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It can affect anyone – A-listers Cameron Diaz and Victoria Beckham have both had problems with their skin.

Adult acne is exactly the same as the acne you get during your teens. It is an inflammatory skin disorder and can cause a range of problems from blocked pores and spots to the worst cases of cystic acne.

It is usually caused by hormonal imbalances and can sometimes occur as a result of PMS (premenstrual syndrome).

Alternatively it may be the result of a more complex hormonal condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome.

A major trigger can be stress. It is thought being under too much pressure affects hormones which provokes a response from the skin and oil glands.

Stress also slows down healing which means your spots stay for longer.

While many products claim to cure acne a report last week in a medical journal warned many widely used over-the-counter treatments may be ineffective.

It is important to be treated by a skin expert or dermatologist as early as possible to find out what's causing the acne and to prevent scarring.

Ask your GP for a referral. The cost of a consultation will normally range from £100 to £250. Your dermatologist should prescribe a skincare routine including topical medications, a glycolic lotion to be used on a daily basis and a topical antibiotic cream to help unblock pores. Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed.

The NHS provides guidelines for GPs to follow and they will usually prescribe antibiotics or contraceptive pills (for younger women) as well as topical creams.

In severe cases doctors may prescribe the drug Roaccutane but for us this is an absolute last resort due to side effects that can include thinning skin and dry, cracked lips.


1 Use a gentle product to cleanse your skin such as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, £8 ( Resist the urge to scrub as this will leave skin dry and flaky and your body will counteract the dryness by producing more oil.

2 Remove the cleanser with a flannel to remove dead skin cells. Use a clean flannel every day and pat your face dry with a paper towel.

3 Apply an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) serum. We recommend glycolic acid because it is very effective at getting rid of dead skin cells and is gentle. NeoStrata, Jan Marini or HSS are good brands to try.

4 Apply an oil-free moisturiser. Again Cetaphil Moisturiser, £10.21 ( is excellent. Even if you have oily skin you still need to use a moisturiser on any dry patches.

5 Avoid sunbathing or sun beds and use sunscreen daily to protect skin and prevent dark marks developing after spots clear up.

6 At night dab benzoyl peroxide cream on spots using a cotton bud. Benzoyl peroxide is available over the counter but your doctor can prescribe a stronger version.

7 Take an omega 3, 6 and 9 supplement to nourish skin from the inside. Zinc tablets can also reduce the severity of acne.

8 Be patient. Many treatments take two to six months to work. Don't stop using the treatment within this period. If your acne does not improve talk to your doctor or dermatologist.


Glycolic or salicylic peels, £80 per treatment, will exfoliate skin and diminish scarring. If you have bad scars you might want to try laser resurfacing but this is painful and costs from £1,500.

If your acne doesn't clear up your doctor may suggest taking the contraceptive pill Dianette but this can cause hyperpigmentation by stimulating melanin production.

Alternatively the topical antibiotic Zineryt is excellent when used alongside a skincare routine that includes AHAs and benzoyl peroxide. Ask your doctor about a prescription for Retin-A. This vitamin A treatment boosts skin renewal and reduces oil production but it must be used with care as it can make skin red and flaky.


Tea tree oil, £4.09, Holland & Barrett (holland and is a popular alternative to various over‑the-counter and prescription treatments.

It has powerful antifungal and antibacterial qualities.

Test on a small area of skin to ensure you aren't sensitive to it. Anti-inflammatory agents that may soothe skin affected by acne can be found in liquorice root extract.

Several studies have reported that acupuncture can help with the treatment of acne.

For cosmetic surgery advice consult your GP. For cosmetic medicine, minor and non-surgical procedures see the British Association of Cosmetic Doctors ( Contact the Khans on 020 7436 4441 or visit harleystreet

15 Sep, 2011

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