Acne is a very in-depth skin condition, which most of the population has struggled with at some point in their lives. In this article, we will get to know the causes of acne and what triggers we could be exposed to every day that can lead to breakouts. We will look at different acne treatments based on over-the-counter ingredients that you could start searching for and then look at some of the medications used to treat acne.
The Causes of Acne
There are several reasons why acne could occur, b let’s have a look at the most common ones:
- Hereditary – acne can be hereditary, so if you have a close relative that suffers from acne, there is a higher chance you’ll suffer from it.
- Clogged follicles – a few different reasons could trigger clogged follicles, primarily because the sebaceous gland is overproducing oil or the dead skin cells are not being shed as quickly from the skin’s surface. Sebaceous filaments can also cause clogged follicles, but they are small impactions of solidified oil. They are often found on the nose. People frequently confuse sebaceous filaments and blackheads.
- Bacteria – acne is also caused by bacteria found in the follicles, called P. acnes bacteria or Propionibacterium.
- Sebum – Sebum build-up also causes inflammation and irritation to our skin, and as this inflammation and bacteria grow, it causes pressure on the walls of the follicles. If this wall ruptures, it will spill infection into the dermis of the skin and will form papules. If they become infected and fill with pus, they will become pustules or more commonly known as pimples. Our skin will form hard tissues around this infection to stop the spread of bacteria, and a deep-pocketed infection will result, known as a cyst. This cyst is found in the skin’s dermis and can result in acne scarring.
We will see below that some acne triggers are completely avoidable by changing our diet, usage of cosmetics, and controlling stress. So behavioral changes can also be an effective acne treatment.
- Hormones – during hormonal changes like puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, there is a change in our hormonal levels and, therefore, a change in the skin. In men, testosterone production increases, so their oil production will increase, leading to excess oil production or possibly even acne. Therefore, men suffer from teenage acne; however, adult acne is becoming more common in females due to stress, birth control, premenstrual changes, pregnancy, and menopause.
- Stress – can cause hormonal fluctuations and can increase your sebum production.
- Cosmetic ingredients – comedogenic and non-comedogenic oils and ingredients might clog our follicles. Fatty ingredients like waxes and oils can clog or irritate the follicles, which will cause build-up in the follicles and either a blackhead, papule, or pimples to form. Products rich in emollients and occlusive products can be too heavy for problematic skin types.
- Diet – some foods are loaded with sugars and processed fat. The presence of too much sugar and fat in the body can cause inflammation; although chocolate does not directly affect acne, too much of it can be a trigger. Thus, focus more on whole foods if you are sensitive to breakouts.
- Other irritants – touching our face, excessive rubbing or friction, and even constantly putting our phone to the face will result in more breakouts. Extending pressure and heat to the skin can also aggravate skin conditions, as the heat will cause swelling and minimize the follicle opening size to result in a build-up in the follicles.
Treatments of Acne
Acne treatment starts with a proper skincare routine and nutrition, and if this is not enough, here are some powerful ingredients recommended for acne sufferers:
- Beta hydroxy acids: Salicylic acid – this organic compound is found in Willow bark and certain fruits and vegetables. It works alongside Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to remove dead skin cells and keep the follicles open so that sebum can flow. BHAs do not have such results as an AHA, but they are highly efficient when used in acne treatment and could even be used on sensitive skin. Ensure that you check for aspirin allergies if a person is allergic to aspirin. They cannot use salicylic acid on the skin.
- Sulfur – is an anti-inflammatory, and also assists in removing dead skin build-up on acne. Sulfur is also very healing and antibacterial.
- Vitamins and minerals – you should take multivitamins every day to help normalize the skin and assist in the proper functioning of the skin. The vitamins we take should include Zinc and B complex vitamins. Vitamin C has great healing effects on the skin and is a powerful antioxidant, so it helps repair damaged skin cells. Vitamin A, used topically for acne skins, will stimulate cell production and clear up acne.
- Alpha hydroxy acids – AHAs are used in different percentages to dissolve the glue that holds the dead skin cells together. This exfoliation will help soften the build-up of oils, making for easier removal.
- Benzoyl peroxide – releases oxygen in the area that it’s applied and will kill P. acnes bacteria.
- Spot blemish treatments – normally contain tea tree oils, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid, which are applied to the area after cleansing to control the bacteria build-up.
- Niacinamide – known as vitamin B3, decreases the oil produced from your sebaceous gland. It is also an anti-inflammatory to the skin.
- Tea tree oil – is a well-known antibacterial, which will also help reduce inflammation on the skin. That works well in the natural approach to treating acne or breakouts.
Photo by Anna Nekrashevich from Pexels
6 Powerful Acne Care Tips
Let’s take a look at a few things you can do to prevent acne.
- Eliminate all comedogenic products from your skincare and makeup range. When looking at products that state they are oil-free does not mean they are non-comedogenic. A few non-comedogenic ingredients include Grapeseed oil, Sunflower seed oil, Neem oil and Sweet Almond oil.
- Control your oil production by using good natural skincare products. Do not irritate the skin by using harsh chemically produced products. Good acne-combating ingredients include Tea Tree oil, honey, green tea and coconut oil.
- Keep the skin clean and the follicles open by regular exfoliation. For acne-prone skin it’s recommended you exfoliate two to three times a week.
- Avoid environmental triggers that aggravate acne, these can include makeup, dirt, grease, sun, humidity, and pollution.
- Reduce your stress and follow a good diet while drinking enough water.
- Have a regular facial.
At Home Care of Acne:
Here are a few tips you can do at home to take care of acne.
- Do not pick at the skin when a blemish is healing, and this will leave a hyperpigmented scar for a longer period than necessary.
- When performing self-extraction, if you apply too much pressure or do not remove the entire infection, it could cause the infection to go deeper and spread more rapidly.
- When you have any inflammation and infection in the area, apply a cold compress or towel to calm the skin, and then follow with anti-inflammatory products, and you could ice the breakouts.
- A foaming cleanser with exfoliant properties would be a good choice for acne sufferers, containing ingredients like AHAs, BHAs, or benzoyl peroxide. Then use a soothing toner with antibacterial ingredients to calm the skin.
- Use AHAs and benzoyl peroxide gels or spot treatments. But pay attention not to overuse them, as they can dry the skin.
- Use a light hydrating oil-free moisturizer, and make sure to use sunscreen after the moisturizer.
- Use a clay mask at least twice per week to absorb excess oils. A mask containing sulfur is great as it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredients.
Medication Used for Acne Treatment
For really severe cases your dermatologist might recommend medication for acne. Here are a few acne medications that are available.
- Differin – this medication is derived from retinoids and will affect the speed of cell regeneration and prevent clogged pores. This medication can also be named adapalene.
- Azelaic acid – can be used on sensitive skin and does not necessarily have to be used with a prescription. Not only is it great for controlling the bacteria associated with acne, but it also helps to lighten the pigmentation left after scarring.
- Accutane – also called isotretinoin, is an extremely powerful medication administered to acne sufferers. There are a few severe side effects when using this type of medication. If you have tried everything and that stubborn acne is not budging, this is a last resort medication. An oral retinoid has the same benefits as using a topical retinoid but is more powerful and effective. It is used to shut down the sebaceous gland, but can make the skin dry and extremely sensitive.
- Tretinoin – is also a derivative of the vitamin A family and is a more powerful medication than Differen.
- Contraceptive pills – are used to balance hormone production in the body, which will result in balanced estrogen and progesterone production. Effects can take a while to see on the skin, and it might also take a few months to figure out which pill works well for you, as there are other side effects associated with contraceptive pills.
- Cortisone injections – a cortisone shot is a quick fix for an emergency or a stubborn pimple that does not want to go away. Cortisone reduces inflammation, but it needs to be done directly into the lesion; otherwise, it can leave a scar. Cortisone can make the skin thinner, so this is not a long-term solution.
However, please remember that medications can have other side effects, so make sure you are not allergic to one before you start using them and always consult with your doctor before starting any medication.
After reading this article, you should not be afraid of acne anymore, as you have all the sound knowledge you need of how to avoid and treat acne. Do not hesitate to leave a comment if you still have any questions or doubts.