Dr Adil Sheraz answers acne FAQs!

The majority of people are affected by acne at some point in their lives. Whether it’s puberty-related, hormonal havoc or caused by masks, lots of us have experienced those pesky spots. But, when acne starts to become more than just a spot and it starts to make you feel physically and mentally uncomfortable, you have a bigger problem at hand. 

Dr Adil Sheraz from the British Skin Foundation joined us for an exclusive webinar all about acne. Throughout the chat, the dermatologist shared all of his expertise about spots, pimples, pustules and nodules. Covering all things from roaroaccutane and mental health to triggers and treatments, the hour-long event gave our members a holistic insight into acne. Here is some of Adil’s best advice! 



What’s the difference between spots and acne?

Acne is essentially any pimple or zit. What you have to remember is that 3 spots might bother someone significantly but 10 spots may not affect someone else. When someone is bothered by their spots, we treat them and we treat every case the same. Of course, we can grade acne as mild, moderate or severe but it is all the same process and the treatments are relatively the same whether you have one spot or lots.

When is the right time to see a dermatologist or doctor? 

When spots are affecting your mental health - When the acne is affecting your lifestyle, f you are anxious because of it or you are not doing things that you would otherwise do, you should see your doctor. 

When your skin is uncomfortable and in pain - If you are getting large nodules that are painful, red, inflamed and sore, you may want to see someone. This is especially true if you are prone to scarring because the quicker you treat the painful red nodules the less scarring you will get! Scars are for life so you want to prevent them early.”

If your parents or a close relative have acne - If you know that your parents have had severe acne and you can see scars on their skin then it may be an indication that your acne may go down that route. It’s better to get intervention early, rather than waiting to develop acne that will eventually scar.

Are there different products for spots that aren’t on my face?

Usually, the upper back to mid-back, the shoulders and sometimes the sternum are areas where acne can present itself. The treatments for these areas are mostly the same as the ones that are used on the face. There are no different active components between something that you use on your face compared to something that you would use on your back. The only thing that you need to bear in mind is that the back tends to respond quite slowly to treatment in comparison to the face so just be patient!

What triggers my acne?

There are lots of studies that have looked at a variety of factors that can trigger acne. The biggest factors are: 

Genetics - If a close family member has had acne, there is a high chance that you will get acne as well, this is out of your control!

Stress - I often find that my younger patients tend to flare up during exams. There is evidence to show that stress releases certain hormones in your body which trigger certain oil glands. This can result in an acne flare-up.

Diet? - There have been lots of studies on the relationship between acne and diet, they date back from the early 1950s, and there is still nothing conclusive out there to say that food triggers acne. However, I have patients who are adamant that their diet affects their acne and I have no doubt that for certain patients it probably does! 

What can I do to improve my spots myself?

Firstly, finding and dealing with the potential triggers in your life will help. So, changing your diet, if you feel that helps, or reducing stress will make a difference. You should also look at how you are dealing with the skin itself and the products that you are using. 

Are you applying really heavy makeup or creams that are clogging your pores? Often patients will overcomplicate their skincare and use too many products, too often. It’s always better to have a simplified skincare regime that reduces the number of products that you put on your skin and gives your skin time to breathe. 

You should also make sure that you wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser. This will get rid of any leftover makeup, sweat and grime that has built up throughout the day. If you have mild acne, maybe buy a salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide wash as we know these work well.

Why am I getting spots because of my mask? What can I do to help it? 

It’s a well-known fact that wearing masks can cause acne, we call this acne mechanica. Acne in the areas that you are wearing masks could be caused by irritation, changes in temperature, sweat production and oil production. So, if you are wearing a mask make sure that it is made from cotton or silk because these materials are a lot gentler on your skin. Make sure that you are washing your mask regularly and taking it off as much as you can. If you are in a safe environment, you should let your skin breathe.

If you, or someone you know, needs some extra support for your acne our talkacne hub is always open! 

Feature image courtesy of @bsfcharity via Instagram. 

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 8 September 2023
Next review: 8 September 2026