What causes acne?
Acne appears when a pore in our skin clogs. This clog begins with dead skin cells. Normally, dead skin cells rise to surface of the pore, and the body sheds the cells. When the body starts to make lots of sebum (see-bum), oil that keeps our skin from drying out, the dead skin cells can stick together inside the pore. Instead of rising to the surface, the cells become trapped inside the pore.
Sometimes bacteria that live on our skin, p. acnes, also get inside the clogged pore. Inside the pore, the bacteria have a perfect environment for multiplying very quickly. With loads of bacteria inside, the pore becomes inflamed (red and swollen). If the inflammation goes deep into the skin, an acne cyst or nodule appears.
How do you treat acne?
Today, there are many effective acne treatments. This does not mean that every acne treatment works for everyone who has acne. But it does mean that virtually every case of acne can be controlled.
People who have mild acne have a few blemishes. They may have whiteheads, blackheads, papules, and/or pustules (aka pimples). Many people can treat mild acne with products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid and often clears the skin. This does not mean that the acne will clear overnight.
Despite some product’s claims, acne treatment does not work overnight. Treatment for acne requires 4-8 weeks to see improvement. Once acne clears, you must continue to treat the skin to prevent breakouts.
Most acne treatments are applied to the skin. This is called a topical treatment and many types are available. Some topicals help kill the bacteria. Others work on reducing the oil. The topical medicine may contain a retinoid, benzoyl peroxide, antibiotic, or even salicylic acid.
Procedures that treat acne:
There are several options for acne treatments. Each one has a specific job and can help improve acne by speeding up the process that topical treatments can do. Instead of waiting 4-8 weeks for your topical to improve your skin, these treatments can help you see results within 3-7 days. However, not one treatment will “fix” your skin. A series is typically recommended until your topicals can take over the job and provide maintenance.
- Chemical peels: You cannot buy the chemical peels that professionals use. Professionals use chemical peels to treat blackheads, papules, and some nodules. In my skin care practice, I use salicylic acid at strengths between 20-30%. Chemical peels help by reducing inflammation and killing the bacteria that causes acne. In this process, it will also “eat away the glue” that holds your skin cells together, called desmosomes. By doing this, it triggers your skin to develop new skin at a faster rate to repair the “wound” caused, revealing healthier and clear skin. The main goal when performing chemical peels for treating acne is not to actually make the skin peel, but to kill the bacteria and reduce inflammation.
- Microdermabrasion: A technician uses a machine to rapidly discharge super-fine crystals onto the skin’s surface, removing the outermost layer of the skin (stratum corneum). The crystals are then vacuumed away. The treatment is not painful, and there is no recovery time. It is best for those with non-inflamed acne, many blackheads and/or whiteheads.
- Acne removal: Extracting blackheads and some pustules (very gently), will help remove the acne faster so that the products and topicals can do their job better. And of course, provides instant results. Sometimes this can cause mild inflammation and a mild over the counter hydrocortisone may be recommended.
- High Frequency: The safe and gentle oscillating and oxygenating power of high frequency electrical current has been shown to enhance blood circulation, increase collagen and elastin production, eliminate toxins and acne-causing bacteria, encourage lymphatic drainage, exfoliate dead skin cells and improve skin care product absorption. Typically this is something that is added on to one of the above treatments as adjunctive therapy.
When to involve a Doctor or Dermatologist:
When consistent and persistent cystic acne is causing early signs of scarring. The reason for this is the fact scarring is permanent. Internal treatments that doctors prescribe can help at a much faster rate reducing that possible chance of lifetime scars. In most instances, other than prescribed Isotretinoin, topical, oral, and physical treatments work extremely well together to improve and maintain acne.
Medicine that works throughout the body may be necessary when you have red, swollen types of acne. This type of treatment is usually necessary to treat acne cysts and nodules that are consistent and cause scarring. A dermatologist may prescribe one or more of these:
Antibiotics (helps to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation).
Birth control pills and other medicine that works on hormones (can be helpful for women).
Isotretinoin (the only possible cure for acne).
There is not one single way to treat acne!
Everyone is different. Everyone has different oil production. Everyone reacts to products differently. Sometimes, we don’t get it right from the get-go. But I am determined to help. I am ready to hold your hand, listen to you tell me how frustrated you are, and direct you to the best possible solution. If a doctor or dermatologist needs to be involved, I will tell you so.
ACNE IS FRUSTRATING! Without treatment, acne can cause permanent scars, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. To avoid these possible outcomes, dermatologists recommend that people treat acne. When the skin clears, treatment should continue. Treatment prevents new breakouts. My goal is to help you get as clear as possible and I will absolutlely tell you when you no longer need to treat acne to prevent breakouts.
Stay Tuned! I am excited to go into more detail!