It can strike you at an early age and may even follow you into adulthood. It makes you feel self-conscious, embarrassed and sometimes even isolated. You search and search for something to make it go away, only to be disappointed yet again. The culprit is acne.
For many years, people were told that acne had to do with eating too much chocolate or bad hygiene, but recently it has been discovered that acne is a skin disease.
The Cause of Acne
Acne is a disorder that causes outbreaks of skin lesions. Oil and dead skin cells clogging the skins pores cause acne. MedicineNet.com explains: Oil is a natural substance, which lubricates and protects the skin, and under certain circumstances, cells that are close to the surface block the openings of oil glands and cause a buildup of oil underneath. This oil stimulates bacteria (which live in everyones skin and generally cause no problems), to multiply and cause surrounding tissues to become inflamed.
If germs get into the pores the result can be swelling, redness and pus. When you get acne as a teenager, its mostly due to hormonal changes after puberty that make the skin oily. You can not get acne from eating chocolate or greasy foods, but you can make it worse by using oily skin products that clog your pores.
Types of Acne Lesions
Acne comes in many shapes and sizes. Many people experience a mild case of acne, such as small whiteheads or blackheads. Other people have severe acne that may cover their face, back, neck, shoulders and chest. There are four different types of acne lesions:
*Comedo (whiteheads or blackheads) or papules: The basic acne lesion is a clogged pore. If the clogged pore stays under the skin, its called a closed comedo and forms a white bump or whitehead. Blackheads are comedos that open up and appear blackish on the surface of the skin.
*Pustules or pimples: Contain pus and are red at the base.
*Nodules: These are more serious acne lesions and lodge deeper in the skin. They are painful, and can cause scarring.
*Cysts. Like nodules, these lesions are deep within the skin, painful, filled with pus, and can cause scarring.
Even though acne is caused by excessive oil production, that does not necessarily mean you should over-wash your skin; doing so may only cause more skin irritation.
For mild to moderate acne, try these simple cleansing tips:
*Cleanse twice daily with a 5% benzoyl peroxide wash or 2% salicylic acid
* Apply a gel or cream containing 5% benzoyl peroxide; an alternative is sulfur or resorcinol
* At night, apply a spot cream containing sulfur to the affected areas
* Use a light skin moisturizer and oil-free makeup
* Facials can also be beneficial to acne, because the steaming deep cleans pores
* Pore strips pull out dirt and oil from your pores
If these skin regimens do not do the trick, it may be time to consult your physician or dermatologist who will be able to determine the best method of treatment. Treating acne requires patience and perseverance. Any of these treatments may take 2 or 3 months to begin working, and you should ask your physician about any possible side effects. The American Osteopathetic College of Dermatology explains the following treatment options:
* Topical (externally applied) antibiotics and antibacterials: These include erythromycin, clindamycin , sulfacetamide , and azelaic acid.
*Retinoids: tretinoin has been around for years, and has become milder and gentler while still maintaining its effectiveness. Newer retinoids include adapalene and tazarotene. These medications are especially helpful for unclogging pores.
*Oral antibiotics: Most doctors start treatment with tetracycline or one of the relatedcyclines,such as doxycycline and minocycline. Other oral antibiotics that are useful for treating acne are cefadroxil, amoxicillin and sulfa drugs.
* Oral contraceptives: Some contraceptive pills have been shown to have modest effectiveness in treating acne.
* Cortisone Injections: To make large pimples and cysts flatten out fast, doctors inject them with a form of cortisone
*Isotretinoin: (Accutane was the original brand name; there are now several generic versions in common use.) Isotretinoin is for severe, resistant acne, mainly of the cystic variety.
*Laser treatments: Recent years have brought reports of success in treating acne using lasers and similar devices, alone or in conjunction with photosensitizing dyes.
*Acne Surgery: This procedure greatly speeds acne clearing and appearance by manually removing blackheads and whiteheads. A round loop extractor is used to apply uniform smooth pressure to dislodge the material. Inserting a pointed instrument to carefully expose the contents loosens lesions that offer resistance.
Acne prevention and scars
Aside from your general cleansing routine, there are other ways to take good care of your skin:
*Wash your hair on a regular basis. If your hair is oily, you may want to wash it more often.
*Do not squeeze or pick at acne lesions. This can cause scars.
*Avoid getting sunburned. Many medicines used to treat acne can make you more prone to sunburn. Use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15.
*Choose make-up and hair care products that are non-comedogenic, or non-acnegenic or oil-free.
*Avoid things that rub the skin as much as you can, such as backpacks and sports equipment.