Acne: What is it?
Acne vulgaris is the most common form of acne. Overproduction of sebum accumulates and blocks the pores of the skin. This form of acne is characterized by pimples that are more common in adolescence and in some cases may persist into adulthood. More than 80% of young people suffer from acne at any given time, to varying degrees.
Acne can either be as a small white pimple that can grow into blackheads. They can get inflamed and cause red spots or become infected and turn into pustules, which can vary in size and may look like cysts. Acne most commonly appears on the face, but may also spread to the upper back and chest.
What can cause acne?
A hormonal change
Adolescence, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, childbirth and menopause cause hormonal variations that stimulate the production of sebum.
This type of skin produces more sebum. The risk of acne is therefore higher.
Birth control drugs, antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, and cortisone can cause acne or make them worse.
Excessive use of cosmetic products, poor skin care, friction and moisture caused by repeated use of bandanas and hats can clog pores.
The working environment
Dusty locations with excessive heat or moisture can promote acne.
Stress is an aggravating factor for acne.
Acne: Practical advice
Clean your skin
Oily skin should be cleaned with hot water to better dissolve the skin oil. A hypoallergenic soap is recommended which removes excess sebum without irritating the skin too much. If you have very oily skin, use soaps containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. If your skin is very sensitive, use a soap substitute.
Soap can only remove excess oil, it does not prevent acne. To solve your problem once and for all, medical treatment is necessary.
The use of over-the-counter medicines
Acne pimples sometimes disappear over time, but if they don’t, there are a whole range of products available in pharmacies to combat acne. They are found in the forms of gels, lotions, and creams. Those that contain benzoyl peroxide (2.5% to 5% concentration) are certainly the most effective. Once they dry the skin, remember that acne medications are irritating. It is therefore advisable to apply them in thin layers.
If the skin becomes slightly reddish after the first application, don’t worry. If the reaction is strong enough, a reduction in the frequency of use (e.g. one night out of three) will ensure better tolerance. Gradually increase the frequency. Regardless of the type of medicine, it should be applied to clean skin.
Contrary to what the advertisements say, no product gets rid of your acne within 24 hours. In milder cases, an improvement in one week may occur. But it takes six to eight weeks before a significant improvement becomes visible. And above all, don’t let go of your current treatment.
Before you give up on a drug give it at least six weeks of use.
To easily get rid of a blackhead, squeeze it gently. Use facial tissue because your nails can damage your skin.
Do not squeeze the red pimples
Do not touch them! Irritating red pimples may cause scarring. A fracture in the cyst can cause inflammation of the surrounding tissues and exacerbate the inflammatory reaction.
Avoid oil-based make-up that is too thick.
Obtain non-comedogenic water based foundations and eyeshadows.
Make sure to do it carefully and as little as possible.
Don’t forget to remove your makeup. Get salicylic acid cleaners, a desiccant that removes blackheads.
Hypoallergenic products are used to minimize allergic reactions but have no effect on acne pimples.
Mud or clay, masks have the ability to dry the skin and remove dead skin. However, this surface cleaner is powerless to counteract the overproduction of sebum and acne in the long term.
Do I need to watch my diet?
No scientific research has shown a direct link between poor eating habits, oily skin and acne. That’s why soft drinks and snacks shouldn’t play a role in their appearance. However, excesses consumption is never recommended!
When to go see a doctor?
Consult your doctor when:
- Acne affects your self-esteem
- Acne pimples remain despite over the counter treatment
- Acne pimples leave scars.
What to expect from a doctor’s visit?
A questionnaire is given to the patient and the physician conducts a full clinical examination to identify any other potential diseases that may be associated linked with a simple acne problem.
What acne treatments are available?
Whiteheads or blackheads
In the case of non-inflammatory pimples, keratolytic, such as tretinoin or salicylic acid, will help solve the problem in two to three months.
Inflammatory cases are generally treated with products containing higher concentrations of benzoyl peroxide (10% to 15%) or with antibiotics.
If the inflammation is very serious, the doctor will prescribe oral antibiotics that have both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Treatment can take up to four months.
Can Acne come back?
In very serious cases, or when the medications have not worked, isotretinoin is the strongest treatment. Four to five months is necessary for optimal results. Be careful, isotretinoin is contraindicated in those with depressive disorders and in pregnant women (your prescription should, therefore, be preceded by a pregnancy test!).
Hormonal treatments may be considered in women who have an outbreak of acne related to the menstrual cycle.
In the case of inflamed cysts (red and purulent), cortisone could be used to reduce inflammation. The doctor may also prescribe oral antibiotics or isotretinoin. In the case of persistent cysts that are not inflamed (yellowish), surgery is possible.
Different treatments can be considered such as chemical peelings, dermabrasions, Lasers or corrective surgeries (the scars are removed to make way for less visible scars).