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Background Acne vulgaris is a common skin condition affecting approximately 95% of adolescents to some extent. First‐line treatments are topical preparations but nonadherence is common. A substantial proportion of patients take long courses of oral antibiotics, associated with antibiotic resistance. Objectives: This study aimed to explore young people's views and experiences of acne and its treatments. Methods: We report a secondary thematic analysis of interview data collected by researchers in the Health Experiences Research Group (HERG), University of Oxford. A total of 25 transcripts from young people aged 13–24 years with acne were included. Results: Acne is often perceived as a short‐term self‐limiting condition of adolescence and this appears to have implications for seeking treatment or advice. Participants widely perceived topical treatments as being ineffective, which seemed related to unrealistic expectations around speed of onset of action. Many participants felt they had tried all available topical treatments, although were unsure what was in them or unaware of differences between cosmetic and pharmaceutical treatments. They had concerns around how to use topicals ‘properly’ and how to avoid side‐effects. They were also concerned about the side‐effects or necessity of oral treatments, although few seemed aware of antibiotic resistance. Conclusions: People with acne need support to manage their condition effectively, particularly a better understanding of different topicals, how to use them and how to avoid side‐effects. Unrealistic expectations about the onset of action of treatments appears to be a common cause of frustration and nonadherence. Directing people towards accessible evidence‐based information is crucial.

More information Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Dermatology



Publication Date



Studentship: Athena Ip