If you or someone you love is coping with acne, then you know the painful impact it can have on emotions, self-esteem and overall health. It’s a common ailment, but that doesn’t make it any easier for those dealing with it.
Almost all of us deal with acne at some point in our lives. It occurs when the pores of the skin become clogged, inflamed and sometimes infected. These clogged pores can result in blackheads, whiteheads or pimples. The good news is that acne can be treated and managed.
Children and young adults between the ages of 12 and 24 years old are more likely to suffer from acne. But acne can be an issue at any age, and no one really knows what causes it. It may be related to changes in hormone levels, especially in teens and women. In addition to hormonal changes, particularly those during menstruation and pregnancy, common triggers are stress, certain medications, foods and cosmetic products. Discovering your triggers is a good first step in your treatment plan.
If your family has a history of acne or your child is emotionally affected by acne, it is especially important to consult a health care professional. MinuteClinic walk-in medical clinics inside select CVS/pharmacy stores can be a great resource for an acne consultation, with convenient evening and weekend hours.
MinuteClinic practitioners conduct a physical exam, gather medical history, and examine the areas of the skin with the most sebaceous glands like the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders. The practitioner will then recommend the right combination of treatment options depending on whether the acne is mild, moderate or severe. This may include over-the-counter skin care products and possibly prescription medications.
Practitioners can help to determine the best personal skin care routine to adopt for your particular situation. Simple skin care best practices and changes in daily habits can make a big difference. The goal is to reduce oil and bacteria, unclog pores, dry up blemishes, and avoid developing drug-resistant bacteria.
Over-the-counter topical medications, available at local retailers, including CVS/pharmacy stores, reduce the amount of oil and/or bacteria in the pores. These products may contain one or more of the following ingredients which work in the following ways:
- Benzoyl peroxide unplugs pores.
- Alpha-hydroxy acid dries up blemishes and causes the top skin layer to peel. Alpha-hydroxy acid is commonly used in skin care products. You’ll find it in some moisturizers, cleansers, eye creams, and sunscreens.
- Salicylic acid dries up blemishes and causes the top skin layer to peel.
- Tea tree oil kills bacteria. You’ll find tea tree oil in some gels, creams, and oils.
Prescription retinoids are topical medications that are first line treatment for moderate to severe acne.These medicines can reduce inflammation and unplug clogged pores. Some examples include:
- Tretinoin (Retin-A, Avita)
- Adapalene (Differin)
- Azelaic acid (Azelex)
If your healthcare professional or MinuteClinic practitioner determines that an antibiotic is needed, he/she may recommend one of the following antibiotics to control the amount of inflammation and bacteria in your pores:
For severe cases of cystic acne, see your dermatologist. They may prescribe oral retinoids such as Isotretinoin (Accutane). Oral retinoids reduce the size and secretions of the sebaceous glands. Due to their risk of serious birth defects, these drugs are not recommended for women who are pregnant, nursing or who may become pregnant.
Prevention Tips and Habits
There are a variety of skin care habits that you can adopt to prevent flare-ups and improve your skin’s overall health. Make these a part of your daily routine:
- Wash your face with a gentle non-soap cleanser and warm water twice a day to remove excess oil. Wash no more than twice, because washing too often can make acne worse.
- Be gentle and don’t scrub your face! Scrubbing can make acne worse. It’s best to use your hands rather than a washcloth.
- Let your face dry completely before applying any lotion.
- Try not to touch your face and never pick or squeeze blemishes. This habit can cause permanent redness and scarring.
- Use lotions, soaps, and cosmetics labeled non-comedogenic and oil free. These products will not clog your pores.
- Avoid the sun if you are taking certain medications. Check with your health care provider to learn more about sun safety while on medication.
- Spend time identifying sources of emotional distress and make a plan to limit them. Stress is a known cause of acne.
Remember that acne treatments can take weeks or even months to show improvement. Sometimes your skin may actually appear to get worse before it gets better. Just keep at it and remember that the results – beautiful, healthy skin and improved self-esteem and health – will be well worth it.