The prevalence of acne among individuals aged 12 to 24 years is estimated to be 85%, making it one of the most ubiquitous medical ailments physicians see and something dermatologists like SEAMO-funded physician Dr. Yuka Asai deal with every day. “Dermatologists see patients with acne every day. Acne affects all types of people and can affect the chest and back, as well as the face. External factors can also play a role – we have seen more frictional acne worsened by masks as well during the pandemic,” Dr. Asai says. She has been involved in the evaluation and writing of national acne clinical guidelines and which you can access here.
Dr. Asai says with something as common as acne, there are several misconceptions out there that require some education. “That it only affects teenagers is a big one; that it is due to improper washing or cleansing is another one; that you should get rid of them by popping, squeezing, picking or rubbing is also another one that we don’t want people to do. Finally, UV radiation exposure (tanning) is not a treatment for acne,” she says.
One thing Dr. Asai wants patients to know about the treatment and care of acne is that it is a balance. She says, “There are multiple factors that contribute to treatment selection, and they can range from topical creams, lotions and gels, to pills, and some physical therapies have also been tried.” Dermatologists decide on the treatment based on the type of acne and the type of patient. “This is not only about if the patient has underlying medical conditions that drive the acne or are considerations in what treatment we choose, but also where the acne is, the goal of the patient, if the patient can manage the treatment plan, treatment cost, skin type, etc.,” Dr. Asai says.
Something else important to remember is that many treatments will require some time before they start the process of working. “People need to manage expectations with speed of onset,” Dr. Asai says. “I often tell people in my clinic that the goal of treatments is to prevent new ones from coming, not to treat what you have! This is not always what you want to hear as people want their acne gone now, not in a few weeks; however, most people are looking for long-term control and that is what we are aiming for.”
This September, during Acne Awareness Month, Dr. Asai says this is an important chance to educate the public about the condition. “It lets people living with acne know they are not alone.”
For further information about acne, please consult the following resources: