Your Comprehensive Guide to Treating Acne

Acne is a skin condition which is commonly associated with teenagers and the onset of puberty. But the truth is that you may face this concern regardless of age. Modern science today has created multiple ways to keep this issue under control.

Although there is no one cure for this condition, there are a number of things you can do to eliminate the problem and keep it under control. The most important thing to remember about these red dots is that they are an inflammatory disorder. That could make things easy for you since all you need to keep the breakouts, swelling and redness away would be to target and prevent the inflammation. Keep reading to find out more.


What is Acne and What Causes Them?

Most of us are familiar with this condition to some degree, even if we do not know the specifics of how acne occurs. The textbook description of it is a skin disorder that occurs when hair follicles (even though you don’t notice it as much, your face has hundreds of hair follicles) becomes clogged with dead skin cells and oils that causes the skin to become inflamed, resulting in a white fluid-filled sac.

To be more precise, it is the mixture of oil and dead cells that allows the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (P. acne) to breed, causing this condition. Typically, the bacteria would reside on the skin’s surface without causing too much trouble, but when the hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead cells, it invites the bacteria to flourish and feast on the contents within. This would then cause a domino effect as the production of inflammatory chemicals and enzymes kicks in, followed by the immune system’s response to fight back with further inflammation.


5 Common Types of Acne

Acne is an inflammatory disorder, so it is important to remember that when treating it, anything and everything you do to calm inflammation will help speed up the healing for your cystic bumps and red marks. The reverse is true as well: irritation will make inflammation worse and, therefore, cause more breakouts.

The last stage in the development of zits is when the wall of the plugged follicle breaks down, spilling everything inside onto the upper surface layer, causing inflammation that leads to the formation of a pimple. These pesky red dots can show up on many areas of the body, including the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, and arms. When a pimple forms, it can be one of the following types of breakouts:

1. Comedones

Comedones are considered non-inflammatory precursors to acne. To make its definition clearer, comedones are evidence that conditions are present that could lead to cystic breakouts. Comedones come in two forms — whiteheads (sometimes referred to as “closed comedones”) and blackheads (sometimes referred to as “open comedones” since you can see the pore opening).

2. Papules

These are small, raised bumps of not more than a centimeter that indicate inflammation is occurring in the hair follicles. The thing about papules is that they come in many different forms (different shapes, colours and sizes) and can have distinct or indistinct borders. Papules are unsightly, but would not be painful or sore. However, do watch out if your papules start to cluster together since it could form a rash.

3. Pustules

Slightly larger than papules in terms of size, these red, tender bumps contain yellowish-white pus in the center (caused by the immune and bacterial cells) and are a sign of more advanced inflammation. Pustules can be found all over the body, but are more common in locations like the shoulders, chest, back, face, neck and even the underarms. Unlike papules, pustules can generally cause quite a bit of pain.

4. Nodules

Nodules might look like larger and deeper papules but have no prominent center or head. As one of the most painful forms of acne, these bumps remain below the surface of the skin and are the result when clogged pores start destroying tissues and cells. Nodules are known as a severe form of acne blemish and they can leave behind permanent skin issues like scarring.

5. Cysts

These are markedly painful, swollen, pus-filled lumps that form deep beneath the surface. They present an increased risk of scarring due to their depth and collagen-destroying potential. A cyst is also the type of breakout that is least likely to respond to topical treatments, especially traditional over-the-counter topical products. That is why most have to turn to skincare professionals or dermatologists when it comes to cysts.


6 Factors That Causes Acne

Frustration can set in especially when you notice many others enjoying acne-free seasons while you are constantly troubled by your many skin issues. Because of how no two individual is exactly the same, their skin would react differently as well. Unfortunately, for as long as people have been struggling with this condition, the exact cause of acne still remains unknown even after hundreds of carefully executed studies. However, researchers have narrowed it down to these factors.

1. Hormonal Activity

At the onset of puberty, androgens (male hormones) increase in both genders, causing the body’s sebaceous (oil) glands to enlarge and produce more oil. Oil production can also increase during pregnancy and/or with the starting or stopping of oral contraceptives. For women, the hormonal activity generally decreases during menopause.

2. Hormonal Changes from Menstrual Cycles

It certainly comes as no surprise to women when they observe breakouts in the days or weeks before their monthly period. This arises from the hormonal changes that occur in the 7 to ten days before the menstrual cycle kickstarts. From research, over 60 percent of acne-prone females would observe pimples before their periods start, however, it usually gets better when the flow begins.

3. Medications

While you might think medications are supposed to do good for you, there’s a likelihood of side effects like the complication of acne. Certain drugs like lithium or anticonvulsants can play a role in the development of pimples or acne-like eruptions. It may not be a common reason, but it is important to take note of any side-effects from your medication before you leave the doctor’s office.

4. Heredity

Researchers believe that good old genetics could have a hand in whether or not a person is prone to pimple outbreaks. Thus, if your parents suffered from breakouts, you are likely to be at a greater risk of suffering from them too.

5. Inflammation

Inflammation may arise due to conditions inside the pore or outside influences, such as using products that contain irritating ingredients or the acts of trying to dry up a pimple and over-scrubbing. The act of squeezing your pimples does not increase the incidence of breakouts. However, when done incorrectly, it can further inflame the breakout, potentially push the contents deeper into the pore lining and generally keep it around longer.

6. Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to food such as milk, dairy products, gluten, nuts or fish can trigger acne in some. If you wish to find out whether certain foods in your daily diet are acne triggers, try experimenting with your diet by eliminating a food item from your meals and seeing if it improves your skin condition.


7 Safe and Effective Acne Treatments

When quick-fix solutions and topical products fail, your doctor or dermatologist may propose several treatment procedures to tackle your skin disorder. Before jumping into the treatment chair, most are overwhelmed by the choices on offer since there is a vast assortment of cosmetic corrective and surgery procedures.

To find out what the right procedure is for you, the solution is simple — the choice that you make depends on what you want to achieve and takes into consideration your doctor’s assessment as well. While your doctor’s very well-positioned to offer you the best advice, it is best that you prepare well with your own preliminary research and ask any questions that boggle you.

These are a few common procedures that would help with this issue:

1. IPL

Intense pulse light, or commonly referred to as IPL in short, is a type of non-ablative laser that emits multiple wavelengths and intensities of light that can be targeted to zap blemishes. The results can be relatively immediate but depending on the number of surfaced capillaries and the degree of redness, three to five treatments may be necessary before you start observing clear signs of improvement. IPL is reportedly effective in targeting and eliminating the bacteria (P. acnes) responsible for blemishes, control oil (sebum) production and assist in the prevention of future outbreaks on the face, back, and chest areas.

2. Laser

Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. This non-surgical procedure uses a laser beam to transmit high amounts of energy to the target areas. As the heat from the laser gets absorbed by the skin, the outer layers of your blemished skin would be shed. In doing so, it also helps stimulate regeneration and that will help you achieve clear unblemished skin. Depending on your needs, concerns and severity of your condition, you might need more than one treatment session to observe the best overall results.

3. Blue LED

You may have heard of high-tech light devices that target acne being advertised for home use. These light-emitting diode (LED) therapy devices have been given the green light by a number of researchers showing their effectiveness at targeting bumps and spots. For this treatment, the blue LED treatment utilises specific wavelengths of blue light to calm inflammation and target the P. acnes bacteria that causes pimples. In addition, the procedure is also believed to lower oil production and helps improve the appearance of thickened scars.

4. Ultrasound

Ultrasound works in a different manner from lasers and RF devices. The main factor to its success is the use of ultrasound energy to generate heat in the skin. While the heat from lasers and RF devices only target the surface layers of the skin, ultrasound is able to bypass those layers and deliver heat to the layers at a much deeper level, directly targeting the problem and stimulating collagen production. This treatment would also help with skin tightening, treating mild to moderate sagging and can help with acne that falls within a moderate to severe scale.

5. Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are a way to resurface the top to the deeper layers of skin to expose the smoother, tighter and much healthier layer of your skin. Despite what the name suggests, this particular treatment does not literally peel the skin. Rather, it rapidly exfoliates and clears the skin surface of dead cells. By keeping dead cells at bay and preventing excess oil from congesting the hair follicle, pimples and comedones can be treated. Results from deeper peels can last from several months to a year or two.

6. Superficial Peels

Often referred to as lunchtime peels, superficial peels use low concentrations of glycolic, lactic or salicylic acid and act relatively gently and quickly to improve skin texture, minor discolorations and wrinkles. They can minimally tighten the skin and improve the appearance of bumps as well as the scars they leave behind.

7. Radio Frequency

Radio frequency (RF) machines work on the same principle as lasers with the exception that the heat is delivered via RF waves instead of light waves. Apart from improving acne conditions by shrinking the sebaceous glands, RF units can also help enhance some amount of sagging skin, smooth out stretch marks and tighten other areas of loose skin. Similar to laser treatments, RF therapy may require multiple treatment sessions to achieve optimal results.


The Takeaway

There are plenty of factors that can come into play and cause your skin to change seemingly overnight. Many women understand the changes that can happen to their body when they get their period. For others, they might experience them as they experience perimenopause or menopause. When it comes to both genders, we are at the mercy of issues like seasonal weather shifts, travelling to a different climate and extreme stress that could bring about acne. Given that your skin is enduring constant change, you may have to adapt your skincare routine accordingly. If that fails, seeking professional help from aesthetic clinics might be your way out from a lifetime of acne.