Is acne common?
One of the most common skin problems seen at our clinic is acne. Acne is a pesky problem most often seen in teenagers but also increasingly seen in adults in their 30s or 40s. As it usually affects visible areas such as the face, chest and back, a lot of affected individuals are left embarrassed and traumatised, choosing to cover up with concealers, makeup and high necked clothing. The fantastic news is - treatment is available and can be very effective!

Who should get their acne treated?
Everyone who has acne should seek help to have it diagnosed and treated early and effectively. Unlike the days when most teenagers wait to “grow out of” their acne, most people are now seeking early treatment to prevent the risk of permanent scarring. Most patients are highly satisfied and much happier when they get their acne under control and can once again feel confident about their skin.

How is acne diagnosed?
Your dermatologist will carefully examine your skin to make the correct diagnosis as there are other conditions that can look remarkably like acne. The typical features of oily skin, blackheads, whiteheads as well as painful red spots or pus filled lesions are tell-tale signs. Treatment options will be recommended based on the severity of the condition.

How is mild acne treated?
Special anti-inflammatory, anti-comedonal cleansers can be helpful. These often contain antiseptic ingredients or acids such as salicylic acid or lactic acid. Antibiotic creams or pimple creams can also be helpful in clearing the painful spots. In addition, retinoids can be prescribed to treat comedones and help in prevention of further flares.

How is moderate acne treated?
If the acne condition is not well controlled by topical medicines, oral medicines such as oral antibiotics or hormonal treatments in combination with prescription creams can be used to offer better control. These are usually taken for several months and patients will notice gradual improvement after 1-2 months of treatment.

Can severe acne be treated effectively?
Even individuals with severe acne can be effectively treated and experience a return of their confidence levels and improvement in their social life. Vitamin A derivatives (isotretinoin or oratane) are highly effective for switching off severe acne, and excellent results can be seen as quickly as 2-3 months. These medicines can reduce the size of oil glands, oil production and skin cells clogging up pores and causing inflammation. Low doses can be used to provide excellent control with minimal side effects. Monitoring of a few blood tests during the course of treatment is essential to ensure your safety whilst taking these medicines. The large majority of patients who complete a course of treatment will achieve excellent clearance of their acne and experience long term remission of acne symptoms.

Can acne marks be treated?
Once active acne is controlled, a lot of patients will unfortunately be left with red or brown marks, and even permanent scars in severe cases. This can continue to be a source of embarrassment and dissatisfaction. Thankfully there is help at hand with some advanced laser treatment.

Red marks or scars
The Pulsed dye laser (VBEAM) is superb at fading pink or red marks due to post inflammatory erythema which is often seen in the early stages of acne recovery. Excellent fading can usually be seen even after 2-4 treatments.

Brown marks or scars
Our Picoway laser is highly effective at fading dark brown marks due to post inflammatory hyperpigmentation which is often seen in Asian skin after the active acne has subsided. Good results are usually seen after a course of 5-6 monthly treatments.

Depressed or atrophic acne scars
We use an advanced fractional laser system (Smartxide Fractional CO2 laser) that creates columns of controlled laser injury into the deeper layers of the skin, stimulating the production of new collagen to plump up and smoothen the skin. This helps to effectively resurface and restore collagen in the skin, reducing the appearance of depressed acne scars and textural irregularities. We often combine this with collagen biostimulators to further optimise the results 

Dr Stephanie Ho is a British trained Dermatologist with over 25 years of medical experience. She has practiced in the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore, specialising in skin disorders in adults and children, skin cancer surveillance, cosmetic and surgical dermatology.