What is acne?

Dr Lisa Beckett
January 2022

Pimples, blackheads, inflammation, blocked pores… Most of us will experience acne at some time in our lives.


Acne is a skin condition that usually starts in at puberty and can continue well into adulthood. It involves skin lesions including cysts, pimples and blackheads. In acne, hair follicles on the face, (or back, chest or buttocks) get blocked with oil and bacteria causing inflammation. Hormones at puberty or during the menstrual cycle can increase the problem or trigger breakouts.

How is acne classified?

Your doctor will ask you some questions and look at your skin to get a good idea of how severe your acne is. It can generally be classified as mild, moderate and severe and this may help determine what treatment would be best for you.

Mild acne

If you have minimal outbreaks that are easily managed with over the counter treatments, your acne is likely mild.

Moderate acne

If you get bumps, blackheads and inflamed lesions that are not easily controlled, your acne is likely moderate. You may experience some scarring also.

Severe acne

When acne is inflamed and involves scarring it is often referred to as severe. The goal is to treat acne before it causes scars. Prescription oral and topical treatments are likely needed for moderate-severe acne.

What treatments are available?

There are many treatments available.

Medicated cleansers and over the counter treatments can be purchased from supermarkets and pharmacies but may not be enough.

Topical treatments include retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid and topical antibiotics. These may come alone or in combination treatments.

Oral treatments include antibiotics, hormonal treatments such as the contraceptive pill, and isotretinoin. Often topical and oral treatments are prescribed together to achieve the best effects.

How do I know what treatment is right for me?

The best place to start is with a GP. Complete our online questionnaire here to consult with one of our Candor GPs who can discuss different available options and what would be best suited in your situation. Candor has a number of options available for treatment.

Do I need to see a dermatologist?

Certain medications such as isotretinoin can only be prescribed by a dermatologist. If your acne is mild or moderate your GP can usually help you. For severe acne, scarring, or acne that does not respond to treatment, it may be necessary to consult a dermatologist. At Candor we will help you determine if this is an option you should be considering.

What else can I do to control my acne?

Simple measures can have a big impact, especially for milder cases.

  • Wash acne areas gently. Avoid vigorous scrubbing and abrasive cleansers - these can cause more inflammation and make acne worse
  • Avoid using toners and oil-based moisturisers
  • Do not squeeze or pick the acne lesions as this increases the risk of scarring
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet. While there is no relationship between particular foods and acne, if you find certain foods seem to make your skin worse it’s best to avoid these
  • Choose water based, oil-free makeup and remove before going to bed at night
  • Keep your hair clean and off your face to avoid excess oil

What treatments do you offer?

Until you have had a consult with one of our Candor GPs we are unable to discuss specific medications. However we offer a number of different plans to consider and will work with you to find the best option. Click here to get started.


Dermnetnz.org. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/acne. Published 2022.

Huang T, Krassas G, Cook D. Acne Best practice management. Australian Family Physician. https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2010/september/acne-best-practice-management. Published 2010

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