Acne is a common skin condition that manifests as pimples, most commonly found on the face, neck, back, chest and shoulders. Acne can cause emotional distress and severe cases can leave scars.
Causes of Acne
Acne develops when pores in the skin get clogged and can no longer drain sebum (an oil made by the sebaceous glands that protect and moisturize the skin).The sebum build-up causes the hair follicles around it to expand.
Comedones are enlarged hair follicles caused by sebum. The comedones generate white pimples called whiteheads if the sebum lingers beneath the skin.
Comedones form darker lumps called blackheads when sebum reaches the skin’s surface. When sebum is exposed to air, it darkens, resulting in this black discoloration. Both whiteheads and blackheads can linger for a long period in the skin.
Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), a type of bacteria that usually lives on the surface of the skin, can enter closed pores and infect the sebum. The skin becomes bloated, red and painful as a result of this.
Sebaceous glands infected with bacteria may burst, spilling sebum and germs into the surrounding skin and causing more irritation. Larger nodules and cysts may occur in the deeper layers of the skin in severe cases.
Kinds of Acne
Acne is classified according to its severity:
- Mild acne — Characterized by a few scattered comedones (whiteheads or blackheads) and minor irritation (no pustules).
- Moderate acne — defined by a dense collection of comedones and red, inflammatory, pus-filled lesions (pustules).
- Severe acne — Also known as nodular or cystic acne, this refers to painful, inflammatory and red lesions that are extensive and deep. If left untreated, this type of acne will most likely result in scarring.
Acne can strike anyone at any age. Acne is highly frequent in teenagers due to the increased activity of sebaceous glands caused by rising hormone levels (androgens) linked with puberty. Adult acne is also fairly frequent, particularly among women.
Acne is more likely to affect people who have acne-prone parents.
Acne lesions can appear and disappear. The following factors can aggravate acne:
- Fluctuating hormone levels in women. 2–7 days before their menstruation, during pregnancy or while starting or stopping birth control tablets
- Grease in the workplace or oil from skin products (moisturizers or cosmetics) (for example, a kitchen with fry vats)
- External pressure from sports helmets or equipment, backpacks, tight collars, tight outfits, etc.
- Pollution and high humidity are examples of environmental irritants
- Picking or squeezing blemishes
- Scrubbing the skin vigorously
Treatment for Acne
Acne can be adequately treated in almost all cases. Acne treatment aims to heal existing lesions, prevent new lesions from emerging and reduce the appearance of acne scars.
- There are several acne drugs on the market that target one or more of the underlying causes of acne. Topical retinoids that help clear sebaceous glands and keep skin pores open are helpful.
- Antibiotics such as doxycycline and minocycline (Solodyn) can be used to treat P. acnes.
- Lowering sebum (oil) production, isotretinoin (Amnesteem®, Sotret®) remains a staple of treatment for severe acne.
- Women may utilize hormonal medications, such as birth control pills, to lower sebum (oil) production.
Acne treatments will be prescribed by your doctor based on the following factors:
- Your acne’s severity. A topical retinoid alone may be effective for mild acne. A combination of topical retinoid and antibiotics or other medications may be more effective for moderate acne. Isotretinoin (Amnesteem®, Sotret®) may be used to treat severe acne with scarring.
- Previous therapies’ outcomes. If earlier acne treatments have proven ineffective, medications may be introduced in a step-by-step method.
- Scarring severity. If there is already evidence of acne scarring, more aggressive treatments may be started sooner.
- Some medicines, such as birth control tablets, are only available to women.
For some persons with mild acne, non-prescription acne treatments may be sufficient. However, for effective therapy, most people with moderate acne and all persons with severe acne will need to utilize prescription acne drugs.
Whatever treatment plan you and your doctor choose, it’s critical to allow ample time to work. It’s possible that you’ll have to wait for 6-8 weeks for results. While the older acne lesions heal, the drug works overtime to prevent new lesions from appearing. The most crucial step in controlling acne is to stick to your medication.
Self-Care for Acne
Following the clearing of your acne, your doctor may advise you to continue using topical retinoids to keep it under control. Maintaining good skin care and using “non-comedogenic” skin care products is always a smart idea (do not promote acne)
Follow these basic tips for continuous acne skin care and acne prevention:
- Cleanse skin gently twice a day with a gentle cleanser and pat dry. Harsh cleansers might actually make acne worse.
- Acne lesions should not be popped, squeezed or picked because this can cause irritation and infection. Keep your hands away from your face and any other areas of your skin that are prone to acne.
- Limit sun exposure—at best, tanning conceals acne. Sun exposure can cause skin damage in the worst-case scenario, especially if you’re using an acne medication that makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight and UV rays (this includes tanning booths).
- Choose cosmetics with caution. Seek products labeled “non-comedogenic,” “oil-free,” or “water-based” when possible.
- Be patient with your therapy—Find out how long your acne treatment should take to work (usually 6-8 weeks) and then stick to it. Early termination of treatment may prevent you from noticing positive results or perhaps result in a return of symptoms. It’s possible that your skin will get worse before it gets better, or that you’ll need to try a variety of treatments.