How to prevent and treat breakouts
The impact of acne on its sufferers is frustration, self-esteem problems, scarring and a lot of time and money spent on the myriad of treatments available. Why all this frustration? There is no single agreed-upon cause or treatment for acne. Though acne is most notably prevalent during adolescence, it does occur in people of all ages.
Acne is when a pore of skin becomes clogged by bacteria, debris and the naturally occurring oil produced within each pore. The plugged pore may remain a blackhead or whitehead, or rupture into an inflamed cyst.
While no single cause is to blame, the contributing factors of acne are:
- Humid / sweaty conditions
- Oily cosmetic products
- Some medications
The treatment and prevention of acne varies as much as the known causes. Conservatively speaking, a broad approach should be used to combat acne. Dermatologists and aestheticians usually recommend a combination of three treatment steps:
Antibacterial treatments include products containing benzoyl peroxide (available in varying strengths), tea tree oil or antibiotics. Products with tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide are widely available, and costs vary from a few dollars to a high-end treatment at around $35. There's also research supporting use of oral antibiotic medication. A newer drug called Soldyne, in a once-daily dose, has been used with success in preventing acne.
The treating of breakouts calls for help from anti-inflammatory ingredients. Helpful spot treatments include ingredients such as zinc or sulfur to alleviate and promote healing of existing breakouts.
Exfoliation steps keep the skin's surface evenly sloughed, stopping dead cells from clogging pores. Treatments include chemicals like retinol, glycolic acid (an Alpha hydroxy acid) and salicylic acid (Beta hydroxy acid), and are available over-the-counter.
A professionally administered therapy called a chemical peel uses strong concentrations of Alpha hydroxy acids, Beta hydroxy acid or trichloroacetic acid to induce the shedding of skin cells. Chemical peels cost around $120 per treatment, and several treatments are recommended for full results.
There are several treatments outside the typical approach, including prescription medicines, professionally administered treatments and home remedies.
Accutane is an oral retinoid prescription medication administered for moderate to severe acne. It works by decreasing the size of oil glands, killing acne-causing bacteria and reducing skin cell build up.
Accutane treatments are usually very successful in permanently reducing acne, however the side effects are considerable. It's known to cause birth defects, so female patients are required to take oral contraceptives while taking Accutane. Other side effects vary and can include extremely dry skin, chapped lips and possibly (although rarely) psychiatric issues.
A common treatment used to reduce acne is, surprisingly, oral contraceptives. Oral contraceptives can work to reduce oil production by controlling the dose of hormones in the body.
Another medical treatment includes Photodynamic (Light) Therapy. A chemical is put on the skin in conjunction with intense light to kill acne-causing bacteria. Multiple treatments are usually required to get desired results. Light Therapy is probably the most costly treatment, running up to several thousand dollars for a full series of treatments. Early results in this newer treatment have proved positive.
In the home remedy arena, several so-called cures exist. A top recommendation includes putting toothpaste on an existing breakout. A do-it-yourself mask recipe using ground aspirin also allegedly works in reducing acne. This is essentially a salicylic acid treatment, as aspirin contains this useful beta hydroxy acid.
No matter which methods are effective at treating acne, all skin professionals say excessive inflammation causes scarring. That is, if not done properly, popping a pimple or unclogging a pore can create scars. Special tools used to gently unclog pores eliminate chances of scarring. To treat existing scars, aesthetic professionals can perform dermabrasion on patients. A series of dermabrasion treatments costs several hundred dollars but may be well worth the satisfaction achieved in the end.
By E Ware