Acne

Acne Image

Clogged pores, blackheads and pimples are familiar acne symptoms. Finding the right acne treatment may involve trying a few different remedies, ranging from over-the-counter topical products to prescription oral medications.

Cause of Acne

Your skin contains sebaceous (oil-producing) glands, which are connected to hair follicles. These glands release sebum (oil) to lubricate your hair and skin. When they release too much oil, however, the oil combines with dead skin cells, blocking the hair follicles. Bacteria can build up in these blocked follicles, leading to inflammation.

Although researchers understand the process leading to acne, the underlying causes of acne aren’t well understood. Hormones can sometimes cause overproduction of sebum. Other possible culprits include medications and friction on the skin. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no evidence that chocolate or greasy foods cause acne.

The most common type of acne is acne vulgaris, although there are other acne types that are often more severe.

Preventing Acne

Acne prevention may involve continuing to use acne medication after an episode of acne clears up.

Other prevention tips (from the Mayo Clinic) include:

  • Cleanse areas prone to acne twice a day using a mild cleanser. You want to remove excess oil and dead skin cells, but too much washing or using a harsh cleanser can irritate your skin.
  • Use an over-the-counter acne cream or gel containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to help dry excess oil.
  • If you wear makeup, avoid heavy foundation makeup and use powders rather than creams, as powders are less irritating. Remove makeup before going to bed to avoid skin irritation.

Finding an Acne Remedy

Most people with acne start with home acne treatments. Most acne treatments for home use are over-the-counter topical treatments that you apply to your skin a couple of times a day. Many of these treatments contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Although these ingredients are safe for many people, they can cause irritation and other side effects in others.

If over-the-counter products aren’t strong enough, prescription versions are also available. Another acne treatment option is oral medication. Antibiotics can fight the build-up of bacteria. Oral retinoids are sometimes prescribed, but can have severe side effects, including causing birth defects if a woman becomes pregnant while taking them. Tetracyclines can cause yellowing of the teeth as a side effect. For women, birth control pills can sometimes control acne.

Medical procedures, such as dermabrasion and laser therapy, are also available for treating acne scars.

Acne is a treatable condition. Discuss your options with a dermatologist.

Resources

eMedicine. (n.d.). Acne. Retrieved January 26, 2011, from http://www.emedicinehealth.com/acne/article_em.htm

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Acne. Retrieved January 26, 2011, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acne/DS00169

University of Maryland Medical Center. (n.d.). Acne. Retrieved January 26, 2011, from http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/acne-000001.htm

University of California, San Francisco. (n.d.). Treatment of Acne Scars. Retrieved January 26, 2011, from http://www.dermatology.ucsf.edu/Clinics/acne_scars.aspx