What is acne?
Acne is a skin condition in which hair follicles become plugged with body oils and dead skin cells. The affected areas are typically those with the highest concentration of sebaceous glands, including the face, chest, shoulders, and back. These areas produce a natural lubricant called sebum that helps protect your skin and hair. During acne outbreaks, these glands tend to overproduce, so the excess amounts of sebum become a problem and a perfect host for the bacteria that create acne. The plugged pore starts to bulge, creating a typical pimple. If the follicle is open to air, a blackhead forms, and if it’s covered over, the pus within remains white.
What causes acne?
Acne seems to be triggered by hormone production. The hormonal changes that happen during adolescence can enlarge and stimulate the sebaceous glands for some people. Acne is sometimes seen during pregnancy and among some birth control pill users, confirming the hormonal link. There are certain ties between diet and acne, however research is ongoing, without fully-established relationships.
How is acne treated?
There are a number of topical and oral medications that may help reduce the intensity and severity of acne outbreaks. Though it may seem counterintuitive, washing the face more often or more vigorously generally aggravates the condition. A combination of lasers and facial peels can also be implemented to improve acne treatment outcomes.
Types of Acne Treatments Include:
- Over-the-Counter Topical Treatments. You can cleanse twice a day with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid and apply a benzoyl peroxide gel or cream. This will assist in drying up the oil and killing any bacteria.
- Treatments Available by Prescription. If your acne doesn’t respond to over the counter treatments, prescription treatments should be your next step. There are many types of topical antibiotics and antibacterial to assist in addressing the acne. Retin-A is a common treatment with minimal side-effects which include irritation or sun sensitivity. Your doctor or dermatologist will determine the best course of action based on your specific acne situation. Oral Antibiotics may be recommended for moderate to severe acne to help eliminate the bacteria and decrease inflammation caused by acne.
- Other Forms of Acne Treatment. Includes drugs that block hormone receptors, Isotretinoin, oral contraceptives, laser light therapy, chemical peels, dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, and laser resurfacing. For those with permanent scarring there are surgical procedures available.