Acne Treatment and Medications 101: The Ultimate Guide
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Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, and with so many patients looking to alleviate this sometimes painful skin ailment, a bevy of products and strategies designed to treat and prevent future breakouts are available. As acne conditions vary, so too do treatments. Not all acne cases will respond to the same types of acne medicine, and it’s important to determine a clean skin regimen and treatment plan that will best work for your skin to avoid long term damage.
Acne Treatment FAQ
Is It Good To Pop Pimples?
Avoid popping your own pimples. This practice can spread bacteria around; instead of getting rid of acne overnight, you may find you simply worsen your breakouts by attempting to pop your pimples. If you find you simply must pop a lesion to get rid of acne fast before a special event, be sure to use sterilized equipment and wash your face and hands thoroughly before and after.
How Do I Make Acne Go Away?
Unfortunately, there’s no overnight cure for acne. In order to properly get rid of acne without damaging your skin, you must practice a daily cleansing routine. Use a gentle acne treatment that effectively fights breakouts without causing damage to the skin.
What Is In Acne Lesions?
It’s important to understand what’s inside those acne lesions to properly treat them. When pores fill up with sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria, the mixture causes inflammation and results in painful pimples.
How Do I Get Rid of Dark Spots from Acne?
The dark spots from acne are actually pigment alterations. Getting rid of dark spots left behind by acne means following essential steps:
- Let time do its thing: dark marks generally fade over time.
- Use sunscreen and avoid excess sun exposure
- Consider chemical peels
- Utilize skin lighteners
- Use daily acne treatment to avoid future scarring
The first part of any treatment plan is diagnosis. Understanding how to treat acne truly starts with understanding acne itself. Many believe they can self-diagnose their acne, but it’s wise to schedule an appointment with a licensed dermatologist.
The Importance of Getting the Right Diagnosis
In order to determine the best type of treatment for your skin, it’s important to have a full understanding of the severity and degree of your individual case of acne. A dermatologist skilled in skin care can help pinpoint the proper treatment to help clear up your skin and alleviate the symptoms and effects of acne, helping you avoid permanent skin damage and disfigurement.
If you’re dealing with mild acne and your skin exhibits only occasional breakouts, you may be able to accurately self-diagnose and treat your skin with BioClarity products. However, if any of the following warning signs are present, it’s essential to make an appointment with a skin care professional or physician as soon as possible:
- Your acne was catalyzed by the prescription of a new medication.
- You’re experiencing severe emotional distress as a result of your acne.
- Your acne has not improved or has grown worse after three months of home care and treatment.
- You have developed scars and permanent marks even after your acne has cleared up.
- Your pimples are larger than normal and filled with foul-smelling fluid.
- You’re experiencing other physical symptoms in addition to your acne.
Diseases that May Cause Acne
Reaching an Acne Diagnosis
During a skin care consultation, a doctor or licensed skin care professional will perform a physical exam, and ask numerous questions about medical history and past and present acne flare-ups. Women will be asked about their menstrual cycles to help determine whether hormones are having a significant impact on the breakouts in question. Certain symptoms and observations made during this exam may indicate underlying health issues that require different treatment plans. If this is the case, a doctor or dermatologist may run a series of tests to rule out any diseases and illnesses that could be causing any skin ailments.
1. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the result of significant shifts in a woman’s hormones. This shift can cause the production of androgens to increase and overwhelm estrogen levels, signaling the production of excess sebum. This hormonal imbalance can result in painful cysts, period changes, infertility issues, heart disease, diabetes, and skin conditions like acne. One research study performed purported that 27 percent of all women struggling with acne also were diagnosed with PCOS. Those with PCOS are more prone to inflammation, which can worsen the severity of acne.
2. Adrenal Hyperplasia
While rare, those with this condition can also often suffer from severe cases of acne. Those with congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia experience an accumulation of adrenal steroid precursors and disrupt the metabolic rate of androgens. This increase in androgens may result in excess sebum, which catalyzes the formation of acne.
Classifying Acne Severity
If your dermatologist does deem your skin condition to be Acne Vulgaris—the medical name for common acne—they will likely assign your specific acne with a grade of severity.
Grade I: This is the mildest grade of acne, and individuals may exhibit comedones (whiteheads and blackheads) and/or small pimples. There is minimal inflammation in Grade I cases of acne.
Grade II: This grade refers to moderate acne that features a higher saturation of blackheads and whiteheads along with a higher number of pimples. Breakouts are more frequent than Grade I acne, and there may be development of papules and pustules.
Grade III: Patients diagnosed with Grade III acne likely suffer from a higher rates of inflammation, leaving the skin tender and often painful to the touch. This severity sees patients with a high number of papules and pustules, and they may also exhibit painful nodules.
Grade IV: This is the most severe grade in acne diagnoses, and individuals with severe acne will exhibit a large number of papules, pustule, nodules, and pus-filled cysts. Severe acne is often observed on varied areas of the body, including the back and chest. This type of acne is the most likely to cause permanent skin damage in the form of scarring and disfiguration if treated improperly.
Mild acne is common, and luckily, generally responds well and quickly to proper treatment. Mild acne can be cleared with gentle cleansing, or with the use of topical treatment options. If this treatment prompts little change, a doctor may prescribe stronger creams, lotions, and other topical options.
Salicylic acid vs benzoyl peroxide has long been a hot topic in the treatment of acne. Salicylic acid is a Beta Hydroxy Acid and has proven to be one of the most effective acne treatments, and a safer option than benzoyl peroxide. It features keratolytic properties, meaning it dissolves keratin, making it an ideal exfoliating ingredient. Salicylic is chemically comparable to aspirin, and can help reduce redness and calm inflammation as pores open up and clear out. When salicylic acid is applied to the skin, it can help break down the fatty compounds found in sebum that can cause pores to clog. BioClarity products contain the highest allowable concentration of salicylic acid to ensure effective acne treatment. This pimple medicine works on plugged comedones by sloughing off dead skin cells and clearing pores.
Sulfur has been used in treating acne for thousands of years, and in the 1950s, it became available in a foam product designed for direct application to the skin. Can sulfur work on acne? Sulfur dries out the skin, consequently drying out and shrinking pimples. It tends to be gentler than Benzoyl Peroxide treatments, and is less likely to dehydrate the skin, which would result in further irritation.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids
AHAs are designed to prevent pore clogging and are commonly used in conjunction with topical treatments like BioClarity. Alpha Hydroxy acids serve as a gentle exfoliator, and can increase the effectiveness of other products.
Benzoyl peroxide is used commonly in over the counter acne treatments, but higher percentages of this ingredient can result in dryness, peeling, and other skin irritation. Depending on acne severity, Benzoyl Peroxide is used in varied concentrations: 2.5%, 5%, and 10%. It’s not recommended that Benzoyl Peroxide be used in conjunction with acne medication to avoid excessive dryness.
In most cases of mild acne, it’s important to wash affected areas of the skin twice daily with products like BioClarity. Our naturally-based skin care products harness the power of Floralux®, a unique, revolutionary formula made up of naturally-derived Chlorophyll and copper. Our three-step process is designed to treat acne by utilizing natural ingredients such as chamomile, cucumber, green tea, and oat kernel extract to help soothe the skin of irritation and dryness. These ingredients result in safer, more effective acne treatment and acne medication, allowing the skin to heal and regenerate from acne lesions without the worry of harmful side effects many chemical treatments can render on the skin.
As moderate acne and severe acne cases are harder to control and treat than mild acne, over-the-counter medications may not be as effective and prescriptions may be required.
Doctors will often prescribe topical prescription medications for qualified acne cases. There are a variety of prescription treatments available, including topical retinoids, topical antibiotics, and combination medications for acne.
Topical retinoids are used in anti-aging efforts, and can speed up the rate of cell regeneration, aiding your skin in sloughing off the dead skin cells at a regulated rate. In some patients, retinoids can also serve as an anti-inflammatory agent, but they have been known to cause irritation when first used.
If you suffer from harsh, inflammatory breakouts, a doctor will likely prescribe topical antibiotics. This is a pimple medicine designed to help reduce P. acnes bacteria that causes inflamed, infected acne lesions. Some studies have purported that use of these antibiotics has made bacteria more resistant to treatment, and it may be that these treatments are less effective than they were in the past.
Combination medications are exactly what they sound like—acne medications that harness the power of two acne-fighting ingredients in one bottle. These are generally made up of topical retinoid or benzoyl peroxide treatments along with topical antibiotics.
If topical treatments are ineffective, doctors may prescribe oral medications for acne. These can help clear up acne breakouts and other skin conditions, but they come with their fair share of potential side effects and consequences.
Oral antibiotics are designed to kill the acne-causing bacteria found within your skin pores. The most common oral antibiotics prescribed for acne treatment are Tetracyclines, which include Minocycline and Doxycycline, and Erthromycin. Like their topical antibiotics counterparts, bacterial resistance may result in ineffectiveness of this treatment regimen so overuse is to be avoided.
Usually only used in severe cases of acne, Isotretinoin is a form of vitamin A designed to reduce the amount of sebum produced by the skin’s oil glands and help the skin renew itself at a faster rate. Isotretinoin has become a bit infamous (under its common name Accutane) after reports of mental health issues and serious medical side effects as a result of this medication hit the media.
This type of oral medication is only useful and appropriate for acne cases in adult women. Spironolactone is not designed for acne treatment, but has proven to clear the skin after long-term use. This acne medicine is actually meant to treat conditions that result from too much aldosterone by preventing the body from absorbing too much salt and regulating potassium levels.
It's important to learn how to prevent severe acne from leaving permanent marks, so check out this guide to treating and preventing acne scars.
Pervasive Acne Myths
While it’s important to understand what causes acne and worsens a current skin condition, it’s also important to understand the things that don’t affect your acne, no matter what you’ve been told. As acne is such a prevalent issue, a plethora of conjectures have been made about the causes and treatments of this skin condition. This has resulted in a wide array of acne myths that hold little to no merit.
Eating Chocolate Causes Acne
There may be a connection between diet and the prevalence of skin blemishes and pimples, but chocolate has gotten a bad rap with no significant studies supporting this anti-cocoa conjecture, so this association might be unfair.
Wearing Makeup Causes Pimples
Makeup products don’t clog up pores and cause pimples, as acne is caused by sebum production that comes from within the skin. While makeup doesn’t necessarily cause pimples, there are products to avoid and much to be said about washing off cosmetics before working out and prior to going to bed.
Sun Exposure Can Clear Acne
While sun exposure may lessen the appearance of inflammation temporarily, repeated sun exposure can cause a host of other skin ailments and actually worsen breakouts.
Blackheads are Caused by Dirt
The dark noticeable tips are not caused by the presence of dirt. Sebum contains melanin pigment, and when it makes contact with the air, it oxidizes, resulting in the dark hue observed in these open comedones. Therefore, washing more rigorously is of no use, and can actually harm the skin even further.
Many mistake these factors as causes for their skin ailments; when changing these habits has no significant impact, frustration and emotional distress can follow.
One thing most dermatologist agree on when it comes to acne treatment: don’t attempt to pop your own pimples or extract your own comedones. Improper extractions can result in ruptured skin cells and the spread of bacteria that can worsen a current pimple and cause the creation of new ones.
Skin care professionals and estheticians with the proper training and equipment can extract pimples. Using sterile devices, these professionals can pull out the hardened material or fluid pus found within a comedo or pimple. After extraction, dermatologists will often apply medicine to the open pore to encourage healing. Even if a dermatologist is able to successfully extract the contents of an acne lesion, there is a high chance of reoccurrence. Those who are elderly, ill, or have used topical steroids in the past should avoid extraction, as skin sensitivity may cause these individuals to be more prone to damage and scarring.
Many women have found birth control to be a great treatment for their acne flare-ups, and dermatologists often prescribe new birth control pills to women looking to alleviate acne lesions. There have been multiple clinical trials that have found certain birth control pills can decrease the frequency of acne breakouts, decrease the amount of pimples present on the skin, and lessen inflammation.
While the last decade has seen an onslaught of new birth control pills and products, according to WebMD, there are currently only three pills that have been approved by the FDA for acne treatment: Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, and YAZ. These three types of pill are considered combination oral contraceptives, which means they contain both progesterone and estrogen.
The combination of progesterone and estrogen hormones can lower the amount of androgens in the body. Androgens are a group of hormones that contain high levels of testosterone, and are responsible for the production of sebum. As androgen levels decrease, the amount of sebum produced does as well. Decreased rates of sebum production can help keep pores unclogged and lessen the incidence of acne. For many women, contraceptive pills are taken in conjunction with topical acne solutions like BioClarity to provide the best form of treatment and clear up the skin.
Studies have come to no significant conclusions about the difference in effectiveness between the three, and they tend to be the most commonly prescribed birth control pills for acne in women that are at least 14 to 15 years old, need contraception, and have already started menstruating.
In contrast, contraceptives that only contain progesterone can actually cause the development of pimples or worsen a pre-existing acne condition. Using particular birth control pills can also result in serious side effects and consequences, including a heightened risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clotting. Other serious complications that may occur include high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, migraines, and mental health issues including depression so it’s important to talk to a doctor about any issues that arise after beginning a contraceptive medication.
Acne scars are a common consequence of this skin condition; almost 95 percent of acne patients will develop some degree of scarring. Luckily, there are many new treatments available to help patients minimize these skin blemishes and rid the skin of unsightly disfigurements.
Dermal injections have become a popular way to treat and alleviate shallow acne scars. There are many dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons performing these injections, and there’s been a significant increase in the number and quality of filler substances used to help decrease the appearance of scars. Dermal fillers may also stimulate the production of collagen, to help smooth the skin even further. While these injections have immediate effect, they also are only temporary, and last around three to 12 months after injection.
Subcision is a minimal surgery during which a dermatologist undermines the acne scar with a sharp instrument, like a scalpel or small hypodermic needle. This helps break down fibrous bands found in scar tissue, effectively cutting the tension between the outer and lower layers of the skin that causes skin indentation. This procedure is also known as subcutaneous incisional surgery.
Chemical peels may be performed at home, with an esthetician, or with a dermatologist, and are one of the most common treatments used for acne scars. The peel is in fact an application of gentle acid on the surface of the skin. The higher the acidity level, the further the peel goes into the skin. Chemical peels allow the underlying layer of skin cells to rise, effectively ridding the skin of acne scars.
Punch grafts are often used to help alleviate the appearance of ice pick acne scars. These types of acne blemishes are characterized by irregular, jagged borders. Dermatologists can excise these scars with a sutured closure. It joins the separated portions of the dermis, ridding the skin of margins and closing a former gaping hole into a fine line. If a slight incision scar is left over, resurfacing procedures may be performed to even further lessen its appearance.
Laser treatments are non-invasive procedures, making them a popular choice for those looking to get rid of acne scars. It’s a quick procedure (performed in a series of sessions) with minimal discomfort and minimal healing time. Laser treatment works by shooting out pulses of intense light that penetrate the skin’s layers. This stimulates collagen production, increases the rate of cell renewal and helps tighten up the skin. There are four general types of laser acne treatment: fractional laser treatment, carbon dioxide laser treatment, erbium laser treatment, and pixilation. A licensed professional can help you determine which type of treatment is best suited to your skin.
Dermabrasion used to be one of the most popular acne scar treatment procedures, but the advent of new technology and strategies has made it somewhat less popular. In dermabrasion procedures, the skin is numbed, frozen, and exposed to a sharp, rotating blade that gently sands off the top layer of the skin’s surface.
Remember that effective acne treatment is a marathon, not a sprint. Some believe that quick fixes found in their medicine cabinet are viable options, wondering to themselves: Can hydrogen peroxide cure acne? or Does sulfur make acne better? In most cases like these, the answer is no. These solutions are short-lived, and can result in worsened breakouts.
While some skin types respond quickly to acne treatments, it generally takes a few weeks or even a few months’ time to see real results. It could be anywhere from six to eight weeks before you see a noticeable change, but consistent care with a product like BioClarity could see your skin more vibrant than ever before. Learn how our treatment works and achieve clear, beautiful skin.
2. There are many treatment options for acne, including topical applications, antibiotics, and contraceptive options.
3. Effective acne treatment for teens and young adults can takes weeks or even months before noticeable improvements are made, and acne breakouts may worsen temporarily upon beginning treatment.
4. There are numerous options available for acne scar treatment, including dermabrasion, laser and light therapies, and chemical peels.
5. Birth control can be an effective treatment course for acne in women, but should be generally used in conjunction with a topical skin care regimen like BioClarity.