What is Acne?
Acne is a common skin condition that results from oil blockage beneath the skin that causes bacteria to grow. There are different kinds of acne that depend on how the oil is blocked:
- Whiteheads: When the oil gets trapped beneath the surface of the skin and the pore becomes closed the acne can take its form in little white bumps commonly referred to as whiteheads or clogged pores.
- Blackheads: On the other hand, when a pore isopen to the surface, the oil turns into a blackish color and is visible to you it is a blackhead.
- Cysts: Are closed sacs that are formed deeper beneath the surface of the skin. They can contain liquid and semi-solid substances.
- Papules: Are raised pinkish bumps that are caused by an infection or inflammation of the follicle wall. They can feel tender. And these often form before becoming pustules.
- Pustules: Are basically puss-filled pimples. It results from white blood cells making their way up to the surface of the skin.
Psychological Effects of Acne
While there are many resources that talk about the physical effects of acne, the psychological effects are often neglected. If your acne makes you feel self conscious, unattractive, and even depressed, you are not a lone. Life with acne can have a heavy toll on your mental health.
Acne can lead to the cause of several psychological disorders including clinical depression, specific anxiety disorders, and social phobia.
Who Gets Acne?
Although you can have acne at any age, it is most common among teenagers and young adults. During puberty, hormone levels are changing.
Acne can be hereditary. If you have a family history of acne, there is a greater chance that you may get it.
Women are particularly susceptible to developing acne. Starting or stopping birth control can change your hormone levels and also may cause acne. Pregnant and pre-menopausal women are also have a higher risk of developing acne. Some women also get acne a couple days to a week before their periods.
Where Is Acne Common?
Acne is most common on your face, forehead, chin, scalp, neck, shoulders, chest, back, and butt. These are the areas of your body that produce the most oil. These are also the areas where you tend to sweat the most, so excess oils can clog pores.
What Causes Acne?
Acne is believed to be the result of rising and changing hormone levels that cause an increase in oil production in your body. Excess oil can lead to clogged pores.
Certain medications can cause changes in hormone levels that can cause acne. Consult with your doctor to see if this may be the case for you. Greasy makeup can also clog up pores.
Studies have shown that certain diets do not cause acne. Contrary to popular belief, greasy foods and chocolate do not cause acne.
Acne Skin Care
Since acne results from excess oil that clogs pores, acne skin care advice focuses on reducing the amount of oil on your skin and minimizing the likelihood of your pores getting clogged. Follow the following suggestions to reduce acne.
- Keep your skin clean: Gently clean your skin a few times a day with a mild wash. If you scrub too hard, you risk irritating those areas and can make the problem worse. Be sure to always clean your skin after sweating. Shampoo your hair often.
- Don’t touch your skin: Avoid the temptation of touching your skin. Just don’t do it! Picking at, squeezing, and popping pimples can lead to infections in the short-term and marks or scarring in the long-term.
- Shave carefully: If at all possible, try not to shave every day. Prep your face with warm water and soap before putting on shaving cream. Use a sharp razor. Electric razors work better for some people. Don’t try purposefully pop your pimples with the razor.
- Stay out of the sun: Reduce your exposure to the sun as much as possible. It may make your acne worse. Certain acne medications can make you more susceptible to sunburn thus increasing your risk of developing skin cancer. If you’re going to be out in the sun, make sure to protect your skin with a sunscreen that won’t clog your pores. Read the labels.
- Keep things from touching your face: Your hands, hair, and other objects carry dirt and oil that can cause acne. Hats and tight clothing can trap in oils as well.
- Be careful what you put on your face: People have a tendency to try to cover up their pimples with cosmetics. You want to avoid oily and greasy make up as well as gels and other hair products. Check the labels to make sure they are noncomedogenic (won’t clog your pores) or water-based.
Products / Medicines
- Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl Peroxide is one of the most common ingredients in many of the acne medications on the market today. In fact, it has been used for over 50 years. It’s often one of the first medicines that is used to fight mild to moderate acne.
It can be found in a variety of medications including prescriptions like Benzamycin and BenzaClin as well as over the counter products like ProActiv and Clearasil. It takes its form in a variety of ways including gels, cleansers, lotions, and creams.
Benzoyl Peroxide is an antibacterial that works by fighting the P. acnes bacteria which makes its home on your skin and inside pores and contributes to the development of acne. It does this in a couple ways. First, one of the key features of the ingredient is that it is a strong oxidizer or oxidant. It injects oxygen into the pores which breaks down the bacteria. Second, it helps to remove dead skin cells thus reducing the chance of your pores becoming blocked. Therefore, you can preemptively prevent acne breakouts before they even begin.
It is popular because it is effective for many people and it is relatively inexpensive when compared to other acne treatments. It’s considered to be safe for both teenagers and adults.
Tetracycline is a common oral antibiotic to fight a variety of infections. It is very commonly used as a treatment to fight acne. It works by targeting the P. acnes bacteria that causes acne that thrive in your pores and on your face. Common brands that use tetracycline as an ingredient include Sumycin, Tetracyn, Terramycin, Panmycin, among others.
Pregnant women and children 8 years old or younger should not take tetracycline. It can cause permanent discoloration to developing children’s teeth and bones and cause harm to the unborn fetus. It also makes certain birth control less pills less effective so you should use additional forms of birth control as a precaution. Exposure to the sun should be avoided because Tetracycline causes skin sensitivity to the sun, making you more susceptible to sunburn. Wear protective clothing and at least a light sunscreen if you will be out in the sun for a while. Do not take expired tetracycline because it can possibly damage your kidneys.
Food decreases the absorption of tetracycline. It should be taken with an empty stomach to maximize its effectiveness. Take it at least two our before or wait to take it two hours after a meal. Multi-vitamins iron and calcium supplements, antacids, also reduce the medication’s effectiveness.
Tetracycline is often taken in conjunction with other acne treatments. While results vary, it is an effective medication for many people who take it. As always, contact your dermatologist to see if it is right for you.
- Tretinoin (Retin A)
Tretinoin is a common ingredient in many of the acne medications for fighting acne vulgaris. The most popular brand form is Retin A, but it is also used under Atralin, Avita, Refissa, Renova, Tretin-X, as well as other names. It is a topical treatment that works to keep pores clear from becoming blocked. It is available as a gel, liquid, cream, or solution.
There is still little known about the long term effects on the real benefits and safety of Tretinoin. It is only available by prescription so you should consult your doctor for more details to see if this treatment may be right for you.
The most common side effects include a burning feeling on the skin, skin lightening on the applied area, skin peeling, redness of skin, and unusual dryness.
- Birth Control / Oral Contraceptives
When other treatments for acne have failed, birth control pills aka oral contraceptives may be a good option to treat acne for women. The mix of estrogen and progestin combine to reduce the amount of sebum that the oil glands produce. It works by suppressing the androgen hormones. Birth control pills can be an especially good option for women if they need birth control anyway.
Since birth control pills only focus on excess oil production cause of acne, severe acne cases will usually require that they be used in tandem with other acne treatments. Topical treatments like products that include benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid are commonly used with birth control pills to fight acne.
Birth control pills may need to be taken for a few months before noticing an improvement in acne. As of the time of this writing, Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Estrostep are birth control medications that are approved by the FDA for treating acne. Consult with your doctor to see what treatment may be right for you.
- Isotrentinoin Information
Accutane the brand name of Isotrentinoin, a derivative of vitamin A, is a commonly prescribed medicine for deeps cysts and severe acne. It is often saved as a last resort to fight acne when antibiotics and other acne treatments are not enough. It reduces the amount of oil produced by your skin by shrinking the sebaceous glands. This causes a reduction in the amount of comedones produced. Users typically see very significant clearings of acne within 4 to 6 months of use.
It is an extremely powerful and effective medication, but in some cases the user must cease to take it due to its possible side effects. Very common side effects include chapped lips, itching and dry skin, dry nose, mild nosebleeds, and irritation of the eyes and eyelids. Less common side effects are a temporary thinning of the hair, urinary symptoms, intestinal symptoms, headache, and increased sensitivity to the sun. Rare side effects are impaired vision at night, and it may cause bouts of depression, and thoughts of suicide.
Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant can not use Isotrentinoin. It can cause potentially severe birth defects. In the cases that the medicine is prescribed to women of child bearing age, they will be monitored carefully. Women who are sexually active must be extremely cautious and adhere to effective methods of birth control while undergoing an Isotrentinoin treatment.
Isotrentinoin may also raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the bloodstream as well increase liver enzyme levels. Routine blood tests during treatment can give warning to avoid any potential problems.
Many of the minor side effects of Isotrentinoin can be relieved easily. Lip moisturizers such as Vaseline will help with chapped lips. Skin moisturizers can calm itching and improve dry skin. Nasal gels are available for dry nose. Ask your doctor for more details. As always, consult with your doctor should you experience any serious side effects.
Isotrentinoin comes in a variety of doses. Please ask your dermatologist for more information and to see if it may be right for you.
Photo Credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/drjoelschlessinger/9968020434
Leave A Response