In Canada, acne affects approximately 5.6 million Canadians – that’s 20% of the Canadian population.
While acne typically affects individuals between the ages of 12 and 24, and mostly those who are women, studies have suggested that it can also be prevalent in males as well as adults, and is one of the most common skincare problems seen by family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary.
Acne occurs as a result of pores becoming clogged due to an oily substance that is produced by the skin known as sebum, in combination with dead skin cells and dirt. When acne is present, you may notice small lesions that are accompanied with redness, swelling, and sometimes pus, which is caused by bacteria known as Propionibacterium (or P. acnes). There are many different terms used to describe acne; some of the common terms used include cysts, nodules, papules and pustules.
There are three stages of acne: Mild, moderate and severe.
With mild acne, you may notice a few lesions but they are often not deep into the surface of the skin and do not become inflamed. With moderate to severe acne, you may notice multiple lesions along with redness and inflammation.
Typically, acne appears on the face, though it is not uncommon to develop acne on other areas of the body, including the neck, arms, shoulders and back.
There are many different things that can trigger acne. For example, cosmetics and hair care products; many of which can cause clogged pores and lead to acne. When shopping, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends purchasing products that are labeled as oil-free, non-acnegenic and non-comedogenic. Overwashing your face with exfoliating products, using strong cleaners or toners can also strip the skin, which can either cause acne or worsen acne you already have.
If you notice acne lesions, Dr. Ali Ghahary says it is important that you do not try to pop, pick or squeeze them, as this can lead to infection. Instead, Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests trying over-the-counter treatments such as medicated topical creams/gels containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These active ingredients work to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria. If over-the-counter treatment is unsuccessful, Dr. Ghahary may then prescribe prescription-strength medication, which may include both oral and topical antibiotics, as well as hormonal agents. If all avenues have been exhausted without success and the acne persists, you may need to be referred to a dermatologist.