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Do you suffer from acne? It can be stressful and can take a toll on your self-esteem and your social life. Don’t worry though, you are not alone! Millions of Americans suffer from acne, as well as many more people all around the world. Being the number one skin affliction, acne comes in many forms; white and/or blackheads and blemishes. Typically, teenagers are the age group that suffers from acne the most, not just in terms of numbers but also in terms of severity. However, the truth is many adults have issues with acne also. Acne can be very mild and acute or it can be very severe, painful and chronic.
WHAT CAUSES ACNE?
The cause of acne isn’t exactly known. There are theories that changes in hormones during puberty is the main cause of teenage acne. Pregnancy and pre-menstrual changes in women may contribute to acne also, due to the hormonal changes that happen in those instances. Dermatologically speaking, there are two classifications of acne:
- Inflammatory Acne: This acne is characterized by pimples that are swollen or inflamed that create red bumps on the surface of the skin. These bumps are referred to by doctors as “papules.” This type of acne can be more painful.
- Non-inflammatory Acne: Blemishes commonly known as whiteheads and blackheads are both included in this category.
Most people who experience acne will experience both types. Acne can affect any part of the body but typically plagues the face, shoulders, back or chest.
WHAT CAN TRIGGER AN ACNE BREAKOUT?
There are various triggers for acne breakouts. From physical and emotional factors to environmental causes. The following list are some things that may trigger an acne breakout:
- Wearing hats, headbands or other clothing and/or accessories that rub against the skin causing sweat to get trapped and the skin to become irritated.
- Applying make-up that is oil based
- If you live or spend time in a humid climate or area
- Using certain medications like Lithium, Phenytoin and steroidal medications, as well as others.
- Being exposed to excessive dirt and dust
- Hormonal Changes
HOW CAN ACNE BE PREVENTED?
Not all acne can be prevented. Acne caused by hormonal changes and stress cannot be treated with face washes and other over the counter products. Acne flare-ups can be prevented, mostly, if they are caused by environmental factors. Some ways to combat acne before it happens includes:
- Use of oil-free makeup
- Washing your face and body after working out or other activities that cause sweating.
- Wear sunscreen, especially if taking medications that may make your skin sensitive to sunlight.
- Cleanse your face with proper products twice daily.
- Try to avoid excessive exposure to dirt and/or dust.
- If at all possible, keep as much stress at bay.
- To prevent scarring; do not pick or squeeze pimples.
WHAT ARE SOME TREATMENTS FOR ACNE?
As with any other condition or disease, the best treatment is always prevention, this includes acne. If your acne is bothering you, you should see your doctor and based on the cause and the severity, he or she will help you to devise a strategy to help combat your acne breakouts. Many times doctors will recommend certain over the counter cleansers. These cleansers come in many forms such as; bars, foams, liquids, creams and wipes. They also contain one or more of the following active ingredients; Benzoyl peroxide, Sulfur combined or not combined with Resorcinol, and Salicylic Acid. Here is a brief introduction to each of these active ingredients to help you understand how they work and what side effects you may experience.
- Sulfur products: Sulfur based products seem to manage and treat acne by stunting the growth of pimples and easily helping to remove dead skin and oils. Some sulfur products contain Resorcinol or Sulfacetamide. These two active ingredients have been known to cause redness and drying of the skin and in severe cases, skin may begin to peel. Sulfur products must be used very carefully and only for short periods of time, as it can cause scaly dark skin. This scaling and darkening of the skin, typically happens to people with darker complexions, but can happen to anyone. Sulfur products also have a bad odor and terrible texture.
- Benzoyl Peroxide: This active ingredient is the most distributed over the counter treatment, since it treats both classifications of acne. Benzoyl peroxide destroys P Acnes (Propionibacterium). This is a bacteria that is the main cause of inflammatory acne. On top of killing acne causing bacteria, Benzoyl peroxide takes the excess oils from the skin and removes excess oils from the skin and pore clogging dead skin cells. As great and as widely used as this product is, it does not come without its own side effects. The product has the ability to cause extreme skin dryness, a burning sensation (especially in any cuts or sores), and must be carefully used around the eyes, mouth and nose. Also, just like Hydrogen peroxide, Benzoyl peroxide can bleach clothing etc., so it should be handled with care.
- Salicylic Acid: Salicylic Acid slows dead skin cells from clogging pores by falling into hair follicles. This is most commonly the active ingredient in many facial soaps, washes and creams. Although it is relatively mild, Salicylic Acid can still cause redness and/or a burning or stinging feeling.
You must be patient when beginning a regimen for your acne. These skin care products are not magic. However, if you use the above products as directed and do not see positive results after a couple of months, it may be best to seek out the advice of your doctor. He or she may put you on an oral or topical prescription acne treatment. Before doing so, your doctor must be aware of your current medications and allergies, as well as if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is really important that you know and understand the risks, benefits and side effects of taking an acne medication, be it an over the counter wash, cream or wipe or a prescription medication.
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