Acne, for some people, is something that can be a lifelong battle, long after the teenage years have gone by. If you are someone who is plagued by acne, especially in your adult years, rest assured that you are not alone. Did you know that acne affects over 70 million people and 90% of all teens? It is one of the most common skin problems, that is an on-going condition, characterized by periodic flare-ups. There really is no “cure” for acne. The trick is to learn to “control” it. What is acne? There are three main types of acne, usually fueled by the P. Acnes bacteria:
- Comedenal Acne: low bacterial activity, mostly plugged pores, often seen as small bumps under the skin
- Papulopustular Acne: more bacterial activity with pimples, often with a whitehead and red surrounding the pimple area.
- Cystic Acne: higher bacterial activity, with large bumps (like a marble under the skin) with or without whiteheads, and may be a systemic problem (meaning that treatment may be more than just topical).
Technically speaking, this is what causes acne: Often hormonally-related, acne occurs when there is an increase in the sebum or oil production in the face (also can affect the chest and back). The pore becomes obstructed and the P. Acnes bacteria begins to grow in the sebum. When the sebum escapes into the surrounding skin, inflammation occurs and that is how your pimple is formed. When treating acne there are three overall goals:
- Prevention: Keeping the pores open through exfoliation and retinoids helps the skin function better. At-home exfoliating products and retinoids both promote skin turnover. Periodic professional exfoliating treatments also help to expedite cell turnover of the top layers of the skin.
- Minimize Inflammation: Using a low-percentage of salicyclic acid on a regular basis helps to liquefy the sebum and can keep inflammation at bay.
- Scar Prevention: Keeping acne under control is important to help prevent scarring and pitting that remains long after acne is gone.
- Acne Treatment Tips
- Keep the skin clean with good hygiene. Wash the face twice daily – any more than that may strip the skin and cause extra sebum production – with a gentle face wash, especially if you are using other products like salicyclic acid or retinoids.
- Leave the pimple alone. Resist “picking” or “popping” any pimples. This actually may increase the life of the pimple, may make it redder or larger and/or increase the chance of scarring.
- Use of mineral make-up is highly recommended over oil-based cosmetics. Many store make-up brands are petroleum based, which is similar to putting putty in your pores, clogging your pores over time.
- Don’t sleep with make-up on!
- Foods with a high iodine content (salty foods) tends to foster breakouts. Eat a “good diet” with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Learn to manage your stress. Outbreaks can definitely be stress (and hormone) related.
As mentioned earlier, there is no cure for acne. But there are effective treatments that can help to keep you in control of your acne. Below are general suggestions about how to treat acne, however please note that treatment varies depending on the specific case and getting a professional opinion on how to best manage your acne is recommended.
- Retinoids, at-home exfoliants and amino fruit acids can be used astopical acne treatments.
- Glycolic acid tends to be a very popular product promoted for acne-prone skin, but it can be one of the most irritating alpha hydroxy acids. Mandelic acid is not only less irritating but has an anti-bacterial function to decrease the P. Acnes bacteria.
- More stubborn, cystic acne, may need an oral treatment such as antibiotics. Oral treatments are prescription and have to done under the supervision of a licensed physician.
Acne can be persistent but once a person develops an attack plan, acne can become very maintained. When acne is manageable, you will notice that it will weigh less on your mind and, thankfully, appear less on your face.