Dr. Mark Lim
October 1, 2022
4 mins

Acne Treatment in Singapore – Options, Prices, When to See a Doctor

In Singapore, 88%[1] of adolescents (13-19 years old) and 41% of adults suffer from acne.

While not life threatening and often seen as just a cosmetic issue, several studies[2] have shown that acne can deeply affect one’s self esteem; many fail to thrive in the workplace and social environments. 

Thankfully, acne is very treatable – but medical intervention is almost always necessary to see clearance and to help patients improve their quality of life. 

In this guide, we’ll walk through the different options for acne treatment in Singapore, whether facials are helpful for acne, and when to see a doctor. 

What causes acne?

Acne is caused when hair follicles in our skin is blocked by; 

  • Excessive sebum (oil) production
  • Follicular hyperkeratinisation (i.e. clogging of the opening of the oil gland) 
  • Inflammation 
  • Bacteria overgrowth (cutibacterium acnes) 

When this occurs, we get pimples; if you get several pimples at once repeatedly, you may have acne. 

While acne is most common in pubescent teenagers, adults in their 30s and 40s can get acne too. There is even a condition called adult onset acne in which patients who previously had mild/minimal acne during their pubescent years start developing more severe acne only as an adult. 

The factors that cause adult and pubescent acne are the same; however the underlying reasons for these factors might differ. For example, a lady undergoing menopause with fluctuating hormone levels versus a teen in puberty with raging hormones. 

Both are caused by hormones, but the reason for these fluctuations is different. 

What are the different types of acne?

There are several different morphologies of acne. 

blackhead whitehead
Blackhead, whiteheads When the opening of the gland is blocked with oil, dirt and dead cells. They appear white and manifest as whiteheads. Similarly, when exposed to air and oxidised they turn black and appear as blackheads.
Pimple When the blackheads get inflamed, they become red and painful.
Pustule These are larger pimples with a white/yellow center containing pus.
Nodules and cysts When the inflammation gets worse and deeper, it can form nodules and cysts. This is commonly known as cystic acne.

How do I know if my acne is hormonal or fungal?

Hormonal acne tends to cluster along the chin and jawline, and is often related to the menstrual cycle for women. Some patients may have irregular periods or other signs of excessive male hormone such as excessive hair growth on the upper lip, arms and tummy. 

Young woman with acne up close.

In males, acne is usually caused by high testosterone levels

Malassezia (Pityrosporum) folliculitis is a fungal acneiform condition commonly misdiagnosed as acne vulgaris[3]. It usually presents itself as small, uniform red bumps on the chest, back, posterior arms, and face. Fungal acne is also itchy but never painful, unlike regular acne.

Many confuse fungal acne with hormonal acne as the former is always seemingly persistent – that’s because typical acne medication worsens fungal acne. Fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the hair follicles – by introducing traditional antibacterial acne medications, you are only creating an environment for yeast to thrive. 

If you’re struggling with regular breakouts that do not see resolve with acne treatments, you may have fungal acne instead. 

Fungal acne can be diagnosed with a Woods lamp, or with clinical inspection. 

Hormonal Acne

Fungal Acne

Caused by

Excessive oil and bacteria production due to hormones

Excessive yeast production

Appearance

Can manifest as whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, or inflamed cysts

Small red clusters

Painful

Yes

No

Itchy

No

Yes

How is acne treated in Singapore?

Acne can be treated in a variety of methods and often in combination, ranging from skincare, lifestyle modifications, topical medication, oral medication and lastly lasers, light therapy. 

Patients often ask what’s the “best treatment for acne”. 

There is no best treatment as it depends on; 

  • The doctor’s assessment
  • Factors like the patient’s condition and budget – these will ultimately affect the treatment protocol the doctor comes up with 

Every aesthetic doctor has their own way of treating acne and certain machines they believe in. As a rule of thumb, I keep by the following: 

  • Basic treatment consisting of topical creams like Differin/Epiduo and Benzylperoxide gel/cream 
  • Lasers like Picosure Pro and Elite IQ 

While acne can be a complex condition to treat, treatment does not have to be complicated. 

Do facials work for acne?

Not all facials are alike – medi facials can be complementary to your acne treatment protocol. The key is identifying whether the facial they tackle the problems of acne.

A facial will only be beneficial for acne if it involves any of the following techniques: 

  • Chemical peels

To reduce clogging of pores, inflammation and oil production

  • Light therapy

Blue LED lights have shown to reduce acne-causing bacteria, yellow LED lights reduce inflammation and rejuvenate the skin.

When should I see a doctor for acne?

Many patients believe you should only see a doctor if you have severe acne. That is not true. 

If you value clear skin, you should consult a medical professional to get your spots under control as soon as possible to prevent acne scarring. Coming in earlier may also help bring the overall costs of your acne treatment down. 

If you fall under the following groups, please do not avoid delaying seeing a doctor: 

  • Recalcitrant acne 

This is to ensure you have a correct diagnosis. 

  • Nodulocystic acne 

Early treatment prevents excessive scarring and morbidity. 

  • Adult onset acne

Studies have shown that adult acne usually require oral medications of some sort and can only be prescribed by a doctor. 

References 

  1. https://jcadonline.com/acne-management-july-2019/#:~:text=In%20a%20community%2Dbased%20study,aged%2013%20to%2019%20years.&text=In%20another%20study%2C%2041%20percent,presented%20with%20adult%2Donset%20acne.
  2. Gallitano, S. M., & Berson, D. S. (2017). How Acne Bumps Cause the Blues: The Influence of Acne Vulgaris on Self-Esteem. International journal of women's dermatology, 4(1), 12–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijwd.2017.10.004 
  3. Rubenstein, R. M., & Malerich, S. A. (2014). Malassezia (pityrosporum) folliculitis. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 7(3), 37–41. 

To sum up

Acne manifests in different ways. While treatment options vary, they do not have to be complicated. 

The first step is to first see a doctor for a correct diagnosis – that includes making sure your doctor knows how to differentiate between fungal acne and common acne. 

Any questions? Feel free to drop me a message

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From The Artisan Fue Hair Clinic in Singapore

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