How to Treat Acne
Everyone emits a huge sigh of relief when the teenage years are past, confident that the days of fighting acne are gone forever. I hate to burst this happy bubble, but I actually treat more acne in adults than in adolescents. Understandably, acne in adulthood is very distressing to patients, and they are often clueless as to how to rid themselves of it.
In adults, acne can often be traced to a mild hormonal imbalance, but there are other culprits, such as stress. Quite simply, acne results when the pore (technically known as a hair follicle) is blocked by dead skin cells that are never thoroughly expelled. Instead, the sloughed-off cells stick together inside the pore, and this plug, along with the accompanying sebum, then becomes a source of nutrition for bacteria. The bacteria then greedily invade the pore and cause redness and inflammation. In all, not a pretty picture.
As acne heals, it might sometimes leave the complexion with a dark spot. Those plagued with this condition often refer to the spot as an acne scar, but that’s actually incorrect. Rather, it’s an inflammatory response to acne that leaves behind a change in the pigment in the skin. By comparison, a scar leaves a textural change in the skin. In any case, it may take a few months for these spots to go away, but their appearance is helped greatly by a light peel or a prescription vitamin A product.
Solution – Treating Acne
Now for the good news: with the many acne treatments that are available today, adult acne can soon be as distant a memory as your year book picture. Topping the list of highly effective antiacne ingredients are retinoids, which are derivatives of vitamin A that work by controlling the cell stickiness that is the primary cause of acne. The most popular retinoid is tretinoin, and it can be found in the prescription medications Retin-A, Retin-A Micro and Avita, both of which are FDA-approved for the treatment of acne. Other retinoids are tazarotene (found in the prescription medication Tazorac), adapalene (Differin), and to a slightly lesser degree retinol, which is found in many products sold over the counter. Certain oral contraceptives, such as Ortho Tri-Cyclen, have FDA approval for the treatment of acne and are helpful for those patients whose acne is a result of mild hormonal imbalances.
Significant improvement can be obtained by unclogging the pore. Salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid that is lipid-soluble and can therefore penetrate the sebaceous material in the follicle, is simply magical at this. Salicylic acid is found in a multitude of products, even cleansers. Finally, it’s very helpful to use a topical antibiotic, such as clindamycin, to control bacteria. Benzoyl peroxide is not only another reminder that your teenage years will live on forever; it’s also a very effective, commonly used antibacterial ingredient in many over-the-counter acne medicines. Many of today’s acne preparations contain up to 10 percent benzoyl peroxide, which is a pretty significant amount. Its only downside is that it may provoke an allergic reaction in a small group of people. Finally for acne that is very resistant to other topical treatments, there is Acu-tane. However, this is an extremely potent oral medication that requires an in-depth discussion with your doctor.
Supplement It With – Treating Acne
An in-office salicylic acid “beta” peel, usually at 20 percent to 30 percent, administered every couple of weeks, is an excellent partner to an acne-fighting home routine. Glycolic peels can be used to treat acne, but I prefer salicylic acid peels for the same reasons that I like salicylic acid in general. Its unique fat-soluble composition permits salicylic acid to penetrate deep into the pore and clean it out thoroughly.
What You Can Expect – Treating Acne
As long as the patient is committed to a maintenance program, acne is a very treatable condition. But patience, at least eight weeks’ worth, is crucial, since the skin needs time to regenerate.