Acne Treatments & Acne Scarring

What is acne?

Acne, what we call pimples, can be a painful and socially embarrassing skin condition. Comedones are the key feature of acne. Comedones are commonly known as blackheads (open comedones) and whiteheads (closed comedones). Pustules, nodules and cysts can also occur and these can lead to scarring. While acne occurs mostly in teenagers, it can also occur in infants, adults and sometimes even the elderly. The most common type of acne suffered by teenagers and young adults is called acne vulgaris. In most patients, acne vulgaris usually resolves without treatment by the time people hit their early 30s. However, acne can often lead to scarring which can be difficult and costly to treat. If you notice scarring develop on your skin as a result of acne, see your dermatologist as soon as possible to receive appropriate treatment. Acne treatments offered will vary depending on numerous factors, which is why it is essential that your skin is assessed in context of your medical history and skin type.

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Trust the specialists

At Melbourne Skin & Dermatology, as a specialist dermatology clinic, we treat all forms and severity of acne. Acne treatment falls in our area of expertise. Our aim is to guide you to choose the right treatments for your type of acne to enjoy quick and lasting results.
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What causes acne?

Acne vulgaris can run in families suggesting that there is a genetic component. The exact genes that relate to acne are still largely unknown.
Most acne is triggered by normal hormonal changes during adolescence. In females with irregular and abnormal periods, polycystic ovarian syndrome may be an underlying factor. Use of anabolic steroids can induce severe scarring acne. Sometimes severe stress can cause hormonal changes which can worsen acne.
A high glycaemic index (GI) diet can sometimes worsen acne. There is mounting evidence that skim or skinny milk and chocolate can also worsen acne in some individuals (but is not the cause of acne).  Whey protein supplements can flare acne.
Thick cosmetic make-up (concealers) and sometimes hair products such as hair wax, (which can run off on the face), can also cause or worsen acne.

The oil producing machinery (sebaceous glands) in your skin is the primary problem in acne vulgaris. For various reasons, these glands produce more oil than necessary which then mixes with dead skin cells in the pores causing them to clog. This leads to the appearance of the blackhead. When bacteria called P. acnes grows in this suitable environment, inflammation occurs leading to red spots, pustules, whiteheads, nodules and cysts. When the inflammation is too great for the skin to cope with, this leads to scarring. It is for this reason that appropriate acne treatments are implemented early in the course acne.

Acne Treatments

Effective Skin Care

Effective Skin Care

For mild to moderate acne and congested or oily skin, sometimes all that is required is a good skin care regimen to follow.  Some well developed and trusted cosmeceutical creams, cleansers and frequent medical grade acne-specific chemical peels can make all the difference for your acne. Our dermal therapist would be pleased to assess your skin and recommend the right skin care regimen for you.

Prescription Creams

Prescription Creams

Various prescription creams can be used to prevent and/or treat for mild to moderate acne. These creams may contain antimicrobials, antibiotics, retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) as well as salicylic acid (beta-hydroxy acid), glycolic acid (alpha-hydroxy acid), sulphur and nicotinamide (Vitamin B3).

Prescription Medications

Prescription Medications

Sometimes prescription medications are required to combat acne effectively. Antibiotic tablets are often used and can be a very effective short term option whilst other treatments are started. Hormonal treatments can be added for female patients. Injections of cortisone can sometimes be used in larger acne lesions for quick relief. An oral vitamin A derived prescription medication prescribed by dermatologists can be used in more severe and resistant cases of acne.

Lights & Lasers

Lights & Lasers

Some lasers can be effectively used to treat active acne.  This is a relatively new treatment option for acne and firm studies are still lacking.  Nevertheless, lasers used in the right clinical context, with the right settings and in the hands of expertise, can be used to improve acne more rapidly and reduce the redness of acne scarring more quickly.  LED light treatments can also be used, but for improved effectiveness, requires a medicated cream to be applied just prior to the procedure.

Seek Treatment Early, Seek Acne Treatment by Dematologists


Up to 85% of Australians will develop acne during their life
Acne affects up to 20% of patients between ages 25 and 44
Those with acne have a 63% increased risk of depression compared to those without

What is acne scarring?

Acne can lead to scarring, a permanent textural change to your skin. Picking at pimples can sometimes lead to more inflammation inducing more scarring. When a pimple clears up, it often leaves a change in colour, which can be redness or, in darker skinned individuals, pigmentation may increase leading to a darker brown appearance. These colour changes eventually fade away, but can take anywhere between six months to five years. Acne scarring causes a textural change in the skin and is classified into five main types including ice pick, rolling, boxcar, keloidal (and hypertrophic) and atrophic scars.

While lasers and energy-based devices are useful options to help with acne scarring, to get the best results a combination of treatments over a period of time is usually required. Additional techniques include TCA Cross, subcision, volumising injections and other surgical methods such as punch excision and elevation.