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When is acne bad enough to justify a doctor’s visit?


Whether it’s hormonal, environmental, or skin type-related, no one is free of the occasional breakout! Some women even find their breakouts are regular – and they are never without a blemish or two. While a pimple every now and then is normal, regular breakouts and acne is not. But when do you know whether you should self-medicate, or visit a doctor?

We asked skincare expert and owner of Skin Renewal, Dr Maureen Allem, for her advice.

What makes acne different to regular pimples?
Acne is characterised by the formation of comedones (blackheads), pimples, cysts and abscesses (in worst cases). These lesions are formed on the skin when the pores in the skin are blocked. This blockage causes oil to be trapped, together with dead skin and bacteria within the hair follicles. In normal circumstances, the sebaceous glands (which have the function of secreting an oily substance called sebum) are attached to the hair follicles and allow the sebum to travel up the hair follicle and onto the skin. However, if there is a blockage in the hair follicle, the sebum can’t get out, and this can sometimes cause the formation of a blackhead. Blackheads are the result of the blocked oil that oxidises, causing further inflammation and an influx of white blood cells.

Meanwhile, normally present bacteria begin to break down the trapped sebum within the hair follicle. The subsequent result is further and aggravated inflammation, as white blood cells attack the bacteria. Pus forms within the lesion causing the lesion to enter the whitehead stage. In more severe stages with severe inflammation and infection, an abscess – a painful pus-filled pocket within the skin – may form.”

Are there different severities of acne?
“Acne can be classified as mild, moderate or severe inflammatory acne and is based on lesion count and whether nodules are present, or not.”

When should one visit a doctor?
“The importance of early management of any condition cannot be overstated. Once certain conditions set in and damage to organs occurs, complete recovery may be difficult to attain. Best results for prevention and longevity is early detection of a possible problem combined with conventional treatments, nutritional supplements and a healthy diet and lifestyle.”

Mild acne can be treated with acne-targeted products, and a trip to the doctor’s rooms is not always necessary.

“If you suffer from moderate to severe acne (many lesions) a consultation with one of the Skin or Health Renewal doctors is mandatory as a customised treatment package will be designed for your condition,” says Dr Allem.

What can a doctor do?
There are many treatments available for acne, and Dr Allem offers the following options at Skin Renewal:
Microdermabrasion, Deep Cleanse Facials, Extraction Peels, Laser Genesis procedure, TCA peels, PDT/LED photo dynamic therapy, Carboxytherapy and medication.

“As each patient’s case is different we will tailor a treatment program specifically for your circumstances and budget. A highly professional team led by a medical doctor assesses every patient and an appropriate combination treatment together with long-term maintenance program is recommended.”

Though you might want to try your hand at treating your skin at home before consulting a doctor, we think it’s best to follow your gut. If you think your breakouts are a bit too regular for comfort, or you struggle to get them to heal, it’s best to speak to a professional. Plus, even mild acne could leave behind scars, so best treat it before the damage sets in!

Do you want to ask Dr Allem a question about skin? Click on her Ask The Experts profile here.

Other articles you may be interested in:
The best acne-fighting ingredients
Is there a link between acne and cow’s milk?
How can I treat acne scars?
Acne 101
My oily skin is giving me breakouts – help!


4 Responses

  1. It’s so strange, in high school I had perfect skin. I’m now 24 and I’m having breakouts! It seems like any major event sends my skin into a storm! Thanks for the info.

  2. The explanation of the formation of the blackhead and whitehead was very informative. I feel that as soon as you are not comfortable with your skin, you should visit a doctor because in some cases, at-home-treatments may make the situation worse, especially if you are using incorrect treatments.

  3. It is always best to err on the side of caution, and seek medical advice sooner than later to prevent scarring.

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