Acne, for some people, is something that can be a lifelong battle, long after the teen years have passed. If you are someone who is plagued with acne, especially in your adult years, rest assured that you are not alone. Did you know that acne affects more than 70 million people and 90% of all teenagers? It is one of the most common skin problems, which is an ongoing condition, characterized by periodic outbreaks. There really is no “cure” for acne. The trick is learning to “control” it. What is acne? There are three main types of acne, generally fueled by the P. acnes bacteria:
- Comedenal acne: Low bacterial activity, mostly clogged pores, often seen as small bumps under the skin.
- Papulopustular Acne – More bacterial activity with pimples, often with a white and red pimple surrounding the pimple area.
- Cystic acne: increased bacterial activity, with large bumps (like a marble under the skin) with or without whiteheads, and can be a systemic problem (meaning treatment can be more than topical).
Technically speaking, this is what causes acne: Often hormone-related, acne occurs when there is increased sebum or oil production on the face (it can also affect the chest and back). The pore becomes clogged and P. Acnes bacteria begin to grow in the sebum. When the sebum escapes into the surrounding skin, inflammation occurs and this is how the pimple forms. When treating acne, there are three general goals:
- Prevention: Keeping pores open through exfoliation and retinoids helps skin function better. Homemade exfoliating products and retinoids promote skin renewal. Periodic professional exfoliating treatments also help speed up cell turnover in the upper layers of the skin.
- Minimize inflammation: Regular use of a low percentage of salicylic acid helps liquefy sebum and can keep inflammation at bay.
- Scar prevention: Keeping acne under control is important to help prevent scars and pitting that remain long after acne clears.
- Acne Treatment Tips
- Keep skin clean with good hygiene. Wash your face twice a day (more than that can damage your skin and cause extra sebum production) with a gentle face wash, especially if you’re using other products like salicylic acid or retinoids.
- Leave the pimple alone. Resist “picking” or “popping” any pimples. This can actually increase the life of the pimple, make it redder or larger, and/or increase the chance of scarring.
- Mineral makeup is strongly recommended over oil-based cosmetics. Many store brands of makeup are petroleum-based, which is similar to putting putty in your pores, clogging them over time.
- Don’t sleep with makeup!
- Foods that are high in iodine (salty foods) tend to encourage breakouts. Eat a “good diet” with lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Learn to manage your stress. Breakouts can definitely be stress (and hormone) related.
As mentioned above, there is no cure for acne. But there are effective treatments that can help you keep your acne under control. Below are general suggestions on how to treat acne, however please note that treatment varies from case to case and it is recommended that you obtain a professional opinion on how to best manage your acne.
- Retinoids, homemade scrubs, and fruit amino acids can all be used in atopic acne treatments.
- Glycolic acid tends to be a very popular product promoted for acne-prone skin, but it can be one of the more irritating alpha hydroxy acids. Mandelic acid is not only less irritating but has an antibacterial function to decrease P. Acnes bacteria.
- More stubborn cystic acne may need oral treatment such as antibiotics. Oral treatments are prescribed and must be performed under the supervision of a licensed physician.
Acne can be persistent, but once a person develops a plan of attack, acne can become very persistent. When acne is manageable, you’ll notice that it weighs less in your mind and, hopefully, it will show up less on your face.