Beauty they say is skin deep. When an individual is suffering from acne, the adage stings like anything! The world judges people by their blemish free face. Though many might deny, the fact of the matter is, people are at the receiving end of jibes if their face is lined up with acne, whether mild or severe form. Many have been scarred literally as well as figuratively due to stubborn occurrence of acne.
The superfluous obsession of the world with beauty cannot be changed. However, the acne problem can be treated for a better and confident you.
Believe it or not, acne has been around ever since humans walked the earth. The treatment of acne has been recorded since ancient times. Acne did not spare even the pharaohs and Greeks! The earliest recorded treatment for acne is found in the journal De Medicina by the Roman writer Celsus. The Romans used to bathe in hot sulfurous mineral water to get rid of acne.
Today, acne is treated using allopathic or alternative (ayurved, acupuncture, homeopathy, etc) medicines. Mild breakouts are treated using home remedies, while chronic cases are treated using modern and sophisticated techniques like surgery, laser or blue/red light therapy
The human tendency to treat acne in its initial stage is opting for over the counter medicines, crèmes, lotions or gels. People are advised not to touch the face frequently, washing the face regularly, making changes in diets, and not popping the acne so on so forth. These are not remedies; they are just the routine that needs to be observed. These suggestions do not address the root cause of the acne and hence the treatment is superficial and acne reoccurs within a few weeks.
If the problem persists and is aggravated, professional guidance is sought. Individuals suffering from acne need to bear in mind the fact that no treatment is effective in the short term. Treatments require at least three to four months in demonstrating any outcome.
Remedies for Acne
A dermatologist might suggest any one or a combination of any to treat the kind of acne a person suffers from.
This is an over the counter treatment for mild acne. Products like gels, lotions or crèmes comprising of benzoyl peroxide can be applied on the affected portion twice a day to overcome mild to moderate acne breakouts. An individual can also opt for soap or face wash containing 2 – 10% benzoyl peroxide to prevent new lesions. Benzoyl peroxide as a keratolytic dissolves the keratin that plugs the skin pores and kills the P.acnes thereby preventing new acne from developing.
Benzoyl peroxide being a strong oxidizer does not appear to generate bacterial resistance and thus can be included in low concentration preparations combined with suitable moisturizers to avoid dryness of skin.
A word of caution, benzoyl peroxide bleaches the hair or fabric it comes in contact with, necessitating its careful use. Moreover in excess it might cause skin dryness, irritation and redness.
Topical and Oral Antibiotics
Antibiotics for treatment of acne were introduced in the 50’s of the 20th century. It was found that antibiotics erythromycin, tetracycline and clindamycine killed the bacteria in the blocked follicles. Hence by applying these on the skin surface reduced the occurrence of acne.
The oral antibiotics were introduced at a later stage in the form of either erythromycin or one of the tetracycline like oxytetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline or lymecyline. The down side of this treatment now is that P.acnes has become resistant to these antibiotics and is ineffective as a treatment. The oral ingestion of antibiotics might cause side effects like stomach upset or drug interaction i.e. affects the performance of other medicine a person might be using.
Image Credit: Michaelll
Topical and Oral Retinoids
Topical retinoids like tertinoin, tazarotene and adapalene are known to normalize the follicle cell life cycle and influence the cell creation and death life cycle cells in the follicle lining (source: Wikipedia). It prevents the hyperkeratinization of cells that can create blockages. These retinoids are available only through prescription and are also known to cause facial flushing and an initial acne flare up. Another form of vitamin A – Retinol is used in moisturizers and other topical products and is available over the counter. The side effects observed in it are milder.
Oral retinoids are administered with great caution as it has been proved that it causes birth defects, nose bleeds and liver damage in some cases. Therapy involves the oral ingestion of vitamin A derivative isotretinoin for a period of 4-6 months. The isotretinoin in the oral form reduces the oil secretion of glands, thereby reducing the acne breakout. This drug has longer lasting effects as compared to the anti-bacterial ones. However, the treatment is to be administered under supervision of a medical practitioner due to its known and sometimes severe side effects.
Anti Inflammatory Medicines
Certain anti inflammatory elements like Nicotinamide, Ibruporfen combined with Tetracycline and Mandelic Acid are found to have had a positive effect in reducing acne. The topical use of nicotinamide – a vitamin B3 in the form of a gel has indicated that due to its anti inflammatory nature, acne was reduced as compared to other topical like clindamycin. As per a cosmetic company, it is useful in reducing the skin hyper-pigmentation and fine wrinkles as well as increasing the skin moisture. Another therapy for mild acne involves the use of Ibuprofen in combination with tetracycline due to their anti inflammatory effects. Mandelic acid is also used to treat mild acne in a person.
Dermabrasion and Microdermabrasion
Dermabrasion is the process of removing the skin’s surface layer using abrasion i.e. sanding. It falls under the ambit of cosmetic medical procedure and is generally used to remove the sun burnt skin, scars or dark spots on the upper layer of the skin. Acne in severe cases causes ungainly scars on the surface which can be removed using this treatment. The treatment is provided after putting the patient under general anesthesia as it is very painful. The treatment requires post treatment monitoring as the skin becomes raw and red due to the abrasion. Moreover it works on only surface scars and is ineffective on sunken scars.
Considered a better take on Dermabrasion, Microdermabrasion is a gentler non invasive and natural form of treatment for exfoliating the skin. This is a easier process to eliminate scars, skin lesions, stretch marks and blotchiness of the skin. Fewer sittings are required and it can be used even for the scars formed during puberty.
Severe cases of acne can be treated using surgical procedures done under the supervision of medical practitioners. Cystic acne and boils can be drained using surgical lancing or scars can be removed by a process termed as subcision. In this procedure, the scars that are deeply embeded are removed by separating the surface skin from it. Thus, the blood collects within the affected area eventually allowing the deep scars to even out over the skin surface. This treatment is combined with Microdermabrasion, Chemical Peeling or Laser Resurfacing to smoothen the surface of the skin.
Although laser surgery is commonly used to remove scars, now it is also being used as a procedure to treat the acne itself. Laser treatment is used to burn the follicle sac which grows hair and the sebaceous gland responsible for producing the oil apart from inducing formation of oxygen in the bacteria, thus killing them. The use of laser treatment is still under nascent stage as it might induce hyper pigmentation or dark spots as well as skin dryness. In some cases it was reported that the failure of coolants had caused serious burns in patients.
Blue And Red Light Therapy
This remedy is also in its developmental stages and expensive. This treatment utilizes the visible light therapy to treat mild to moderate acne. Intense violet lights generated via purpose built fluorescent lighting, LEDs or lasers are applied twice a week on the patient. The therapy is based on the premise that the irradiation of these lights helps generating free radicals within P.acnes, which ultimately over a period of time kill the bacteria.
Considered the oldest known remedy for acne treatment, sulphur is used as an active ingredient in crèmes, gels, lotions, face washes to treat mild acne. It is effective as a micro exfoliant and mild antiseptic. It easily penetrates the sebaceous pores and its antiseptic properties help in eliminating infections resulting due to acne.
Apart from the allopathic branch of medicine, many alternative medicines are available to treat acne. Some alternative medicine practitioners promote the use of gels, lotions, face washes comprising of aloe vera, turmeric, papaya or neem to remove mild forms of acne. Tea tree oil has been known as an effective anti inflammatory alternative to kill the P.acnes without excessively drying the skin. In the past calendula was also used in a suspension form as an anti inflammatory agent.
Yet another alternative therapy is detoxification wherein all the impurities of the body caused due to pollution, environment, medicine, cosmetics, diet etc are cleansed.
Opt For Treatments That Suit You
Treatment of acne requires a positive attitude. By patiently continuing on a course of treatment, results are observed far better than the ones that are self medicated. Always consult professionals to acquire the precise treatment for precise type of acne.