Acne is the most common skin condition affecting people in their teens and later years. Symptoms can range from mild (managed with self care and over-the-counter remedies) to more severe problems requiring a dermatologist’s evaluation and prescription medications.
What causes acne?
The complete answer to this question is still unknown. However, acne appears to be the result of clogged pores (the openings of small hairs) and overactive oil glands. Clogged pores can cause one or more of the following:
When the pore is plugged, there is no way that the oil can escape; the pore enlarges, causing a small bump to form on the surface called a whitehead or closed comedo.
The glands continue to produce oil, increasing pressure inside the pore. The plug is forced to the surface, turning the closed comedo into an open comedo or blackhead. The dark color is not caused by dirt but results from increased pigment (melanin).
- Papules or Pimples
The wall of the pore may break open from the pressure inside, releasing oil, dead cells and normal skin bacteria. This causes inflammation and results in a red and swollen skin surface.
When white blood cells in the body attack the pimple, pus develops, forming a pustule. The pustule will usually disappear by itself in about 10 days.
- Nodules and Cysts
Some people are prone to making very large and sore pimples when their pores and oil glands become inflamed. Unfortunately, when nodules and cysts heal, they sometimes leave scars. Therefore, it is very important to stop acne blemishes before they reach these stages.
How is it treated?
There are a variety of medications used to treat acne. It may be necessary to try several treatments before finding the ones that are most effective for each patient. There are several medications that can keep acne under good control until it disappears including:
- Benzoyl Peroxide
available in several forms and strengths. It acts to prevent the growth of bacteria and to produce drying and peeling. It reduces comedone formation and unplugs clogged oil glands.
helps push out and shed existing comedones onto the skin surface. It also prevents the development of new comedones by decreasing oil production and keeping cells from sticking together and forming new plugs. Apply Retin A to dry skin. WAIT 20-30 MINUTES AFTER WASHING AND DRYING FACE before applying. Correct use minimizes possible irritation. Use a very small amount. Once it is rubbed in, you should not be able to see or feel it.
- Differin Gel
Actions and efficacy are similar to Retin A. Apply to affected area daily.
- Azelac Acid
can reduce comedonal acne when applied daily. Skin irritation is its most common side effect.
- Topical antibiotics (Clindamycin or Erythromycin) are applied directly to the skin, usually twice daily.
- Oral antibiotics (Tetracylcine, Monocycline, Doxycycline or Erythromycin) reduce skin bacteria and inflammation. They are used to treat nodular acne.
Skin Care for Your Face
- Scrubbing your face is no cure and may cause more irritation. Wash your face gently twice a day with an acne soap.
- If your skin becomes irritated from topical medication, use a non-detergent soap for washing such as Purpose, Aveenobar, Lowila, Dove, Cetaphil or Ivory Moisture Bar.
- Greasy or oily cosmetics or hair treatments may plug pores; use oil-free liquid make-up or moisturizer. Two common brands are Almay and Clinique.
- Is acne a condition only of teenagers?
Although primarily a condition of the teenage years, acne can occur at any age. It is not unusual for people to develop or to continue to have acne in their twenties, thirties or even later.
- Is acne limited to the face?
No. Any part of the body can be affected, but it is most commonly found on the face, chest, back and upper arms where oil glands are well developed.
- Do rich foods cause acne?
Diet does not have an effect on the oiliness of the skin or on the development of acne. However, it is always best to eat a balanced diet.
- Can menstruation and birth control pills effect acne?
It is not uncommon for acne to get worse about 10 days to one week before menstruation. Some types of birth control pills can be helpful to many acne patients but some types can cause acne to get worse.
- How soon will I improve?
It usually takes 4-6 weeks after starting therapy before improvement occurs. It may be 3 -6 months before a complete results occurs.