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HealthInfo Canterbury

Self-care for acne

Close up of acne on girl's cheekHaving acne can be difficult to cope with but there are many things you can do yourself to improve your skin.

Avoid things that make acne worse (irritants) wherever possible. For example, greasy cosmetics, pollution, humid conditions, saunas and unventilated kitchens. Sweating can also contribute to blocked pores.

Try not to squeeze, scratch, pick or rub your spots as this can make them worse, become infected and lead to scarring.

Try not to touch your face and affected skin as this can help spread germs. Wash your affected skin twice a day with a gentle cleanser or oil-free soap and water. Don't scrub too hard as this irritates the skin and can make acne worse.

Don't smoke.

Try to manage your stress levels as stress can make acne worse.

Read about treatments for acne, which range from creams or gels that you gently rub on, to prescribed medicines. Talk to your GP for advice about these prescribed treatments and whether they would be right for you.

Remove all make-up before sleeping.

While there's no special diet for acne, following a diet that's low in refined sugar (a low glycaemic (GI) diet) can improve acne in some people.

Getting help for acne

Having acne can affect your emotional and mental wellbeing and even make you depressed. You may want to see your GP to talk about how you're feeling. If you feel like you need to speak to someone straight away, there are helplines you can ring 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you're worried about your skin or if you have severe acne that's not going away, see your GP. They'll be able to advise you on treatments. Most can treat moderate and sometimes severe acne.

If you need to find a GP, you can search on this map.

Your GP may refer you to another GP with a specialist interest in acne.

Doctors who specialise in skin conditions are called dermatologists. Unfortunately, there's limited access to dermatologists in the public health system. While all referrals are considered on a case-by-case basis, you may not be accepted.

If you prefer, you can pay to see a private dermatologist. You can find a private dermatologist on Healthpages or Healthpoint.

It's important to remember that not all spots are acne so always see your doctor if there is something unusual about your spots or rash.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Treating mild to moderate acne

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2021.

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Review key: HIACN-20774