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DocSpot: Acne - what you told us

“A lot of people worry and go crazy when they get acne but you must be assured it's normal, especially in teenagers. You may want to treat yourself to some face cream, but don't always go trusting those products on TV. If you really must use cream, talk to your doctor about it and buy it from the pharmacy, since certain creams might make it worse and cause irritation.”

“I had back acne and went to the docs who gave me antibiotics for 6 months. It didn’t make much difference. I went back and was given a difference antibiotic for 6 months – again only slight improvement after a year. My doctor didn't monitor me; he gave me the prescription but no back-up appointment to see how things were going, so it was easy to give up and drift off to other alternatives which I did. First I tried light therapy but at £450 a go could only afford 3 goes before my bank started shouting at me so I gave up and started spending £30–40 a week on chinese herbal remedies, soaps and acupuncture. Total waste of money! Very relaxing but did nothing for my acne and I spent another £600. At least the NHS was only the normal £6.50 charge. After reading articles about roaccutane in the press went back to my doctor to insist I see a dermatologist who would be able to precribe it, and I was referred. My advice is after trying antibiotics insist on seeing a dermatologist and don’t waste money on other cures!”
“I am only 15 years of age and I have one of the most embarrassing skin problems Ever!!! (Ok , maybe not, but its still bad) I went to the dermatologist and he gave me some stuff to use to take it away. It made me break out even more!! So then I tried all of the expensive fancy stuff, all the brand names and the ones they show on TV. None of them worked, most made my skin really oily!! So then I asked my cousin what to do. She gave me a bottle of acne cream, I've never even heard of. And it worked!! I saw results overnight. So I have learned 2 lessons from this, don't believe everything you see on TV, and even though its cheap, it might get the results you want.”
Dr Margaret comments: I completely agree that you should not be persuaded by TV adverts for anti-acne products. We in the UK are very fortunate in having a National Health Service (NHS) that provides tested and effective treatments. And the prescription costs are actually very low compared with the price of perhaps untested remedies that you pay for yourself. I am very much against skin treatment creams from so-called ‘health stores’ etc., because you don’t know what they contain – they are not regulated or tested under the same laws as prescription medicines. (One example is Chinese herbal creams for eczema and psoriasis, which when analysed were found to contain quite strong steroids.)
It was sad to read the message from the person who felt the doctor had not taken proper interest in whether the acne was improved or not. I hope this is unusual. I certainly don’t agree that you need to see a dermatologist to get effective acne treatment, at least not in the UK. Acne is mainly treated by family doctors and they are generally very expert in the use of the available treatments. Only sometimes, if acne is very bad, is a specialist referral necessary.

Last updated; Wednesday, December 1st 2010 at 3:30 am

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