With more than 60 million acne sufferers in North America alone, acne is one of the most common skin conditions seen by doctors. Often, acne appears with the onset of puberty and adolescence though people of any age can be affected, especially adults between the ages of 20 and 40.

The appearance of acne outbreaks can be embarrassing and can negatively impact your self confidence. Anything from a minor outbreak involving only a few pimples before an important event, or a more severe case where painful cysts have developed, acne can adversely affect your emotional and psychological well-being. In addition to the embarrassment of acne outbreaks, more complicated cases can be quite painful and lead to acne scarring.

What is Acne?

Acne, or acne vulgaris, is a condition that involves the skin’s oil-producing sebaceous glands. While acne tends to develops on areas of the skin where there are the most sebaceous glands, such as the face, back, chest, neck, shoulder and upper arm.  It is a very common problem in teens but may continue to affect up to 25% of people after this time.

Types / Signs

Acne is usually a combination of:

  • Blackheads – open skin pores filled with sebum and dead skin cells
  • Whiteheads – same as blackheads but pores closed, skin-coloured centre
  • Pustules – (pimples) like whiteheads but inflamed and with pus
  • Papules – small firm bumps, with redness
  • Cysts – deep seated pus-filled, inflammatory lesions, some large
  • Nodules – large, hard bumps under the skin, surrounding redness

What are the Causes of Acne?

  • Hormones – testosterone
  • Genes
  • Excess sebum, skin cells clog pores
  • p.acnes bacteria cause inflammation

Though acne is not considered to be a serious medical condition, the presence of acne, whether mild or severe, tends to be painful and can leave you with visible acne scarring.  Both the presence of acne and acne scarring can be an emotionally tumultuous experience and have a lasting effect on your confidence and self-esteem.

Who is Affected by Acne?

  • Most common skincare problem seen by doctors (1)
  • Almost 20% of Canadian population (2)
  • Most sufferers aged 12 – 24 (3)
  • 20-30% of adults aged 20 – 40 (4)
  • Males tend to have more severe acne

Related Problems

  • Mild to severe acne scarring
  • Low self-esteem, depression
  • Pain, discomfort
  • Site of scars may darken in colour

Potential Acne Treatments

  • Over-the-counter preparations – benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, retinol
  • Prescription medications – prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, corticosteroids, hormonal treatments, retinoids
  • Procedures – light, laser therapy or photodynamic therapy

Note: Certain treatments for medical conditions that are considered to be elective and/or cosmetic are not covered by Medical Services Plan of BC.

If you suffer from acne or acne scarring and need help, please make an appointment with one of our dermatologists.


Patient Resources
Canadian Dermatology Association
American Academy of Dermatology
Acne & Rosacea Society of Canada
(1-4)   Canadian Dermatology Association

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