A Complete Guide to Acne
The human skin has very small holes that can get ‘choked up’ with dirt, oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells. These holes are called pores. The activities of this dirt, bacteria, oil, and dead cells of the skin in ‘choking up’ these holes can affect the skin’s health. It will result in a pimple or ‘zit’ formation.
Pimples or zits are very small painful spots on the face. When the pore ‘choking’ process continues repeatedly, acne will surface. And I’m sure you must have had some of them some time ago. It might even be why you are reading this article because you are looking for the way out of those you have on your body now. It might end up permanently scarring your body. Hope this doesn’t scare you. But no need to worry – this article will clear all your fears because it contains insightful information on its treatment and general outlook.
Acne is as common as chanting kids in the US! Even the American Academy of Dermatology has affirmed this. I guess you should know having acne is not like having HIV – it can be cured, especially the ones that come visiting on your face, neck, and back and you can’t put up a straight face in public! It affects your self-esteem. Yes, I know. It also affects your choice of clothes because you don’t want them as a public sight.
Symptoms of acne
Just like air is universal, acne can be universally found on your body. By this, you can have it on any part of your body. But it is more pronounced in some parts than in others parts. You can readily relate with those on the face, neck, shoulders, back, and chest.
If you have acne, you will see whitish and sometimes blackish pimples on the affected areas. These whitish and whitish pimples are the prevalent lesions in acne and are called comedones. Let me tell you why these colors are so. The blackish pimples are opened and are located on the skin’s surface. The whitish pimples are closed and are located just below the skin.
Acne can become inflammatory, too. It is this type that has the ability to cause scarring on your skin. They come in appearances different from blackish and whitish pimples. Let’s consider them.
They are small pimples and appear red. This appearance is due to hair follicle inflammation or infection.
They are small pimples, appear red, and have pus at their ends.
They are lump-like, located just below the skin, and painful.
Causes of acne
Its primary cause is ‘choked’ skin pores by bacteria, dirt, oil, or dead skin cells. Your skin pores are follicle openings. These follicles consist of a gland called the sebaceous gland and hair.
The sebaceous gland secretes lubricating and moisturizing oil that moves upward to the surface of your skin. It is called sebum. Too much of this sebum can be produced. When this happens, it can clog the skin pores. Acne will thus ensue.
Dead skin cells and bacteria can accumulate in these pores. This can also induce acne development. When bacteria choke the pore so the oil cannot travel to the skin surface, it is called a zit.
Risk factors for acne
There have been so many myths flying around like missiles about what can cause acne. The most common is that chocolate and French fries can induce acne development. This claim has no scientific proof. Notwithstanding, some things can predispose you to acne.
It can be genetic. Parents who have acne can cause their children to have the same.
Also, changes in hormonal levels at puberty or during pregnancy can as well induce acne formation. This is because their associated hormones have a direct effect on sebum production. It is usually in excess in these two phases of life. Once these phases are passed, the acne will naturally disappear.
Medications, especially contraceptives, and corticosteroids, have been implicated in causing acne. Highly refined carbohydrate diets such as chips and bread have also been found to place you at risk of acne.
Diagnosis of acne
By a mere skin examination, your doctor can readily diagnose if you have acne. They will note the peculiarities associated with it as well as their severity. Doing these helps them know how best to treat it.
Treatment for acne
You can adopt a couple of self-care home treatments for your acne. They can be used to both prevent its development as well as curing it. Let’s look at some of them.
- Maintain clean skin hygiene by taking your bath every day with mild soap on your skin. It will enhance the removal of dirt and oil.
- Regularly shampoo your hair. Keep it from having contact with your face
- Use water-based makeup. You can identify a water-based makeup by checking the label of the makeup. You should see “non-comedogenic” somewhere on the label. Noncomedogenic simply means not pore-clogging.
- Don’t squeeze or pick your pimples. It can spread the excess oil it contains. It could also spread bacteria if it were caused by bacteria clogging.
- Don’t wear tight headbands or hats too often. They can tighten the skin pores and cause the oil to accumulate in them.
- Don’t touch your face too often.
When you have tried the home-care treatment, and it still doesn’t subside or go away, you can use over-the-counter medications designed to help people with acne. These medications will contain ingredients that can handle those acne causes that have been earlier mentioned. The medication will contain anti-bacterial, anti-oil, and anti-dirt ingredients.
Let’s look at some of such medications.
Benzoyl peroxide: It has been designed to kill the bacteria causing acne. It will also dry out the pimples and stop new ones from forming. It is usually in the form of gels and creams.
Sulfur: It has a peculiar smell in cleansers, masks, lotions, and creams. It is a natural ingredient.
Resorcinol: It is specifically designed to get rid of dead skin cells.
Salicylic acid: It is usually included in soaps and all acne washes. It keeps pores from being choked.
If after you have engaged in home care treatments and over-the-counter drugs outlined above, and your symptoms refuse to ‘leave you alone’, then it’s time to see your doctor.
Medications that can help your symptoms and scarring to be reduced will be prescribed to you.
Antibiotics help in killing the bacteria responsible for pimples and reduce the degree of inflammation. They mostly come in two forms – Oral and topical. They are short-term treatment options because long-term usage will result in resistance building. This can make you infection-prone.
Prescription topical creams, for example, benzoyl peroxide and retinoic acid, are over-the-counter medications that have proven to be very potent in reducing oil production and opening the skin pores.
If you are a woman, your hormonal-induced acne can be treated with contraceptives. Spironolactone can also be helpful for this. They control acne-causing hormones by reducing the rate at which sebum is produced.
Another medication, Isotretinoin (popularly known as Accutane), helps treat nodular acne that has become so severe. It contains vitamin A and is mostly used when every other treatment has failed. It has the ability to induce grave side effects.
When your acne is very severe and comes with physical scarring, extra procedures might have to be prescribed to you by your doctor. He might have to remove the scarred skin.
Photodynamic therapy is another acne therapy that combines medication and laser to reduce both bacteria and oil production. A laser is a special kind of light used in therapeutic medications.
Other lasers can be used as a stand-alone to help improve acne and scarring.
Dermabrasion is another interesting remedy you should know about. It is best suited for handling scarring. It involves the removal of the top layers of the skin. A rotating brush is what would be used. It has a more mild form called microdermabrasion. It is used in opening pores and removing dead cells from the skin.
Also available for treatment is a chemical peel. It removes the top skin layers, opens up pores, and improves mild scarring. The chemical peels off that part of the skin, revealing the less damaged skin underneath.
Cortisone injections are helpful for large cysts of acne. It is used to reduce the inflammation induced by acne and thus speed up healing. It is not usually used alone. It goes alongside other acne treatments.
Think of complete healing after 6 – 8 weeks! However, it is possible for the condition to worsen. This can necessitate additional long-term treatments. The medication that has been found helpful in this case is Isotretinoin. It will give permanent results.
To help yourself from emotional stress, see a doctor as soon as you discover that home care or over-the-counter medication is not relieving you of the symptoms, especially scarring. Don’t wait until it develops into a scarring condition. You might have to see a dermatologist for other treatment options.
There are times when you can do nothing to prevent acne. But you can always take certain actions to prevent its reoccurrence after having it. Take a look at the following;
- Wash at least twice a day with an oil-free cleanser.
- Use over-the-counter medications to get rid of excess oil.
Avoid oil-containing makeup.
- Remove makeup and clean your skin very well before you go to bed.
- Shower after engaging in an exercise.
- Avoid wearing clothing that fits too tight on you.
Eat healthy diets that have less refined sugars.
Reduce your stress level.
You must speak with your doctor to get more information about how you can manage your acne.
Ifiokobong Ene is a Medical Physiologist, and a freelance medical writer. Ifiok brings his years of medical research experience to help consistently create high-quality, and engaging articles and products that uphold the highest medical standards. He is dedicated to making health and wellness information available, actionable, and understandable so that readers can make the best decisions about their health.