Skip to main content

One of the biggest nights of the year for any matric pupil is their matric dance. Their clothes are carefully selected, the big night is almost upon them but often one large cloud hangs over their evening – acne. This to a young boy or girl often goes far deeper than just hindering them getting a date for the big night – it’s been known to leave scarring far deeper than the skin.

According to Dr Jonathan Smith, president of The Dermatology Society of South Africa, early intervention is key to safeguarding quality of life. He believes one of the biggest mistakes many acne sufferers make is to assume the condition will clear up by itself. “This often leads to unnecessary facial scarring, resulting in psychological disturbances such as poor self-image, depression and anxiety, leading to a negative impact on quality of life.”

Smith says the first step to treating acne is to determine just how bad the problem is. “If the bumpiness is not widespread and is just a few whiteheads, blackheads and small pimples, this would be classified as ‘mild-to-moderate’. In the case of severe acne, the bumps are widespread, slower-forming and often reddish, inflamed and painful. This is when scarring becomes a major concern.

CEO of Cipla South Africa, Paul Miller, said: “Fortunately acne treatment is far better than in the past because of new pharmacological and physiochemical approaches, meaning scarring can in many cases be completely eliminated.”

While over-the-counter medicines may be effective in treating mild and moderate acne, Dr Smith suggests that people with severe acne should consult a doctor regarding the treatment options available. “The treatment of acne is challenging and often chronic, with high rates of failure and numerous choices1. Treatment options should therefore be tailored with considerations for the patient’s preferences, tolerability of the agent, and psychosocial factors1.”

Patients need to remember, however, that there are no magic bullets when it comes to treating severe acne. “It may take two to three months before there is a noticeable improvement, so patients need to commit to their treatment regimen and be aware of any potential side effects that may need to be managed2,3,” Dr Smith concludes.


  1. Tan, A. U.,et al.,. A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. Int. J. Women’s Dermatology 4, 56–71 (2018).
  2. Campos, M. Acne: What you need to know. Harvard Medical School 1–2  (2019).
  3. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. Acne: Overview. 1–5 (2019).