Acne is the most common of all dermatological diseases and affects approximately 80% of the population at some point in our lives irrespective of sex or ethnicity. Adolescence is the most common time to experience acne as during this time there is an increase in the levels of sex hormones, which stimulate the oil glands to enlarge, increasing sebum production (oil) and increasing the likelihood of acne formation. While many of those affected are able to control their acne with over-the-counter (non-prescription) treatments, for some (around 40%) whose acne is more advanced, help from a professional is required. Despite their heightened susceptibility to it, the disease is by no means strictly the domain of teenagers. Rather, people of all ages can be affected some despite having had an acne-free youth.

Click here to read our blog about managing your teenagers acne.

Acne occurs when oil and dead skin cells become trapped within the enlarged oil glands, creating a plug. This plug of dead cells and oil is called a comedone. A comedone turns into acne when it becomes inflamed, which happens due to bacteria that lives in the skin. 

Other acne causing factors include: 

  • Genetics

  • Hormonal disorders (such as Polycystic ovaries)

  • The wrong skincare products

  • Possible dietary factors

  • Medications

  • Emotional stress


The goal of all acne treatment should be prevention. Prevention of further outbreaks and prevention of long term scarring.

If you experience mild acne (a couple of pimples at a time) then an appropriate skin care routine may be just the trick.

As a general rule, skin care designed for oily skin should be good for those prone to acne. Look for statements like non-comedogenic, non-pore clogging, non acne forming and oil free.

Choose gel or foaming cleansers, moisturise with light lotions, serums and gels. Use roll on or a light lotion sunscreen and make sure it is both broad spectrum with a high SPF rating and avoid thick, heavy products, particularly moisturisers, because they can block pores. (To read more specifically about choosing a sunscreen for acne visit our blog post: 'There is not excuse for no sunscreen.'

Active skin care products that contain ingredients such as BHAs can help control acne. Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) works as a chemical exfoliant to dislodge debris from pores by burrowing deep into the oils of the sebaceous glands. This extracts dead cells and debris, which helps to clear the pore and prevent acne from forming.

The Dermatology Institute of Victoria offers free skin care consultations with Alani Fowler who will be able to recommend the best products for your acne.  

For many people, skincare alone is not enough and the worst thing you can do is ignore the problem. As acne often doesn’t clear up on its own, talk to your GP as soon as possible, who may refer you to a dermatologist if necessary.

Virtually all cases of acne can be treated effectively. However, there is no single treatment that works for everyone. Many factors need to be considered including age, skin type, motivation and lifestyle, as well as the kind of acne present, the causes and any co-existing conditions. Treatment options may include: 

A teenager with acne

A teenager with acne

An adult with acne

An adult with acne

Acne explained

This video was created by The Dermatology Institute of Victoria's Associate Professor Greg Goodman in order to explain how and why acne forms. 

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