When to See a Dermatologist vs. Self Treatment for Acne

Girl with Acne

Acne affects approximately 85% of teenagers, and estimates suggest that half of all women and 25% of all men will experience acne at some point during their lifetime. If you are fortunate enough to experience acne mildly, you may find that it doesn’t have a significant effect on your life. However, for those patients who have severe acne, it can be difficult to cope with. The psychological impact of acne can be immense, often causing anxiety and even depression. Many sufferers become introverted, developing social behavior difficulties and personal and professional relationships can deteriorate.


Fortunately, acne sufferers don’t have to live with the effects of this debilitating skin condition. Dermatologists are specially trained and experienced in dealing with varying skin problems including acne and can recommend the best treatments to improve your skin and restore your confidence in your appearance.


The Problem with Using Cosmetics

Many people try to hide their complexion using cosmetics, and this is particularly common amongst females. Although cosmetics can be used to cover the skin, this can clog the pores more, causing bacteria, oil and dirt to remain trapped inside the skin, inflaming the condition further. Many people will choose to wear cosmetics during the day to try and mask some of the appearances of their skin. However, if you do choose to do this, it is essential that you wear your cosmetics for the minimum amount of time possible so that your skin and pores can be left clear.


Treatment for Mild Acne

There are lots of different over the counter products that are designed for treating mild to moderate acne. These include lotions, gels, creams, washes and more. For many patients, it is a case of trial and error to determine which, if any, alleviates your acne. Experts recommend that you try using each treatment for up to three months to see if it is effective, before moving on to the next product. Unsurprisingly, many patients do not want to undergo such a protracted process and would rather go straight to a dermatologist to obtain professional advice and support.


When to See a Dermatologist

Ultimately, there is nothing to stop someone with acne seeing a dermatologist at any stage of their condition, regardless of its severity. However, there are a few factors that indicate that you would definitely benefit from seeing a professional sooner rather than later. These include:

  • Having acne that is moderate to severe

  • Your acne is not responding to treatments that you have tried

  • Your acne is severely inflamed/cystic

  • You think your acne may be caused by a medication that you are taking

  • Your acne is making you severely upset or depressed


In many cases, if acne is not responding to over the counter topical treatments, your dermatologist may recommend prescription medication instead. The strength of these medications is much stronger, hence why they are only able to be prescribed by professionals. Some of the types of prescription medication includes:


  • Topical Antibiotics. These target bacteria on the skin that cause acne.

  • Topical Retinoids. These work by rapidly exfoliating the skin, keeping pores unclogged and clean. 

  • Azelaic Acid. This medication increases shedding of the skin cells to clear away unhealthy, clogged and oily areas.

  • Hormone Treatments. Some hormone treatments, such as birth control pills, have been proven to be effective in treating acne in some people, in particular females whose acne breakouts fall into a pattern around their menstrual cycle.

  • Oral Antibiotics. These are given to help tackle cystic acne and infected skin.

  • Isotretinoin. This drug works in a similar way to topical retinoids except it is taken orally.


Only a dermatologist has the specialist knowledge and experience needed to effectively, safely and successfully treat acne. If you are concerned about your skin and would like professional support to help you obtain a clearer complexion, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert dermatologist, Dr. Green by calling or visiting our offices in Deerfield Beach, FL.


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