Acne: Information and Skin Care Basics
No one is immune to acne. We’ve all experienced it at least one time in our lives. Rich and poor, famous and infamous alike-acne knows no prejudice.
For one reason or another, pores sometimes become blocked. Natural oils, sweat and dirt become trapped in the pore and acne occurs.
You’re probably familiar with the terms “white head,” and “blackhead.” A whitehead is trapped oil, dirt, and bacteria below the skin’s surface. The name whitehead comes from the visual appearance of this type of acne. When you have a whitehead, your acne appears like a white spot on your body. A black head is trapped oil and bacteria that is partially open to the surface of the skin. This turns black due to the skin’s pigment.
Both blackheads and whiteheads can heal on their own. Blackheads generally last longer because they are slower at releasing their contents. Persons who squeeze or ‘pick’ at their skin cause the pores to rupture. This rupture usually follows with infection and swelling. Although it’s very tempting to burst-the best advice is to just leave the areas alone.
Acne does not just appear on the face. Acne can appear on the back, chest, shoulder and even buttocks. As with facial acne, the exact cause of body acne is unknown.
Maybe you’ve heard your parents tell you that you should avoid that greasy pizza, that chocolate bar or your favorite fried food. Research has found that although these foods are not the best for your health, they are not the reason for your acne.
Some medications such as injected steroids can cause or worsen acne, but most acne is not drug related.
If you’ve noticed that only a certain area of your face and body seem to be plagued with acne-perhaps you should consider your surroundings.
Do you change your pillowcase frequently? If you use a cell phone or telephone frequently, do you clean it regularly? If you use make-up, is it oil free? Are you gently washing your face twice a day every day?
Other skin conditions can also mimic acne.
Acne Rosacea is a rash around the cheeks, nose and chin. Rosacea appears with flushing and generally affects adults in their 30’s and 40’s. Over the counter acne medication does not remedy rosacea; you need to visit your doctor.
Sometimes when we shave too frequently, hair starts to curl and then grow under the skin producing acne. Shaving less frequently and manually removing the hair is the best treatment.
Acne is rarely a serious medical condition, but it can wreck havoc on your self esteem.
Over the counter acne treatments work by drying up the oil, killing the bacteria and help to remove and exfoliate dead skin cells. These treatments usually contain small amounts of benzoyl peroxide, sulfur and salicylic acid. If your acne does not respond to these treatments (it can take several weeks to notice improvement) you can visit your dermatologist and receive stronger lotions. Medicated creams like Retin-A and Differin are prescription products derived from vitamin A. Generally more than one product is used to achieve ideal results.
For people with more moderate to severe acne, orally prescribed antibiotics may be used to reduce bacteria levels and reduce swelling. Antibiotic therapy may last for months at a time with conjunction of topical creams.
Accutane is a powerful product used on acne that is resistant and does not respond favorably to other treatments. Accutane can only be obtained from a physician and requires careful monitoring. Women of child bearing age must follow an FDA approved monitoring program. Two negative pregnancy tests must be obtained before the start of therapy. Each month of treatment a pregnancy test must be taken and the month following therapy. Accutane is linked to severe birth defects. Cholesterol and liver enzyme levels must be monitored during the course of treatment also.
Some oral contraceptives (birth control) have been shown to improve the appearance of the skin.
Good basic skin care and discipline have been shown to be the best treatment for acne. Get yourself into a good routine and stick with it.
Irritating the skin has been known to aggravated acne. Over washing your face also helps induce more oil production so the more you wash, the oilier and acne prone your skin becomes.
Wash your face twice daily, morning and night. Be sure to remove all make-up products for from your face. If you notice acne is prominent around your hairline, consider increasing the frequency in which you wash your hair. Staying away from hats and headbands may also prove to be beneficial.
If you use hair products like hair spray, use caution as to not get the product on your skin. Try to also keep your hair away from your face.
Apply lotions that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid after you wash. Remember that benzoyl peroxide bleaches clothing.
Some believe that the sun helps clear up acne. While the sun is beneficial at promoting vitamin D production in the skin, over exposure leads to skin damage. Sun exposure helps to redden all the skin, making the acne less noticeable. It is not, however, healing the tissue.
Most acne will clear up on its own. It should not be ‘messed’ with. Popping or squeezing at acne only creates more of a problem. When you break open a pimple, all the bacteria is now being spread, promoting even more acne. Bacterium that is on your fingers is being introduced to an already infected area. When you squeeze acne, you’re damaging the pore. This can cause scaring at the pore and pitting.
- Wash your face twice a day, Everyday without fail
- Do not scrub when washing
- Apply an over the counter acne cream after washing
- Wash and watch items that touch your face
- Fight the urge to pick at your face
Acne can be embarrassing but it should not interfere with your life. If you’ve tried the above mentioned suggestions and you’re still struggling with acne, make an appointment to see your doctor.
© Rebecca Pillar 2008