People experiencing severe facial acne often feel that they are the only ones coping with this issue, but nothing could be further from the truth. Acne is, by far, the most common skin problem, with an estimated 40-50 million Americans having it. Anyone, at any age, can get acne but the majority are teenagers and young adults. To know which acne treatments work best, we must first understand what acne is, what causes it, the signs and symptoms, and how it works.
What Is Acne?
Acne is a condition that affects the skin’s oil glands. Tiny holes in our skin called pores are connected to the oil glands located just beneath the skin. Small canals known as follicles connect them. These glands produce an oily substance known as sebum. The follicles carry dead skin cells to surface of the skin via the sebum. Extremely small hairs grow out of each and every follicle in our skin. When the dead skin cells get clogged up and congested in the opening of the follicle, pimples grow as a result.
The Signs And Symptoms of Acne
Most people believe acne is just pimples but there are many different skin blemishes a person can have. The signs of acne are:
- Whiteheads – This type of acne forms just underneath the surface of a closed pore.
- Blackheads – Blackheads are small black or dark bumps that appear on the surface of a clogged pore.
- Papules – These show as a region of abnormal skin tissue that change the color or texture of skin and often form a rash.
- Pustules – Pustules are tiny bumps on the skin filled with pus or fluid.
- Cysts – Cysts are hard lumps that form under the skin’s surface.
- Nodules – Nodules are inflamed tissue mixed with fluid underneath the skin.
Some symptoms of acne can range from low self-esteem, depression, and dark spots and scars that form after the initial outbreak has healed.
How to get rid of acne is a question to which millions of people would love to know the answer. The following are the most effective treatments currently available.
In many cases, a simple lifestyle change is all that is needed to clear up mild cases of acne. Since it caused by oil, making sure your skin is clean is important. Washing your face gently 2-3 times daily with lukewarm water, using a non-abrasive facial cleanser, and changing pillowcases and bedding daily are some of the tips that will help. More severe cases will require prescriptions or procedures by a dermatologist.
Topical medications are lotions, creams, or gels that are applied directly to the skin. They are available in over-the counter or prescription strength and contain either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These chemicals reduce inflammation and lower the amount of oils the body secretes. The solutions should be applied in the morning and just before bedtime after washing your face.
Stronger prescription solutions contain one of three drugs that kill acne-causing bacteria. Tretinoin is a retinoid drug that is derived from Vitamin A, Clindamycin is an extremely effective antibiotic, and stronger versions of benzoyl peroxide are all found in prescription medications.
There are three types or oral medications, also called systemic drugs, used to treat severe acne. They include:
- Antibiotics – Daily antibiotic pills such as tetracycline attack bacteria from the inside out.
- Birth Control Pills – ‘The pill’ can be taken to help regulate hormones and help acne, but not when women are pregnant.
- Isotretinoin – This is an extremely potent drug from the retinoid family. It is only prescribed in severe cystic acne cases and can have harmful side effects. It is used as a last resort option.
Oral medications are usually taken once a day for several months combined with the lifestyle changes mentioned above.
Although not as common as prescriptions, dermatologists sometimes suggest several procedures to fight severe acne, which include:
Drainage And Extraction – This is when the dermatologist drains the large cysts under the skin by hand. This removes fluids inside the cyst, reducing pain and infection. After drainage, medications may be injected to speed up healing and lower the chances of scarring.
Laser Therapy – Laser therapy can be very effective in helping acne infection. The light that is emitted from the laser assists in lowering the amount of acne-causing bacteria on the surface of the skin. Like drainage and extraction, laser therapy is performed at the doctor’s office.
Chemical Peels And Microdermabrasion – These procedures strip away the top layer of your skin. The processes also remove any whiteheads or blackheads, but can be quite painful with a strong burning sensation and can also cause scarring. Insurance companies do not always cover them, so check your policy before you get these procedures done.
Treatment During Pregnancy – Hormonal changes due to pregnancy can cause a less than flattering complexion on many women. Expectant mothers, however, do not have all these options available to them. Most prescription acne medications for teens are not safe for pregnant women but products containing benzoyl peroxide are. Topical retinoids are usually ok, but tetracycline and isotretinoin can be hazardous to the fetus. Tetracycline may cause the baby to be born with dark colored teeth while isotretinoin has been linked to birth defects.
Alternative Treatments – Alternative medicines are growing in popularity as people try to be less reliant on drugs. Some of the natural and herbal acne treatments contain teat tree oil, alpha hydroxy acids, and zinc supplements. Herbal remedies are not scientifically studied as much as traditional treatments, so ask your dermatologist first.
With the advancements made in medicine in recent years, acne has become a treatable affliction. Even though it may seem hopeless and you think your face will never be the same, many moderate to severe cases have been successfully treated. Follow the dermatologist’s orders and chances are good that you will look as great as you did before the acne appeared.