You know when you have that one pesky pimple that never seems to go away? And then once one pimple goes away, another always pops up and sometimes invites some more of its friends to come and take residence upon your face? Well there is probably a reason for that and unfortunately there isn’t always a quick fix for it.
Let’s start out by defining what acne is and talking about the different types. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, acne is defined as “a disorder of the skin caused by inflammation of the skin glands and hair follicles” while the Oxford dictionary defines it as “a skin condition characterized by red pimples on the skin, especially on the face, due to inflamed or infected sebaceous glands and prevalent chiefly among adolescents.” The main aspect of acne is that glands and hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells.
There are different types of acne which are sometimes referred to as symptoms of acne. According to MayoClinic, the different types are as follows:
- Whiteheads (closed plugged pores)
- Blackheads (open plugged pores)
- Small red, tender bumps (papules)
- Pimples (pustules), which are papules with pus at their tips
- Large, solid, painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin (nodules)
- Painful, pus-filled lumps beneath the surface of the skin (cystic lesions)
A whitehead may occur when the follicle wall bulges producing the whitehead. Blackheads occur when a pore is clogged with bacteria and oil but is open and exposed to air causing the brown appearance. Pimples are red raised spots with a white center that develops when a blocked follicle becomes infected with bacteria and becomes inflamed. The deeper the blockage and inflammation occur in a blocked follicle will lead to the production of cystic like lumps which occur under the skin’s surface. The most common type of acne is Acne Vulgaris, which is the medical term for common acne such as the presence of blackheads, whiteheads, and other types of pimples such as papules and pustules.
There are four main causes of acne which include excess oil production, bacteria, excess activity of a type of hormone (androgens), and as mentioned above hair follicles being clogged by oil and dead skin cells. Since hair follicles are connected to oil glands (sebaceous glands) acne is more like to appear on the face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders since these areas have the most oil glands.
There are different way to treat acne but sometimes a method will work for one person and not for another or it will work on one type of acne but not another. The best thing to do is to give different products a try and if they do not seem to help or if the acne worsens then the best alternative is to see a Dermatologist. Acne medications are supposed to help reduce oil production, fight bacterial infection, reduce inflammation and speed up cell turn over rate to help prevent scarring.
Retinoids and retinoid-like drugs can come in different forms such as cream, gels or lotions and these are mostly used to prevent plugging of hair follicles. Antibiotics are combined with benzoyl peroxide to reduce the likelihood of antibiotic resistance from developing.
Antibiotics can be used along with retinoids and topical antibiotics are not recommended to be used on their own. Antibiotics are used to kill the excess skin bacteria and reduce redness. Azelaic acid has antibacterial properties and is a natural acid found in whole-grain cereals and animal products. This treatment can be as effective as conventional acne treatments and is even more effective when combined with erythromycin.
Salicylic acid can help to prevent plugged hair follicles and is available as face washes and leave on products.
Dapsone gel is also recommended for inflammatory acne as well especially in adult females. Isotretinoin is a powerful oral medication that is used for people whose acne does not respond to any other treatment. People who use this medication need to be closely monitored due to the high risk of potential side effects.
Other treatments such as therapies can be used alone or in combination with medications. Lasers and photodynamic therapy use a variety of light-based therapies to treat acne by using the correct dose of therapy and the correct light source that effectively treats the acne. Further studies are still working on finding the correct balance of each to work effectively but some cases have had success.
Chemical peel is a procedure that uses repeated applications of chemical solutions to help improve acne. The improvement will not last long leading to the need of repeat treatments.
Dermatologists can use special tools to extract whiteheads and blackheads that have not improved with medications. This may lead to possible scarring.
Steroid injections directly into nodule and cystic lesions can be used to help clear up this type of acne. Studies have shown results include rapid improvement and decreased pain but may lead to thinning in the treated area as a possible side effect.
Home remedies that can help with the prevention of acne or can help control mild acne without the use of prescription medications include:
- Washing problem areas with a gentle cleanser
- Protect skin from the sun
- Avoid friction or pressure on the skin
- Avoid touching or picking the problem area
- Shower after strenuous activities
Sometimes what you are washing your face with can cause your acne to worsen. It is important to wash your face twice a day with warm water and either mild soap or a gentle cleanser. It is especially important to avoid products such as harsh facial scrubs, astringents and facial masks because they tend to irritate the skin. Excessive washing of the skin and excessive scrubbing can also worsen acne.
The sun for some people can worsen their acne so it is important to protect your skin from the sun by using a non-oily moisturizer that includes sun screen. Acne medication can also make acne worsen when combined with the sun’s rays.
Friction can also cause acne or worsen already existing acne because the skin is being irritated. It is important to protect your skin from this type of excessive rubbing. Always make sure that helmets are not on too tight because this causes pressure on the skin but also make sure that it is not too loose that it constantly moves around and causes friction in areas such as the forehead.
Touching and especially picking problem areas can lead to infection due to the bacteria on our hands especially if one is picking an affected area after a game. There is probably tons of bacteria inside of sweaty game worn gloves and picking an affected area without washing your hands first is a guaranteed way to transfer an bacteria from the inside of a glove to your face. Picking an affected area can also lead to scarring as well.
Since oil and sweat can cause breakouts due to clogging pores and glands, it is very important to shower after strenuous activities. Not showering can not only lead to acne on the face but also on other areas of the body that produce a lot of sweat. The chest, upper back and shoulders were some of those areas that were mentioned previously.
Acne and acne scars can cause those suffering to feel anxious and may affect their self-image so it is important to talk to someone about how you feel and explore different options to help treat your acne. Stress can worsen acne so managing stress can help to prevent acne from getting worse. If acne is not responding to home remedies or over-the-counter treatments, an appointment with a dermatologist can help with the treatment and management of acne before it progresses and has damage to skin and self-esteem.
For more information, check out this link from The Mayo Clinic where I gathered most of my information: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acne/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20368048