Acne Hotspots

The Most ‘Skin-Friendly’ Locations in the UK Revealed

About 95% of those aged 11 to 30 are affected by acne to some extent, with the skin condition being a common but highly irritating development of sometimes painful spots on the face, back or chest.

But where in the country suffers the most with this condition? We wanted to explore how common acne is across England regions, comparing official prescription data for each area with other relevant aspects that often impact the onset of acne, such as pollution levels, smoking prevalence and eating habits. We also spoke to skin experts to gain their valuable insights and tips on how to look after your skin and how to combat acne.

Somerset crowned as the most ‘Skin-Friendly’ location

Our research explored six different ranking factors to compare and contrast data in order to discover which areas suffer from acne the most, and why that is.

Using acne prescription data, the rise or fall in the numbers of prescriptions since 2015, the pollution levels, the number of those who smoke, and the levels of obesity, we created an overall ranking for each NHS region across the country.

For each category, we assigned a score from 0-100, with the highest score representing the most “skin-friendly” area in each category. The full ranking can be seen further down, which finds Somerset with the fewest cases of acne, and the biggest decrease in acne prescriptions, perhaps due to having one of the best pollution scores and one of the lowest levels of smoking.

In this map, we can see a general pattern of those South West regions performing well, as well as several other open, coastal and green-space areas such as Hampshire, Dorset, Derbyshire and Lancashire gaining positive, ‘skin-friendly’ scores in our ranking.

Meanwhile, highly populated cities such as London, Manchester and Birmingham were some of the worst areas, perhaps due to what was found to be the higher pollution levels, and the greater number of smokers.

Skin-Friendly Ranked Regions

A ranking of 1-42 of the most 'skin-friendly' regions. The darker green areas are the best ranked and most 'skin-friendly' while the darker shades of pink are the lowest ranked and least 'skin-friendly'.

Skin-Friendly Ranked Regions

Spanning much of the length of the Bristol Channel, the Somerset coast offers fresh, clean sea air that can be highly beneficial for skin health. Cosmetic and skin care specialist, Julia Brackenbury told us: “Dust and smog in the air can definitely contribute to blocking your pores and increase the levels of bacteria in the skin, leading to acne.

“In addition, chemical pollutants can interrupt your skin's natural defence barrier, which consequently breaks down your skin's natural oils that would normally maintain the moisture in your skin.”

Interestingly, South West England performs extremely well overall, with Somerset’s neighbouring region, Gloucestershire coming in second in the ranking, and Bath and North East Somerset coming in third place. Devon was also a high performing South West region, sitting inside the top 10.

Higher polluted London Regions are the least ‘skin-friendly’

On the other hand, it is the London region as a whole suffering the most from acne skin concerns, with East London, North London and South West London all included in the bottom five worst ranked regions. East London sits at rock bottom, with one of the highest levels of acne prescriptions per 1000 of the population, one of the lowest decreases in acne cases and the worst pollution score overall.

The pollution score is based on the concentration of PM2.5 (atmospheric particulate matter), and East London has a concentration of 13.45 compared to Somerset’s 6.29, highlighting the impact pollution has on people’s skin.

How smoking can create skin issues

Along with pollution, there was a clear correlation between those areas with a higher percentage of smokers and those with more acne prescriptions per 1000 people. Greater Manchester, for example, are the second biggest smoking population, with 15.8% of adults smoking, and their acne prescription numbers were the eighth highest, finishing at third bottom overall.

Compare this to Somerset, who have the 5th lowest percentage of smokers (12.3%), or Bath and North East Somerset who score even better with the 4th lowest percentage, and we can see the potential damage cigarettes can have on skin health.

Dr Catherine Borysiewicz, Consultant Dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic, said: “Smoking negatively affects every organ in the body including the skin – the body’s largest organ. Smokers are four times more likely to suffer from acne, causing a particular, non-inflammatory form of acne called atypical post-adolescent acne (APAA), also known as ‘smoker’s acne’.”

Healthy food means healthy skin

As our experts tell us, diet is also important when it comes to skin health, and our data again shows some clear examples of where obesity levels and acne levels align.

South Yorkshire has the 6th highest number of acne prescriptions while also having the highest number of obesity prescriptions too. Similarly, Greater Manchester has the fifth highest number of obesity prescriptions and, as we saw above, finishes in the bottom three overall, with one of the highest acne prescription levels.

Dr Catherine Borysiewicz explains: “Drinking alcohol can affect certain functions in the body, such as hormones which can stimulate the oil glands and exacerbate acne flairs. The same can be said for a poor diet, especially an inflammatory diet high in sugar or high-glycaemic carbohydrates which spike blood sugar levels and can cause the sebaceous glands to produce more oil.”

Regional breakdown of our skin problems

In the below visual, you can select your local region in the dropdown and see how your area ranks across each individual scoring criteria. For each category, we assigned a value of 0 - 100, based on their performance in the data analysed, with 100 being the best result for the region, and 0 being the worst, with the data for each category based on:

  • Prescription score: the total prescriptions for acne per 1,000 people in each region,
  • Increase/decrease score: how much prescription demand has fallen over the past several years
  • Pollution score: the PM2.5 pollution levels in each region
  • Smoking score: the percentage of the adult population who smoke
  • Obesity score: the total prescriptions for obesity medication per 1000 in each region.

Scores for each category

Click through to your area to find out how it scores across each category: Acne Prescription, Increase/Decrease in Acne Prescriptions, Pollution, Smoking and Obesity. Total scores are also included.

Expert Tips for maintaining healthy skin

Whether you live in the skin-health capital, Somerset, or across the lower scoring London areas, we all want to make sure our skin stays in great condition all year round, which is why we have spoken to skin specialists to list some expert tips on how to do so.

1. Thoroughly cleanse every morning and evening

Acne occurs when the pores become clogged with excess oil, dirt, bacteria and dead skin cells so it’s important to thoroughly cleanse the skin in the morning and evening to remove this build-up. "Ensure all products are oil-free and won't clog or block the pores on your skin - these types of products may be labeled as "non-comedogenic" There’s a great selection of products on the market that help treat mild acne. These products contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid, tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide.

2. Exfoliate, use non-comedogenic products and make sure to moisturise

People with dry skin should use non-comedogenic products and a moisturiser for acne-prone skin.

Be sure to exfoliate to help remove dead skin cells and smooth and soften the skin.

3. Minimise the products you use

Try to minimise the products you are using and be careful not to ‘overload’ your skin. Keep products gentle and avoid products that irritate the already sore and inflamed skin. For example, a simple change to your cleanser can dramatically reduce your need to apply moisturiser.

4. Avoid smoking

For good skin and general health don’t smoke. This can worsen some types of acne as well as fast-tracking ageing of the skin.

5. Wear SPF

Wear SPF daily to protect the skin from UV damage, reduce premature ageing of the skin and protect against skin cancer. Sunscreen is the cheapest and most effective anti-ageing product available!

Treat your acne

While we’ve seen that environmental factors out of our control can impact our skin, there’s also the potential element of genetics, hormonal changes, medication and even high levels of stress that can cause acne outbreaks, meaning flare ups can occur at any given moment.

Further advice on the wide variety of treatments for acne, and more information on how to order a prescription can be found on our acne treatments page.


To create the ranking, we analysed 6 different factors related to skin health. These are:

  • Total Prescriptions for Acne per 1000 people in each region (the smaller number of prescriptions, the better score is given)
  • The increase/decrease in acne prescriptions from 2015-2022 in each region (the higher the decrease in acne prescriptions, the better score is given)
  • The PM2.5 levels in each region (i.e: pollution levels impacting skin conditions) (the lower pollution levels, the better score is given)
  • The percentage of the adult population that are smokers (the lower the percentage, the better score is given)
  • The total prescriptions for obesity medication per 1000 people in each region (the smaller the number of prescriptions, the better score is given)

With each of these results, we assigned a value of 0 - 100, with 100 being the best result for the region, and 0 being the worst.

We then added up each score across all four categories to calculate the Total Skin Score per Region.


Prescription data:,13.6.2&denom=nothing&selectedTab=map

PM2.5 Pollution levels:

Percentage of regions who smoke: