackheads or whiteheads on the surface of the skin. Inflammation caused by bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes or P.acnes turns them into the red, pussy spots that we most commonly associate with the term "acne". It is a misconception that acne is cause by poor hygiene or diet. Hormonal factors and stress play more of a role, however certain food groups like diary can aggravate spots.
Acne most commonly appears on the face but it can occur all over the body on areas such as the back, torso, neck, shoulders and even the arms, buttocks and legs.
Although you may think of acne as a teenage problem, that is not necessarily the case. Adult acne is actually on the rise with men and particularly women in their late 20s and 30s, and even their 40s and 50s, developing the condition, even if they did not have spots as teenagers.

Types of acne explained


Whiteheads result when the pore is completely blocked, trapping oil, known as sebum, beneath dead skin cells. They become red and inflamed because of bacteria, known as P.acnes.


Blackheads are caused when the pore is only partially blocked. It is a myth that the black colour that gives them their name is caused by dirt. This is actually caused by the skin’s pigment, known as melanin, reacting with the oxygen in the air.


Papules appear as red, inflamed bumps on the skin. They have no head.


A pustule appears as an inflamed, red spot with a white or yellow centre


Nodules occur with severe acne and appear as large, hard bumps under the skin’s surface. They can often result in acne scars.


Acne cysts occur in cases of severe acne and are effectively pus-filled nodules. They can be painful and commonly result in scars.