Acne is a source of frustration for millions of Americans. One of the most common skin conditions, it can seem like a hopeless journey to clear skin. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be. In honor of Acne Awareness Month, we’re breaking down the top three treatments to help acne-prone skin.
First thing’s first, what exactly is acne? Acne is caused by clogged pores; this clog begins with dead skin cells and sebum oil. Sebum oil is a naturally occurring oil that keeps skin from drying out. When the dead skin cells shed, instead of rising to the surface, the sebum oil keeps the cells trapped in the pore, which leads to bacteria, thus leading to what we call acne. Inside the pore, the bacteria have the perfect opportunity to multiply quickly leading to inflammation. Now, onto the solutions:
Topical Acne Treatments
The most common and most known type of treatment. As the name implies, the product is put directly on the target area. Common topical treatments include benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, retinoids and azelaic acid.
Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid treatments can be bought over the counter and their main function is reducing bacteria on the skin and helping prevent bacterial resistance when used in combination with antibiotics. Additionally, they both contain drying agents to remove excess oil from the skin contributing to acne.
Retinoids, such as tretinoin and adapalene are a bit heavier. The stronger retinol will have to be prescribed, and remember, a little bit goes a long way. These topical creams unclog pores and force skin cell turnover to reveal new layers of skin. Think of these creams as incredibly strong exfoliators. Bonus? Certain retinoids also have the benefit of helping to heal permanent red marks and scars when used over a significant period of time.
Azelaic acid is a perfect in-between product: reducing inflammation and bacteria on the skin’s surface without the harsh resurfacing impacts of a retinoid.
Oral Acne Treatments
When topical treatments fail and aren’t strong enough, we may recommend an oral treatment in the form of antibiotics, birth control, or a retinoid pill.
Antibiotics work by stopping the acne-causing bacteria from growing and then killing it entirely. They also work to reduce redness and inflammation, cleaning out the pores over the course of treatment. Typically it takes 4 weeks before results begin to show. Most commonly, oral acne treatments address deep cysts and nodules that aren’t responding to topical treatments alone. Examples of such oral antibiotic acne treatments include minocycline, doxycycline, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.
For women, birth control pills are sometimes prescribed to treat acne too. The increased estrogen helps to reduce the effect of androgens — the hormones that increase oil production in pores and cause acne to form.
Finally, for the most severe cases of acne, we recommend isotretinoin, a retinoid that is taken by mouth. The strong formula has been shown to clear acne even in the most severe cases that have been resistant to other treatments. However, it can take a few months for results to show up, and the side effects such as sun sensitivity and dry skin may not be the right choice for everyone.
Intralesional Corticosteroid Therapy
Lastly, we can treat acne with injections. An intralesional steroid injection is a monthly treatment that, when injected directly into the nodule or cyst reduces inflammation, swelling and redness.
The shot contains a small amount of a steroid and offers a couple of advantages over topical and oral solutions: First, it is often more effective in treating deep-seated conditions than a topical ointment and second, unlike oral treatments, it only affects the area of skin in which it is injected rather than the entire body.
Still have questions? Don’t worry. We’ll discuss the best treatment for you during your visit. At Boise Dermatology, we’re prepared and trained to help you find your best skin solution. Don’t let insecurity keep you from enjoying your life. Set up an appointment today; we’ll be waiting for your call: (208) 888-0660.