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About Acne

Acne Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Tips

Acne is not life-threatening,  but it can affect your life so much that it can damage your self-esteem and cause emotional distress.  It is the most hated condition of teenagers as they struggle with bodily changes during adolescence.  However, acne problems are not confined to adolescent years, and can occur at any time.

Aside from the embarrassment and pain acne brings especially when severe, both physical and mental, it can also cause permanent scarring overtime when not treated properly.  That is why acne treatment is highly recommended, particularly since now, with several good treatment options available, it is not necessary to walk around feeling embarrassed.  

What Is Acne

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Our skin has tiny holes, hair follicles and pores that can easily become clogged by bacteria, oil, dirt, ingrown hairs, and dead skin cells.  Aside from these causes of blockage, excess hormonal activity, androgens, can also result in acne. 

 

Skin cells, sebum, and hair can clump together into a plug. This plug gets infected with bacteria, and swelling results. A pimple starts to develop when the plug begins to break down.

Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is the name of the bacteria that live on the skin and contributes to the infection of pimples.

When pores become clogged, it leads to the development of pimples, black heads, or white heads.  When this skin condition repeatedly occurs, this is what we call acne. 

Acne problems involve the oil glands and the hair follicles.  It is a skin disease even if it is very common, particularly to adolescents undergoing hormonal changes during puberty.  Three out of four people suffer from acne, though severity of condition varies.  Despite the seemingly normal occurrence of the skin condition, it is still a disease that needs proper treatment. 

Some factors affect the occurrence of acne.  These factors include but are not limited to genetics, stress, reproductive conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women, menstrual cycle, hot and humid climates, hormonal imbalance, use of oil-based makeup, and anxiety.   Regardless of which of these factors influences or aggravates your acne, regardless of the severity, there are treatments available.

Research suggests that the severity and frequency of acne depend on the strain of bacteria. Not all acne bacteria trigger pimples.

Acne Symptoms

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Most of us believe we know the symptoms of acne, feeling they are pretty obvious.  However, symptoms vary depending upon severity, ranging from one small lump or a break out, to a much more severe and angry looking onslaught. 

 

Symptoms include:

  • Blackheads. These are open skin pores that are clogged.

  • Whiteheads. Compared to blackheads, these clogged skin pores are closed.

  • Papules. These are the small, tender bumps that indicate a growing pimple.

  • Nodules. Contrary to papules, these are large, solid, painful lumps beneath the skin surface.

  • Pustules. These are commonly known as pimples, the ones with pus at their tips.

  • Cystic Lesions. Worse than pustules, these are pus-filled lumps beneath the skin surface. 

 

Identifying the above-mentioned acne symptoms is the first step in acne treatment. Acne can be inflammatory or non-inflammatory. It can also spread in multiple types.   Therefore, because untreated it can lead to scarring, you need to seek professional advice to treat severe acne problems. 

Acne Treatments

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Home Treatments

There are many suggested home remedies for acne, but not all of them are supported by research.  And even though acne is not life threatening, because it can lead to scarring, our suggestion is to seek professional treatment if you have anything other than an occasional pimple.

Diet: There are many “old wives” tales about diet and acne, including that it is caused by a diet too high in fried foods, or too high in sugar and fast food  However, none of this has been proven.   It is actually unclear what role diet plays in worsening acne. 

Scientists have found that people who consume a diet that offers a good supply of vitamins A and E and of zinc may have a lower risk of severe acne. One review describes the link between acne and diet as “controversial,” but suggests that a diet with a low glycemic load may help.

What does low glycemic load mean?.  Foods are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100, with pure glucose (sugar) given a value of 100. In general, the more processed a food is, the higher its GI, and the more fiber or fat in a food, the lower its GI.  Once again this is one single review that says this may help.

Tea-tree oil: Results of a study of 60 patients published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology suggested that 5-percent tea-tree oil may help treat mild to moderate acne.

Tea: There is some evidence that polyphenols from tea, including green tea, applied in a topical preparation, may be beneficial in reducing sebum production and treating acne. However, the compounds in this case were extracted from tea, rather than using tea directly.

Professional Treatments

There are numerous professional treatments available, the suitability of which depends upon your skin condition, the severity of your acne problem, your skin type, and how your skin responds to medication. 

 

Here are two of the most common treatments available for acne problems:

1.  Doryx® MPC (doxycycline hyclate delayed-release tablets) 120 mg

Doryx®  MPC is a tetracycline-class antimicrobial indicated as adjunctive therapy for severe acne.  It is  available in 50 mg and 200 mg dosage strengths for a range of dosing options.  Doryx® may be taken with food or milk or on an empty stomach.

The usual dose of oral doxycycline is 200 mg on the first day of treatment (administered 100 mg every 12 hours), followed by a maintenance dose of 100 mg daily. 

Doryx® is an oral antibiotic.  The goal in using an oral antibiotic is to reduce the population of P. Acnes (bacteria) and reduce inflammation.  The dosage will start high and reduce as the acne clears.

 

2.  Fabior® (tazarotene) Foam

Fabior® is a retinoid in a topical foam formulation for the treatment of acne vulgaris in patients 12 years of age and older.

Fabior® (tazarotene topical) is a compound similar to vitamin A.  It helps the skin to renew itself more quickly and may improve the appearance and texture of skin.  It unclogs the pores and prevents black heads and white heads from forming. 

 

Fabior® foam is used to treat acne vulgaris in adults and adolescents who are at least 12 years old

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Most people using Fabior® for the treatment of facial acne will see their condition improve in about 4 weeks, although your condition might look like it is getting worse before it improves.

Acne Prevention and Management Tips

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Here are some common sense tips to help care for your skin if you're prone to acne:

Face Washing: Wash your face no more than twice each day with warm water and mild soap made especially for acne.

 

Treat Your Skin Gently: Do not scrub the skin or burst the pimples because this may push the infection further down, causing more blocking, swelling, and redness.  Avoid popping pimples, as this makes scarring likelier.

Refrain From Touching Your Face:  This just keeps your skin cleaner.  Also hold your phone away from your face, as it is likely to contain sebum and skin residue.

Wash Your Hands Frequently: Once again this is to keep your skin cleaner, especially since we touch our faces unconsciously many times an hour, and of course, wash your hands before applying lotions, creams, or makeup.

Clean Eyeglasses: Do this regularly, including sunglasses.  Glasses, like phones,  collect sebum and skin residue.  And if you are using a face mask, wash it daily.

Wear Loose Clothing:  If acne is on the back, shoulders, or chest, try wearing loose clothing to let the skin breathe.  Avoid tight garments, such as headbands, caps, face masks, and scarves, or wash them daily, if used.

Be Careful With Makeup:  Choose makeup for sensitive skin and avoid oil-based products. Remove makeup before sleeping.

Wash Your Hair Daily: Keep hair clean, as it collects sebum and skin residue.  Avoid greasy hair products, such as those containing cocoa butter.

Stay Out of The Sun:  Avoid excessive sun exposure, as it can cause the skin to produce more sebum.  In addition, some acne medications increase the risk of sunburn.

De-Stress: Avoid anxiety and stress, easier said than done, we know.  Stress can increase production of cortisol and adrenaline, which exacerbate acne.