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Acne can be a painful condition, both physically and mentally. Many people suffer from acne for much longer than necessary because they misunderstand the causes and end up treating their skin incorrectly.
In this article, Dr. Zhu reviews the causes of acne, as well as several great treatment options. She also discusses how to treat leftover scars after your skin is clear.
What Causes Acne?
Acne is a multifactorial condition, but the primary cause is hormonal changes. Many people get blemishes for the first time around puberty. Rises in testosterone, a hormone in both males and females, drives excessive sebum (oil) production.
When excess oil gets trapped in a hair follicle, it’s called a comedo. Bacteria called C. acne (formerly called P. acne) flourish inside a comedo, creating pressure and inflammation. Comedones can be open (blackheads) or closed (whiteheads). If the follicle breaks from too much pressure build-up, it can turn into a larger acne cyst.
First Steps to Treating Acne
Before prescribing a treatment, Dr. Zhu assesses the type of acne that you have as well as the severity. Small, plugged pores (comedones) that exist primarily on the forehead or T-zone react well to topical treatments. Typically, oral antibiotics are not necessary for treating this type of acne.
If your blemishes are partially or primarily pustules, which present as common zits and whiteheads, you may benefit from oral antibiotic treatment. Large, acne cysts also respond well to oral antibiotics.
Monthly hormone fluctuation due to your menstrual cycle is another common cause of acne. If your acne is hormonal, your dermatologist may use prescription birth control or a medicine called spironolactone. The goal of hormonal treatment is to balance the female hormones estrogen and progestin and to reduce male androgens.
The regimen that you use will depend upon your skin and your personal preferences. Some people aren’t interested in taking oral antibiotics or oral medicines of any kind. You and your dermatologist will work together to determine the right course of treatment.
The backbone of Dr. Zhu’s acne regimen is prescription topical retinoids like Retin-A. Retinoids work by normalizing the skin’s keratinization process, which helps your body shed dead skin cells that may otherwise clog your pores. Retinoids are also anti-inflammatory, so they reduce the angry swelling around blemishes.
You can also use over-the-counter (OTC) topical medications for mild acne. Differin gel, from the drug adapalene, is a sibling to Retin-A. It works well for small plugged pores and occasional breakouts. The drugstore is also full of products that contain benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. OTC topical products can work well for mild breakouts, but severe acne is best treated with prescription-strength medications.
Tetracycline is a common class of oral antibiotic that works by reducing inflammation in blemishes and by reducing C. acne bacteria that is overgrown in comedones. Oral antibiotics work well in conjunction with topical ingredients to clear skin.
If your dermatologist determines that your breakouts are hormonal, he or she may prescribe birth control. Using birth control for hormonal breakouts is very effective and safe.
The estrogen in the birth control pill increases a protein in the blood that then decreases the amount of male hormone circulating in your body. With less male hormones, your body will produce less pore-clogging sebum.
Another great oral treatment for acne is spironolactone. It works by reducing the amount of androgens, or male hormones, active on the skin. Because of the way it works, spironolactone is only suitable to treat hormonal breakouts in adult women.
Using Accutane for Severe Acne
For the majority of patients, isotretinoin, commonly called Accutane, will not be the first step in their acne treatment. Isotretinoin is a potent drug used to treat severe acne that has the potential to leave scars and has been resistant to other treatment methods.
Patients must be 12 or older to take isotretinoin because it can cause improper bone development in younger children. Most patients are well into their teen years or older and have failed several other treatments before trying Accutane.
Non-Prescription Acne Treatments
Clear skin starts with a good skincare routine. If you wear makeup or do an activity that makes you sweat, make sure that you wash your face afterward to prevent clogged pores. Triggers like stress and poor sleep can contribute to occasional breakouts as well. The whole body is connected, so general good health can have a positive impact on your skin.
Light therapies are growing in popularity as a way to treat blemishes. Red light therapy can help some people recover from breakouts because the wave frequencies in red light cause damage to C. acne bacteria, which causes your body to produce less C. acne. Light therapy can be a good addition to a full skincare regimen of proper cleansing and topical ingredients.
Treating Acne Scars
Once your skin is clear, you may be left with some scars if your acne was severe. Dr. Zhu recommends different procedures based on the depth and shape of your scars. Treatments like lasers, peels, and microneedling are intended to cause micro-injuries to the skin. As your skin heals, it produces new collagen which plumps and softens the appearance of scars.
Laser resurfacing is an effective smoothing treatment for boxcar scars, but it doesn’t work as well for icepick scars. Brentwood Dermatology uses the Fraxel Repair laser to treat scars and wrinkles. The treatment works by ablating the skin, which means that it destroys and removes unwanted tissue. As the skin heals, scars soften. Also, it reduces hyperpigmentation left behind from severe acne cysts.
Let Brentwood Dermatology Help Clear Your Skin
It may take some time to find the right acne treatment for your skin, but clear skin is possible. Whether your breakouts are mild or severe, we’ll find an effective regimen for you. Schedule your appointment at Brentwood Dermatology today and take control of your skin.
Learn More About Brentwood Dermatology.
The trusted physicians at Brentwood Dermatology can assist you with all of your general, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology needs. If you would like to learn more about our services or schedule an appointment, visit our website or give us a call at (615) 377-3448.