Acne is mainly a problem of teenagers. The overactivity of the oil glands in the skin is due to the action of androgens or male sex hormones.

These are produced in both sexes but, in the female, are dominated by oestrogens or female sex hormones.

When there is an excess of androgens in the female, acne or excess body and facial hair may result.

Diet is no longer regarded as being of great significance in treatment. Local applications of sulphur-containing lotions have been abandoned, as, in some people, it has caused an increase in the number of blackheads.

Sometimes the strongly oestrogenic forms of the Pill have been of benefit in controlling the acne of young women.

Oestrogens given to young men will certainly reduce or clear their acne but at the price of interfering with testicular function. This may cause enlargement of the breasts, a female type of distribution of body fat and a decrease in sexual desire.

The tetracycline group of antibiotics have been widely used for some time. These are given in small doses over a prolonged time. Local applications of benzoyl peroxide or retinoic acid (tretinoin) have replaced other local applications and seem to offer better results.

Young women taking tetracyclines for acne should have adequate contraception if they are sexually active. This drug can, in early pregnancy, lead to disturbance of bone growth as well as causing staining of the baby’s teeth.

The scars left from acne may be unsightly but can be improved by the treatment known as dermabrasion. The superficial layers of the skin are abraded.

Never squeeze a pimple; it only makes it worse, spreading the infection and leading to scars.

No teenager needs to suffer from severe acne as treatment is now available.


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