Acne is a skin condition that appears in a number of forms, such as comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), papules, pustules, nodules and cysts.
Acne is caused by excess sebum, an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands. Sebum hydrates the skin and keeps it supple.
When the sebaceous glands produce too much sebum, it accumulates in the skin’s pores. Sebum mixed with dirt on the skin then plugs up the pore.
Clogged pores can become infected with bacteria, which leads to inflammation (showing up as redness and swelling) and causes acne.
The face and neck are where acne tends to flare up the most. The shoulders, back and arms are other acne-prone areas of the body.
Several factors may make you more prone to getting acne:
Medications that can cause or worsen acne
Some oral contraceptives
Anti-rejection drug for organ transplants
Contrary to popular belief, no scientific studies have shown a link between acne and eating chocolate or fatty foods like French fries or potato chips. However, you should still adopt a healthy lifestyle and eat a healthy and balanced diet.
By avoiding acne triggers and adopting the following daily skin care routine, you can better control your acne.
Shave your beard in the direction of hair growth, and use a new blade each time. Don’t shave the same area more than once.
Acne needs to be treated as soon as it appears so that you can better control it and prevent long-term complications, such as scarring.
Mild acne can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications, whereas more severe acne requires a doctor’s prescription.
The most effective OTC medication is benzoyl peroxide. It works by killing bacteria. It should be applied to the entire affected area to prevent new pimples. You should start the treatment gradually to reduce any possible irritation. This product makes the skin sensitive to the sun(lien à la fiche sur la protection solaire) and can discolour clothes and hair. You should see an improvement after 4 to 8 weeks of regular use. However, if you don't see any improvement after 6 to 8 weeks, you should consult a doctor.
Other OTC products, which contain salicylic acid or resorcinol, are much less effective.
Two types of topical medications (i.e., medications applied locally to the skin ) are available with a prescription: vitamin A derivatives (retinoids) and antibiotics. These products are sometimes combined with benzoyl peroxide to increase their effectiveness. They decrease skin inflammation, and retinoids may also assist in the skin’s healing process. They need to be applied to the entire affected area, and treatment must be started gradually. Note that your acne may also get worse at the start of treatment. As with benzoyl peroxide, it can take up to 8 weeks of regular use before you see an improvement.
If these treatments don't work or if your doctor feels that you need a more aggressive treatment, he or she may then recommend oral antibiotics. These are more effective than topical antibiotics, and they act by killing bacteria in the skin . However, they may cause gastrointestinal side effects (e.g., nausea or diarrhea).
For severe acne, the most effective drug is isotretinoin (AccutaneTM or ClarusTM). However, this medication may cause birth defects and many adverse effects. It really dries out the skin, eyes and mucous membranes (mouth and genitals). It can also change liver function and cause headaches and muscle pain. For some people, it can also cause mood changes or, in extreme cases, depression. Isotretinoin is therefore only used for the most severe cases and when other treatments have failed. It is taken in cycles , which can be repeated after periods of cessation. This medication requires close monitoring by your doctor.
Low-androgen index oral contraceptives can also help treat acne in women, but this type of medication can take up to 3 to 6 months to be effective.
Your skin is a barrier that protects you from the outside world. You need to take care of it, especially when problems like acne flare up, as this condition can leave permanent scars. If you suffer from mild or severe acne, see your pharmacist for advice.