Acne is no fun. Both adolescents and adults alike suffer from having the painful, tender pimples and the drop in self-esteem that accompanies a pock marked face. Even those who diligently wash their face, shower often and use clean linens and towels can find themselves with acne that is out of control.
What Type of Acne do you have?
- Mild acne: Mild acne includes blackheads, whiteheads, or few small pimples. Whiteheads are closed, white bumps that form when the pore is completely blocked. Blackheads are tiny, open dark spots that form when the pore is only partly blocked. Pimples are inflamed bumps that contain pus. They are often caused by clogged pores and develop when whiteheads or blackheads get infected.
- Moderate acne: Moderate acne includes 10 to 40 small raised solid pimples that may contain pus.
- Severe acne: Severe acne includes more than 40 swollen, hard, painful pimples, lesions (open wounds), or cysts. Cysts are closed, pus-filled pockets of skin. Severe acne appears deep inside the skin, and may need immediate treatment to prevent infection or scarring. Scars look like dips or divots in the skin, and may be discolored.
Pubmed has an excellent article on acne. Get informed about acne problems and treatments.
So what then, can one do to treat acne?
There are several types of acne treatment and medication available.
For Those With Mild And Moderate Acne: Those who suffer from typical pimples and blackheads can benefit from several over the counter acne products. I recommend a gentle face wash and spot treatment cream.
- Gentle cleansing with warm water and a mild soap, such as Dove or Cetaphil.
- Applying benzoyl peroxide (such as Brevoxyl or Triaz).
- Applying salicylic acid (such as Propa pH or Stridex).
For Those With Severe Acne: Those who suffer from deeper blemishes, and more painful and aggressive pimples and cysts should try the following:
- Applying benzoyl peroxide.
- Draining of large pimples and cysts by a doctor.
- Applying prescription antibiotic gels, creams, or lotions.
- Applying prescription retinoids.
- Applying azelaic acid.
- Taking prescription oral antibiotics.
- Taking prescription oral retinoids (such as isotretinoin).
Click here for Mayo Clinic’s guide to Acne Treatment.
What Role Do Hormones play in Acne?
Imbalances in hormone levels, in addition to over abundant sebum production, can lead to acne breakouts. This is especially evident in adolescents, where hormone levels have yet to normalize to adult levels, and often in women, who have greater hormone fluctuation than men. Some doctors have offered hormone therapy as a way to treat acne in some extreme cases.
But What About Adult Acne? It can be hard for adults to deal with their acne, as the pimples that still show up after the teenage years are often brought on by stress and require a different kind of treatment than typical teenage acne.
Adult Acne treatments include the following:
- Prescription creams containing retinoids (derived from vitamin A) to help unplug follicles.
- Gel containing 5% dapsone, which is thought to help fight inflammation involved in acne.
- Combination creams that combine the cleansing agent benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics such as clindamycin.
- Birth control pills, like Yaz, which can regulate the hormonal fluctuations that spark breakouts.
- Oral antibiotics, which act as anti-inflammatories.
- A blood pressure medication called spironolactone, which is frequently used off-label to treat acne.
Clear skin, calm mind
Acne is annoying but doesn’t need to be a burden. If the normal acne treatments aren’t working for you, seek the opinion of a dermatologist.
In my practice, I perform an individual complete skin care assessment for each patient to ensure their skin problems are well taken care of. Work with your dermatologist to find a treatment that will work for you! As a doctor, I know that everyone’s body is different and requires personalized attention to deal with problems like acne.
It feels great to have a clear complexion and a resurgence of confidence. Take care of your skin, and you will be rewarded.
Thanks, and best wishes for a happy, healthy life,