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Acne 101: The Skin + Me Guide To Acne, Spots, Whiteheads and Blackheads

If you live with acne, battle blackheads or feel frustrated at flare-ups, you’re in the majority. Acne affects almost everyone at some point in our lives. It might sometimes feel like you’re alone but worldwide, almost one in 10 people will have acne at any given time. The differences here lie in the factors that trigger your spots and how acne manifests itself in its different forms, on your skin.

What is acne?

Acne is the most common inflammatory condition known to the skin. It’s a complex skin condition that is best diagnosed and treated with a personalised approach, custom to your skin and acne triggers. The spots that appear on your skin can take the form of blackheads, whiteheads, papules and pustules and cysts. See Where do my spots come from? for an in-depth look at specific spot types and what you need to know about fungal acne.

What does acne look like and how do I know if I have it?

Acne is the term for blackheads, whiteheads, red spots and pus-filled spots, which can appear on our skin with the highest number of follicles and oil glands on the face, neck, chest or back. Overactive sebaceous glands produce too much oil, which mixes with dead skin cells and blocks our pores. Skin with acne can can feel hot, oily and sometimes painful to touch. Blocked pore too close to the surface of the skin? You’ve got a whitehead. Blocked pore open to the skin? That’s a blackhead.

What causes acne?

Acne is a complex skin condition caused by multiple factors unique to you. This can include poor cell turnover, excess oil production, inflammation and acne bacteria. It can also be influenced by a number of health and lifestyle factors, such as stress, hormonal changes and some medications.

How does Skin + Me treat acne?

The first choice for treating mild or moderate acne is usually creams and gels, known as topical treatments. But, the most commonly prescribed topical treatments come in a one-size-fits-all formula. These can often be too strong and irritant for those with sensitive skin, or too weak and ineffective for those who have used high-strength ingredients like retinoids before.

Skin + Me are different because we offer a personalised acne treatment designed to help you clear your skin and prevent breakouts. It evolves in strength to build tolerance and minimise reactions, using active ingredients with decades of evidence in treating acne – chosen specifically for your skin type and its needs.

Whether you suffer from the odd hormonal spot each month, or cystic acne that just won’t go away, there’s a solution to tackle that. If your acne is more severe, or if you’re suffering with acne scarring, we’d usually advise you to also book a face-to-face appointment with your GP or dermatologist, as you might need tablets to treat your skin, in addition to cream treatments.

What are the best active ingredients to treat acne?

Your acne is always best treated with a diagnosis from a dermatologist and the acne-busting ingredients that go into your skincare should be tailored to you, your lifestyle and your health status (some ingredients like tretinoin can be swapped for alternatives if you are pregnant).

The key active ingredients that Skin + Me may use to fight acne include: clindamycin (a topical antibiotic), azelaic acid (a chemical exfoliator that unblocks pores, boosts skin texture and counters antibacterial resistance when combined with clindamycin), tretinoin (to encourage new skin cell growth and make pores less visible) and niacinamide (to regulate the skin’s oil production).

How long does it take to clear acne?

Every person is different, and whilst most will see results on average within up to three months. Once your skin is clear, we’ll progress your treatment to a personalised solution that’s designed to maintain your results and keep your skin clear – which will work to prevent any future breakouts.

If your acne seems to be getting worse while adjusting to a prescription treatment, this is known as purging. Rest assured, purging doesn’t happen to everyone but for those who do experience it, purging rarely lasts longer than eight weeks. If your purging lasts longer than this, contact the Support Team ( at Skin + Me. It’s likely another issue that needs to be addressed, and we can clear it up.

We’re always here to guide you through your treatment, and will continue to assess how well you’re responding, and whether you need a change in your treatment plan.

Clearing up spots and supporting your mental health

We know that all acne, no matter how severe, can have a huge impact on your mental health. And that’s why we’re here to help you to get the feel-good skin you’ve always wanted. Take an online consultation for a personalised approach to acne treatment. Feeling like you need more acne-related mental health support? The Acne Support Charity has a wealth of tools and advice – such as their Guide To Emotional Support to download as a useful resource.

Medical facts checked by Head of Medical, Dr Jason Thomson.

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