If not, it might be necessary to see your general practitioner or a dermatologist. A topical or oral acne treatment will then be put into place. You will need to closely comply with the treatment prescribed by your doctor to successfully get rid of your blemishes.

But most acne treatments have adverse effects that are more or less easy to cope with.

Don’t let this discourage you!

Just know that they can occur, and be aware of how you can reduce them. Sensitised skin, scales, compensating treatments: here is some useful advice that will help you manage the side effects of your treatment and optimise the results!


Acne and sensitive skin

Dysseborrhoea is characteristic of acne-prone skin and tends to dehydrate it. It is therefore absolutely possible for oily acne-prone skin to also be sensitive or dehydrated.

At the same time, anti-blemish treatments and products generally end up drying out the skin, since their goal is to reduce excess sebum. Applied to skin already lacking water, drying treatments can therefore quickly prove to be very uncomfortable. Localised irritation and redness may appear, and there are often extremely dry areas of skin with desquamation, i.e. flaky patches of skin while the rest of the face maintains all the characteristics of oily skin. This is hard to understand and even harder to manage!


Acne and scales

Peeling skin is a common adverse effect of acne treatments. This often happens with keratolytic treatments, which accelerate cell renewal to eliminate plugs blocking the flow of excess sebum.

The same goes for certain treatments such as isotretinoin that have a direct effect on sebum. With fewer cutaneous lipids, the skin becomes dried out and begins to malfunction, while inflammatory phenomena are accelerated.


Compensating treatments for skin undergoing acne treatments

The most important thing to do is to continue taking your anti-acne treatment. That means you absolutely must manage its side effects by using compensating moisturising treatments, specifically formulated to moisturise acne-prone skin without creating new blemishes.

These specific treatments are available in pharmacies and health & beauty stores. Indicated for patients taking a drying or irritating treatment, they help recreate an effective protective skin barrier. Their non-comedogenic soothing active ingredients have been chosen for their safety for acne-prone skin. There is no risk of accidentally causing new blemishes! On the contrary, they effectively supplement the patient’s basic treatment. Ask your pharmacist for advice.

  • Isabelle Baratte, Dermatologist
    Dr Isabelle Baratte, Dermatologist, Hospices Civils de Lyon.

    Poor treatment compliance is a real problem.

    How effective are acne treatments?
    Overall, we currently have a wide range of therapeutic solutions to treat acne in adolescents as well as in adults. Between oral, topical and hormonal (for females) treatments, there are therapeutic solutions that are effective in many cases. And yet we also encounter more difficult situations, where we don’t see any results...  

    Why do treatments fail?
     It’s important to keep in mind that acne is a multifactorial disease influenced by all aspects of a patient’s life. In addition to sebum quality, hormonal fluctuations and family predisposition, numerous external factors come into play, such as hygiene, diet, stress, fatigue, cosmetic products, etc. So there are several possible scenarios. Either the treatment is not appropriate, or it is poorly tolerated and there is poor compliance, which is possible. Poor treatment compliance is a real problem, mainly in adolescents who are sometimes negligent and don’t apply their treatments on a regular basis.
    At the same time, tolerance issues shouldn’t be underestimated, since certain treatments and medications can have side effects that are hard to cope with. What comes to mind are drying and keratolytic effects, i.e. when epidermal renewal is accelerated and there are patches of flaky skin. Patients sometimes complain of having dry skin, redness and irritation. Because of this discomfort, they don’t comply with their treatment as well, or else they compensate with oily creams: in both cases, blemishes can reappear.

    Conversely, some patients are “hyper-compliant” and apply too much of their product, wrongly thinking it will speed up the healing process. They thus amplify the side effects and sometimes also end up discontinuing their treatment. Lastly, acne can be more complicated to manage for skin prone to eczema. Treatments are too aggressive for such fragile skin and the products we have at our disposal aren’t appropriate. Often, what seems to be a simple case of acne is actually a set of complex individual problems, which need to be solved.
    We need to provide our patients with customised solutions to help them comply with their treatment.

    Dr Isabelle Baratte, Dermatologist, Hospices Civils de Lyon.