Patient leaflets from the BMJ Group
Most people get spots as a teenager. Some people also get them as adults.You
might not like the way your spots look, or you might be worried you could get
scars. Fortunately, there are good treatments that can help you get rid of spots.
We’ve looked at the best and most up-to-date research to produce this information.You
can use it to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are right for you.
Acne is just another word for spots. If the pores in your skin get blocked, natural oil in
your skin can build up behind them. This causes spots.
You might hear people say that acne is caused by not washing enough. This isn't true.
And there's no good evidence that fatty foods or chocolate cause acne.
What are the symptoms?
Acne usually means you have spots on your face. But you can also get acne on your
neck, back, chest or arms.You may get blackheads (small black marks) or whiteheads
(white bumps). Spots can also become red and inflamed. Really bad spots can cause
scars when they heal. But getting treatment can help prevent scarring.
What treatments work?
Gels and creams you can buy yourself
You can buy lots of acne products from chemists. We can't say how well most of these
work. There hasn't been much research on them. Some claim to be 'fast-acting', but the
research we looked at says that all acne treatments take several weeks to work.
Researchers have looked at over-the-counter treatments that contain an ingredient called
benzoyl peroxide. Some brands that contain benzoyl peroxide are Brevoxyl and PanOxyl.
You can always check the label if you're not sure what ingredients are in a particular
You use benzoyl peroxide cream or gel once or twice a day, usually after you wash.
Research shows that people have fewer spots after they've used it for between four and
12 weeks. But about 2 or 3 out of 10 people get mild side effects.You may get red or
peeling skin, or a tingling feeling. Benzoyl peroxide is a kind of bleach, so it’s best to
avoid getting it