Acne affects almost every Irish person at some point in their life.

Spots, oily skin, and painful patches of skin are common.

In 2018, researchers from the University of Limerick’s department of psychology and the Center for Social Affairs released a study linking acne to higher levels of distress and struggles. about mental health.

Social stigma against the skin condition is associated with a lower overall quality of life among Irish people living with it.

But what really causes acne, how can it be treated, and when should we be concerned?

What is acne?

Acne is a persistent skin condition. It’s different from seeing those weird pimples from time to time. People who are prone to acne may find their pores and skin follicles clogged with oil and dead skin cells and infected pimples.

The human body is covered with hair follicles. Glands near the surface of the skin produce an oily substance called sebum to lubricate the hair and skin.

The sebaceous glands in people with acne produce too much sebum. Excess sebum mixes with dead skin cells and can clog hair follicles causing pain.



Pimples form when the sebaceous glands secrete too much oil and clog hair follicles

Acne is known to be most common in teenagers and young adults. About 80% of 11 to 30-year-olds are affected by acne, according to the HSE. Hormonal teenage acne usually goes away by the time a person is in their 20s.

Although annoying pimples and acne are commonly associated with teenagers and young adults, anyone can be affected. About 5% of women and 1% of men over the age of 25 have acne.

Symptoms include six main types of spotting:

  • Blackheads – small black or yellowish bumps that develop on the skin. While blackheads can be dirt trapped in your pores, they’re not actually dirt. They are dark in color because the inner membrane of the hair follicle produces a pigment that can look like dirt or black pigment.

  • Whiteheads – look similar to blackheads, but can be more solid and lighter in color

  • Papules are small red bumps that can be tender and painful

  • Pustules – like papules, but with a white head in the center, caused by an accumulation of pus, a thick fluid that produces in infected tissue

  • Nodules – large, hard, painful lumps below the surface of the skin

  • Acne – This is the most severe type of nodule caused by acne. They are large pus-filled lumps that look like boils that can cause permanent scarring.



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Mild acne can be treated with over-the-counter creams, more acne will require professional treatment

People with acne typically see symptoms develop in one of three locations:

  • face – this affects almost everyone with acne

  • back – this affects more than half of people with acne

  • breasts – this affects about 15% of people with acne

What causes acne?

Acne often runs in families. One study found that if both parents have acne, their children are more likely to have severe acne at an early age.

It also found that if one or both of your parents had adult acne, you’re more likely to develop adult acne as well.

Hormonal changes like puberty and pregnancy play a role in excess sebum production and can cause acne.

And despite popular belief, there’s no evidence that diet, poor hygiene, or sexual activity play a role in acne.



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Instead of clearing up acne, scrubbing your face more than twice a day can only worsen acne-prone skin

Keeping your skin clean can prevent normal spots. On the other hand, acne is caused by a biological reaction under the skin – so keeping your skin clean has nothing to do with acne development. In fact, scrubbing your face more than twice per day may only aggravate your acne-prone skin.

Diagnosis and treatment:

Rule number one – don’t pop pimples. This can cause permanent damage. Mild acne can be treated with over-the-counter drugstore medications.

Instead, seek treatment from your doctor or dermatologist.

There is no need to worry unless the acne is causing pain, inflammation, and scarring. That’s when you’ll need to see a doctor or dermatologist for professional treatment.



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Types of acne treatment include topical creams, antibiotic pills, or laser therapy to treat scars

Your GP can usually diagnose acne simply by examining your face, back, or chest for symptoms, and treatment will depend on the severity of your acne.

Prescriptions for acne include topical creams, antibiotics, and birth control pills for women.

Many treatments can take months to work, so try to be patient before you see results.

For acne scars, laser treatment and punching technique Can be used on severe scars to improve their appearance.



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Acne is associated with higher levels of distress, depression and anxiety.

If acne is making you feel depressed and anxious, the HSE recommends that you talk to your doctor about therapies and antidepressants to improve your mood while treating your acne.

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