As the most common skin condition in the United States, acne affects up to 50 million Americans each year. While often viewed simply as a “rite of passage” that teenagers must endure, acne is a complex skin condition that can have lasting effects on skin and on a person’s self-confidence. Acne can cause a wide range of problems, from clogged pores and pimples to painful cysts and scars. There are many ways to prevent and treat acne, but choosing the right acne treatment can be difficult. Fortunately, an acne dermatologist can help you determine the best acne treatment for your individual needs.
What Causes Acne?
Acne usually develops around puberty and can continue into adulthood. Hormonal changes stimulate the production of oil, or sebum, in the sebaceous glands of the skin. Sebum can mix with dead skin cells and bacteria to clog skin pores, which leads to the formation of blackheads, whiteheads, red bumps, pustules, and cysts of acne.
The severity of acne breakouts can vary from person to person, and even from breakout to breakout, ranging from the occasional pimple to constant, painful cysts. Severe breakouts can even lead to long-term scarring of the affected skin.
Whether mild or severe, acne and the blemishes, discoloration, blotchiness and scars it causes can be a significant source of embarrassment and distress – particularly during adolescence.
Acne typically fades in early adulthood, as hormones level out and stabilize. For some, though, the acne breakouts continue well into their 20s, 30s, 40s, or even longer. This is particularly true for some women whose sebaceous glands are more sensitive to hormonal shifts. These women may experience worsening acne during their menstrual period, pregnancy, while taking hormonal contraceptives, or during times of stress. Certain medical conditions, such as polycystic ovaries, can also trigger acne breakouts.
Types of Acne
There are two main types of acne: non-inflammatory acne and inflammatory acne. Each can cause different skin problems. It is possible to have more than one type of acne.
Non-inflammatory acne includes blackheads and whiteheads, but it does not usually involve inflammation. This type of acne responds well to over-the-counter treatments, such as cleansers, toners, and moisturizers. Non-inflammatory acne responds especially well to products that contain salicylic acid, which naturally exfoliates the skin and removes dead skin cells that contribute to acne.
While sebum and dead skin cells contribute to inflammatory acne, bacteria also play a role in clogging pores. Bacteria can also infect tissue deep beneath the skin’s surface to cause painful acne spots. Inflammatory acne can be difficult to treat with over-the-counter products.
Inflammatory acne can cause:
Papules – hard, clogged pores that are tender to the touch, and surrounded by pink skin
Pustules – red, pus-filled bumps that come out from the skin; may have yellow or white heads on top
Nodules – located deep underneath the skin, nodules occur when clogged, swollen pores become larger and more irritated; this type of acne is difficult to treat at home
Cysts – occur when bacteria, sebum and dead skin cells clog poor deep within the skin to cause large red or white bumps that are painful to the touch; this type of acne is the most likely to cause scars
How to Prevent Acne
The primary goal of acne prevention is to maintain clear, healthy skin.
You can take the following steps to prevent acne:
- Wash your face once to twice daily to remove excess oil, dirt and sweat; use a mild cleanser and your fingers, rather than a washcloth
- Determine your skin type; oily skin is prone to pimples, for example, while combination skin is prone to oily skin in the “T-zone” of your forehead, nose, and chin
- Moisturize your skin
- Use over-the-counter products
- Stay hydrated; your skin may respond to dehydration by producing more oil
- Limit makeup, as it can clog pores
Skin Treatment for Acne
A wide variety of treatment options is available for all types of acne.
The best acne treatment for one person, though, may not be the best for another person. Washes and creams may work for some people, for example, while others require dermatologist acne treatment to avoid acne breakouts. Acne sometimes responds well to acne medication that includes short-term oral antibiotics, hormonal acne treatment, or non-hormonal anti-androgen therapy. Especially stubborn or severe acne may require professional dermatology treatment with isotretinoin (Accutane), skin peels, red light therapy, blue light therapy, and laser.
Our dermatology providers can also provide treatment for the effects of acne, such as red and brown discoloration, and for acne scar removal. Acne rosacea treatment may be appropriate for those who have acne and rosacea, which is a skin condition that can cause redness and visible blood vessels.
Cystic acne treatment may include hydrocortisone cream to reduce redness and inflammation. Blue light acne treatment kills the bacteria that cause acne. Acne dark spot treatment addresses discoloration that often accompanies acne.
Acne laser treatment uses the power of light energy to ease the appearance of pimples, cysts, and more. Acne laser treatment cost is more affordable than you might think, especially when you consider the long-term effects acne and its scars can have on your skin and on your self-confidence.
How to get rid of acne scars
Our dermatologists can also provide acne scar treatment and acne scar removal. An acne treatment center with access to state-of-the-art equipment offers laser treatment for acne scars.
For more information on acne conditions and treatment options, consult with one of our providers at Center for Dermatology & Laser Surgery. You can have the clear, radiant skin you have always dreamed of.