Living With Acne
Acne is a very common skin condition. It doesn’t matter what race, age, or social status; Anybody is susceptible to it. It’s long been thought that acne just goes away. While untrue, there ARE ways to treat, and potentially cure, acne completely. Keep reading to find out more.
So what IS acne?
Acne is a disease of the skin’s oil glands. Pores, which are small holes in your skin, connect to the sebaceous (oil) glands underneath the skin. The glands secrete an oily substance known sebum. Your pores connect to the glands by a canal, known as a follicle. Inside the follicles, oil carries dead skin cells to the surface of the skin, while a tiny hair grows within the follicle, and out the top of the skin. When that follicle clogs up, you get a pimple. Women have been proven to be more susceptible to acne, with a growing number of women in their 30s and beyond suffering from the disease. It’s not just a sign of puberty as many once believed.
One common myth is that you have to let acne run its course. This has been proven by dermatologists to be very incorrect, for several reasons.
- Without treatment, dark spots and permanent scars can appear on the skin as acne clears.
- Treating acne often boosts a person’s self-esteem.
- many effective treatments are available.
What are the signs of acne?
Common belief is that acne is just pimples, but an acne sufferer can have one or many of these issues:
Acne can appear on many different parts of the body; the face, any part of the back, chest, shoulders, neck, upper arms and the buttocks are all common.
Having acne isn’t fun. It can sometimes cause many other physical and psychological problems. Low self-esteem, depression, dark spots on the skin, and permanent scarring have all been side effects of acne.
How do you treat acne?
While there are many convincing at-home acne treatments available, the only proven solution is to see a dermatologist. There are many effective acne treatments available today, but this does not mean that every acne treatment works for everyone who has acne. It simply means that most, if not all, acne CAN be controlled.
People who suffer from mild acne (whiteheads, blackheads, papules, and/or pustules) can use over the counter products, no prescriptions needed. Products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid often can clear the skin. This does not mean skin will clear overnight. At-home treatments usually require upwards of 4 to 8 weeks to see improvement. Once the acne clears, you must continue to treat the skin to prevent any breakouts.
If you have a lot of acne, cysts or nodules, over the counter medicine may not work for you. If you want to see clearer skin, the best option would be to see a dermatologist. Dermatologists can offer several ways to treat acne, from topical (applied to the skin), oral (taken by mouth, working throughout the body), or procedural (laser, peels, or removal).
Topical treatments work to either kill bacteria on the surface of the skin or reduce the amount of oil that is produced. Topical treatments may contain a retinod, prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide, an antibiotic cream or lotion, or salicylic acid.
Oral treatments are mostly used when you have red and/or swollen types of acne. Treatments include antibiotics to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation, birth control pills and other hormonal correcting medications (most helpful for women), or Isotreinoin, a very strong acne treatment that works on all causes of acne. The last treatment is very serious, and if used incorrectly can lead to serious side effects, so it is saved for extreme cases only.
Procedural treatments include light and laser therapies, which reduce the p. acnes bacteria; Chemical peels that treat blackheads and papules and cannot be purchased over the counter; and lastly, acne removal techniques. Your dermatologist may preform a procedure refered to as a “drainage and extraction” to remove a large acne cyst. This procedure helps when the cyst does not respond to medicine, and helps ease the pain. It also lowers the chance that the cyst will leave a scar. Watch a cyst removal below.
Warning: This video is a real medical procedure, and may be graphic to younger viewers.
There are many ways to manage acne at home, to help reduce breakouts. A few of these methods include:
- Washing twice a day after sweating. Sweating, especially while wearing a hat, or other head cover, can make acne worse. It is also recommended to wash after wearing hair on or around the forehead, especially if hair products were used during the day.
- Using your fingertips to apply a gentle non-abrasive cleanser. Using a washcloth, mesh sponge or anything else can damage and irritate the skin.
- Be gentle with your skin. Use gentle products, including but not limited to alcohol-free. Do not use products that irritate your skin, which may include astringents, toners, and exfoliants. Dry, red skin makes acne appear worse.
- Scrubbing your skin can make acne worse. Avoid the temptation to scrub you skin!
- Rinse with lukewarm water. Water that is too hot can possibly irritate the skin further.
- Wash hair regularly.
- let skin heal naturally. Picking popping and squeezing acne make the healing process take longer, and increases the risk of getting acne scars.
- Keep hands of your face. This one cannot be stressed enough. Touching skin throughout the day, especially with dirty hands, can cause pores to become blocked, causing MORE acne.
- Stay out of the sun and avoid tanning beds. Tanning damages the skin, and most acne medications have warnings stating to avoid ultraviolet (UV) light. Using tanning beds also increases your risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 75%.
- Consult a dermatologist if:
- Your acne makes you feel shy, embarrassed or anti-social.
- The products used so far have not worked.
- Your acne is leaving scars or darkening your skin.
Acne is a treatable disease; With the right care and a bit of patience, you’ll be completely acne free. Good luck on the journey to clean, healthy skin!