Acne isn’t a big deal, right? Wrong. So wrong.
While getting the odd pimple is pretty common, as is going through a phase of a few more spots in your teens, acne—true acne—is indeed a big deal and a medical issue that requires treatment.
The Down-Low on Acne
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions and even though most of us experience a bout of it at some point in our lives, it’s still not something to be taken lightly. True, it’s not a life-threatening medical condition, but the effect that it can have on a person inside and outside can be permanent.
Acne is made up of a few different types of skin blemishes, and can include any of the following:
- Comedones, which are known as whiteheads and blackheads
- Pustules, commonly known as pimples that are red, sore bumps with white pus at the tips
- Papules, which are small raised bumps that are the result of inflamed or infected hair follicles
- Cysts, which are painful lumps under the skin that are filled with pus
- Nodules, which are large, hard bumps under the skin’s surface
Along with being unsightly and wreaking havoc on a person’s self-esteem, acne can also lead to dark spots on the skin that lasts for months or even years after acne heals and even scarring from acne nodules and cysts, making prevention of severe acne especially important.
Here are a few more details on acne that you might be surprised to learn:
- You can get acne on parts of the body other than just your face.
- Hormones, certain medications, and your diet are factors that can trigger or worsen acne.
- Dirty skin has nothing to do with acne, though kids in grade school likely told you otherwise!
- Scrubbing the skin too hard, over washing, and using too many chemicals can make acne worse.
- Greasy foods and chocolate ARE NOT to blame for causing or worsening acne!
The first step to treating acne is seeing a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Diagnosing acne may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s more than just a matter of looking in the mirror, seeing some spots and deciding that acne is to blame. There are other skin conditions that can look similar to acne, and even once acne is confirmed, it needs to be staged in order to help choose the right treatment. Grade 1 is mild and Grade 4 is severe.
There is no one-size-fits-all acne treatment and what works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. Sometimes you’ll need to try more than one treatment to get results. The treatment options available range from over-the-counter creams, cleansers, and lotions to prescription drugs and even laser therapy. Here’s a basic overview of the options available:
- Over-the-counter topical treatments. The lotions and cleansers available in stores are used to help exfoliate dead skin cells, dry up excess oil, and kill bacteria. They’re relatively mild, but can cause some irritation and flaking when you first start using them.
- Prescription lotions. Usually the next step when the store-bought acne products don’t work; these stronger topical treatments promote cell turnover and help keep pores from clogging while also killing bacteria. You might be prescribed a combination of topical treatments.
- Birth control pills. Prescribing certain types of oral contraceptives to help treat acne is fairly common.
- Antibiotics. Those with moderate to severe acne often require a prescription for a course of antibiotics to help kill bacteria and inflammation. In the case of those with severe acne that includes deep cysts and scarring cystic acne, Isotretinoin may be prescribed. Again, this is reserved for very severe cases and this is because of the many potential side effects associated with this powerful drug.
- Laser therapy and light therapy. Though costly, these acne treatments are becoming more common. Laser therapy targets the oil glands so that they produce less oil and light therapy attacks the bacteria that are responsible for inflammation. Both treat acne without damaging the skin’s surface and can lessen the appearance of acne scars too.
Some other treatments for acne and scarring can include cosmetic procedures such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion, soft tissue fillers, and skin surgery. These are usually considered a last resort when other methods haven’t worked.
Click here to learn more about acne and other skin conditions.
Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and beauty for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Acne: Symptoms. October 2011. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on April 1, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acne/basics/symptoms/con-20020580
- Acne: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome. American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved on April 1, 2014, from http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/a—d/acne/diagnosis-treatment.