Acne – Treatment and Tips (The Complete Guide to understanding Acne)
Acne (Acne Vulgaris) is commonly called Pimples in ordinary speech. It is an inflammatory disease caused when the sebaceous gland (found in the hair follicle) which produces oil or ‘sebum’ get blocked. There are many reasons for this blockage, but the result is the same, Bacteria build up, which may result in a break out that we see as acne or pimples.
Are you suffering from acne? Have you been let down by all the home remedies? Have you been desperately surfing the net for something that might help you?
You are at the right place.
Let us show you the right approach to treating acne (the actual medical treatment). Our experts have prepared this article for you. Read on.
If you need help with treating acne, please feel free to contact us. At Kalpana Aesthetics our experts analyse your face and provide you with a customised treatment plan.
Introduction and Fast Facts
- Acne or Pimples is a common skin problem, with up to 85% of people suffering at some point in their lives.
- Whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, cysts, and nodules are all different types of acne.
- Although It is commonly found in young age and resolves soon after, around 20% suffer for the rest of their lives.
- Most people afflicted with acne will have mild indications with occasional acne breakouts whereas only a few will have much more severe acne problem.
- It is also not necessary that only people with oily skin will suffer from it.
- It is crucial that acne treatment is given effectively and as early as possible to prevent acne marks or scars.
What is wrong with my skin? (simplest explanation ever)
On enough magnification, we see that the skin-surface has numerous pores. They are like tunnels lined by skin cells through which fine hair emerge. Tiny Oil-secreting glands aka Sebaceous Glands, are present near these pores and empty into it. The oily substance produced by these sebaceous glands is called sebum. Sebum keeps our skin soft and helps to retain moisture.
To keep the long story short, the main problem causing all types of acne is that these sebaceous glands get blocked, and sebum starts to collect inside them.
Unlike popular beliefs, these pores do not get blocked by dirt or anything. Genetic factors play a significant role in over-multiplication of skin cells that line the insides of the pores and clog them. Different additional factors like male hormone levels, high sugar diet, milk products, a few medications, and comedogenic makeup material may trigger changes in the already affected cells resulting in acne.
Understanding the different types of acne(in simple terms)
- A blocked pore is called a Comedo(plural Comedones).
- When the blockage is beneath the skin, it becomes a Whitehead Comedo.
- Blackheads are formed when the blockage extends all the way to the external pore. As the name suggests these are black in colour, but that black part is not dirt it is made up of dead skin cells mixed with oxidized oils.
- The collected sebum is a good source of nutrition for the skin bacteria which start multiplying rapidly. As a result, our body mounts an inflammatory response. This is the stage where tender or itchy red bumps aka pimples or zits appear.
- Over time pus collects inside forming nodules. These enlarge to become pustules which discharge on the outside.
- Sometimes a pustule does not break and gradually resolves into a cyst.
Not everybody develops severe acne. Most of the people have milder forms which show sudden episodes of increased activity.
What causes acne(for sure)?
Heredity (Genetic Makeup)
It’s time you realised you were born with it. So the most important cause is Heredity. Yes! Acne runs in families, if any of your parents or siblings had acne there is a very high probability that you might have too.
Acne is the result of unwanted skin cell activity that is genetically determined. That said, it is also important to understand that many factors exacerbate acne. These may not hold universally true as some of these factors are more damaging to some while other people hardly show any adverse effects to those particular factors.
Increased male hormones or increased susceptibility of the skin cells to the normal circulating male hormones can exacerbate acne. Usually, this occurs at puberty, that’s why we see so many teenagers with eruptions. But most of them resolve within a few years as the hormonal axis stabilises. Some women show cyclic changes in acne synchronised with menstrual cycles. Hormonal imbalance can also happen in many diseases such as PCOS or because of steroidal medications. Yet again hormonal excess may be genetic in origin.
Oral or injected steroids used to treat a disease or anabolic steroids used by bodybuilders, medications containing Lithium, Iodides, and Bromides may trigger acne.
All those factors which can physically block the pores have the potential to exacerbate acne like comedogenic makeup, headbands, helmet straps, etc.
Factors that may or may not cause acne
The role of diet in worsening acne is still unclear. Foods with high glycemic index (i.e., foods which release sugars quickly) may increase acne in some. A prevalent myth is that greasy food contributes to acne, but recent scientific research doesn’t support this hypothesis. On the contrary sugary foods may worsen acne, so you may want to keep a check on that sweet tooth.
Milk and milk products contain hormones that are androgenic. Some people find their acne clears as soon as they stop consuming milk products. Other people may not be so lucky.
Oil-based cosmetic products and cosmetic products containing small particles can physically block the pores. Some may also contain chemicals that alter the skin-cell function. But the point to note is that not all cosmetic products cause acne. Technological advancement and research have brought in a lot of newer acne proof gel-based products. It’s a good idea to choose your products carefully especially if you are prone to acne eruptions.
Contrary to common logic dirty skin won’t result in increased acne. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to remain clean and sparkling. But going overboard and scrubbing your face all day long is a very very bad idea. Repeated trauma caused by scrubbing and chemicals makes the skin more irritable and acne prone.
Stress and anxiety
Intense emotional states like stress and anxiety increase certain hormones that exacerbate acne. Yes, that’s for real.
Treatment and Tips for acne
The most important point, worth a million bucks, is to remember that acne has something to do with your genes. No one can get rid of acne completely. All we attempt to do is regulate the skin cells and eliminate any known factors that might exacerbate the condition. When you think about the treatment, you are looking at a life full of healthy habits and regular visits to your doctor. I know its a bummer, but it is what it is.
The second most important point worth remembering is that all pimples heal with a scar. So your treatment should begin this very moment. Try to prevent pimples in the first place rather than struggle to get rid of the acne-scars later.
Now, Instead of writing a textbook on ‘acne-treatment’ we have summarised the treatment path you need to take right now depending upon the severity of your acne. Followed by some great and practical tips.
Mild Acne – Whiteheads, Blackheads and a few Pimples now and then
Visit your doctor. Yes, you read it right. Even the mildest form of acne requires specialist care. You don’t want it to increase any further hoping that the best home remedy that you are trying will one day produce miracles. Don’t forget all pimples heal with a scar.
Usually, the treatment for mild acne goes like this,
- Clean your face with a mild soap gently twice every day.
- If your face collects oil quickly and you need to look your best use a benzoyl peroxide based swipe gently to wipe your face. These also have antibacterial properties which prevent bacterial buildup.
- Check out the tips below to change your lifestyle.
Severe Acne – Mild acne plus the continuous presence of pimples. New ones appear before the old ones heal properly
Anything more than a single blister is to be considered severe. Not because it is life threatening but because it has the potential to scar your face forever which is a good enough reason to be concerned and warrants an urgent visit to your doctor.
Usually, the treatment involves oral medications, prescription ointments, and a simple, healthy lifestyle.
- You need to follow the steps outlined for mild acne.
- Take the prescription medication your doctor has prescribed, which usually includes antibiotics to control active infections for up to a week.
- Prescription medication may also include isotretinoin to check skin cell activity. But be careful to discuss any other medical condition you may be suffering from. Some drugs are not safe in pregnant females. Talk to your doctor about it and never use prescription drugs without medical supervision.
- Cosmetic treatments such as superficial chemical peels and laser / IPL treatment can help regulate skin cell function and reduce bacterial load aiding quick recovery.
Very severe acne – you know when you see one.
You are in pain, and we hope you are already sitting at your physician’s office right now.
Your treatment will involve lots of medicines and an overly anxious doctor with an ‘Omg’ expression on the face. Trust us; medication is the only answer. Stay miles away from home remedies; they have already lost.
Your treatment would more or less go like this.
- You need to follow the steps outlined for mild acne as well as some special ones suggested by the doctor.
- Prescription Antibiotics for up to a week. Prescription Tablets of Isotretinoin for a few weeks. Use it religiously; it is essential.
- Quite a few ointments to be applied on your face. Each one using some unique technique definitely at some odd hour of the day.
What the doctors aim is to bring your acne down to a less severe stage, then actively use cosmetic techniques such as chemical peels or lasers to accelerate healing and hope to minimise scarring.
Acne treatment takes time and a lot of effort on your part. There are no overnight solutions or magic treatments. Be patient.
Some great Tips for a healthy, acne free skin
What is a good basic skin regimen?
Clean your face two times a day with a mild soap. Be gentle and do not scrub. Wipe excess oil gently with an acne wipe whenever need be.
Acne skin is damaged skin which needs moisture to heal and regulate proper cell function. Use a moisturiser as advised by your esthetician. Use only a gel based or water based non-comedogenic makeup.
Cleansing and hydration are the two most important steps. But If you have a couple of pimples, you may also need to apply spot creams overnight. Be in touch with your doctor.
Do’s and don’ts of acne management
- Never burst your pimples. It will leave an ugly scar.
- Wash gently with soap and apply topical ointment as directed by your doctor.
- Don’t touch your face too often. Your fingers aren’t always clean.
- Wash your hands before applying any lotions or ointments or even makeup over your skin.
- Use Spa and exfoliation services sparingly especially if you have an active infection. First, they directly damage your skin and second non-medicated treatments may result in cross infections worsening acne.
- Clean your spectacles regularly as they collect sebum and skin residue.
- If you have acne on the back, shoulders, or chest, wear loose clothing.
- Avoid tight garments, such as headbands, caps, and scarves, or wash them regularly if used.
- Choose makeup for sensitive skin and avoid oil-based products. Always remove makeup before going to sleep.
- Keep your hair clean dandruff free. Small particles of dandruff that settle on your forehead and face contain bacteria and fungi.
- Your cell phone is not as clean as you would want it to be. It is likely to have sweat, sebum and skin cell residue. Hold it away from your cheeks.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure. Use a gel based sunscreen.
- Meditate! Avoid anxiety and stress, as it can increase production of cortisol and adrenaline, which exacerbate acne.
- Exercise helps counter stress. Exercise helps the skin by increasing blood circulation. Just remember to take a quick shower right after that.
- Sleep well, an adult requires 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily. Each hour of lost sleep increases psychological stress by 10%. Lack of sleep also weakens your immune system.
Dr. Vishal Purohit
Cosmetic & Plastic Surgeon