Acne is a very common condition around the world and it can be very frustrating to deal with. Acne presents many challenges as there are different causes and different treatments. Also it could take a long time to get acne under control and some people suffer from acne for many years.
Causes of Acne
There are many different causes of acne. All of these have to do with some sort of stress. There are many forms of stress that can occur on the skin which lead to acne. Common ones include things like products that are applied to the skin, not keeping the skin clean, and changes in the weather. Certain products are called comedogenic, which means they can lead to comedones, or acne pimples. For some people sweating while exercising can clog pores and lead to acne. Changes in weather include changes in temperature and humidity that may occur when seasons change or when you travel. Stress can also be emotional such as from work, school, or personal relationships. Stress on the body can also be caused by lack of sleep, poor diet, or lack of exercise. Hormones in the body can also cause stress. These is seen commonly in teenage boys who begin to produce more testosterone during puberty. It can also be seen in women who get breakouts during, prior, or after their menstrual cycles regularly. All of these types of stress can cause changes in the skin which can clog pores and lead to blackheads, whiteheads, or other breakouts. Sometimes they are close to the skin surface and at other times deep cysts can form. Many times the pus in the pimples leads to bacterial growth in the area, which can lead to redness and inflammation.
Treatments for Acne
Since there are so many possible causes of acne, there are many ways to treat it. The most important thing is to determine the underlying stress and address that. Sometimes this is easy. For example if a women gets acne breakouts at the same time every month during her menstrual cycle, the acne is most likely hormonal. In these cases oral contraceptives (birth control pills) often help regulate the acne. There are many type of oral contraceptives and not everyone is for each person so you may have to try a few different ones before it actually works for you. Leading a healthy lifestyle will decrease a person's stress and this can work wonders for acne. Eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly will decrease the body's stress levels. But at other times, certain causes of acne cannot be controlled. Therefore many alternative solutions are available. These can be topical products applied to the skin, medications taken by mouth, or various forms of treatment.
Topical Acne Products
Most of the time the first line treatment for acne is by using topical products because they are generally easy to use and often times control the acne without further intervention. Cleansers are used to keep the skin clean and prevent anything from clogging pores. Other products include exfoliants such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid. These remove dead skin cells which clog pores. Some products contain antibiotics such as clindamycin or benzoyl peroxide, which kill bacteria and are good for redness and swelling associated with acne. Vitamin A derivatives such as retinol and retin-A are highly effective because they stimulate skin cell turnover, which prevents clogging of pores. It can take a few months before such products kick in completely.
Oral Acne Medications
When topical products are not effective often times oral medications are used to treat acne. The most common ones are antibiotics such as doxycycline, although there are many others. These antibiotics work well for redness and swelling because they target the bacteria which cause these reactions. For acne that is resistant to other treatments Accutane is used. Accutane was originally a chemotherapy used for cancer treatment but is also used for acne. It is an oral form of retin-A and has many side effects such as dryness of the skin and mouth. It also has a risk for birth defects so it is important for women taking Accutane to use effective contraception. Accutane has also been associated with depression in many people. For these reasons Accutane is generally reserved for those who have failed other treatments. Also, some people require multiple rounds of Accutane for complete control of acne.
There are many different types of treatments for acne, some of which can be done at home and others which are done by professionals. Gentle peels and masks are readily available and can be used at home. Many estheticians use stronger peels and treatments such as microdermabrasion or hydrafacials. These are designed to remove a thin layer of the skin to unclog the pores. Higher strength peels such as the Red Carpet Peel are performed at medical offices by doctors or nurses and can provide better results although recovery time can be increased. There are also various laser treatments that can be used to target the bacteria or remove dead skin from the surface. Many people benefit from such treatments.
Although acne is very common and it may be frustrating due to the appearance on the skin and the time it takes to clear it, it is important to be positive and continue with your therapy, whatever it may be. Sometimes it takes months or even years to control it completely, but stay the course and follow your provider's recommendations to get the results you want. Contact us for a free consultation with Dr. Alex.