Acne: Causes, Treatment, and Tips

Health and Fitness

The human skin has tiny holes called pores. These pores are spaces through which the skin breathes and absorbs essential vitamins and minerals. Something, these pores getsblocked due to the presence of excess oil, dead skin cells, bacteria, and dirt. When this happens, you develop a zit or otherwise commonly known as a pimple, whitehead or blackhead. If you repeatedly develop these zits, you have acne. The condition is mostly common amid teenagers, and usually affects the face, forehead, chest, shoulders and upper back portion of the body.

As a common condition affecting nearly three-fourth of the population, scientists and physicians, over the years, have developed effective medications and ointments to treat acne. However, it is equally important to note that it’s a reoccurring condition and taking care of your skin is the only way to keep acne away.

Causes of Acne

As mentioned acne occurs when skin pores get jammed or blocked with oil, dirt, dead skin, or bacteria. Each pore present on the skin is a home to a follicle, which is, in turn, made up of a hair and a sebaceous gland (or the gland that stores oil). The gland releases sebum or oil, which travels to the skin via the pore and keeps the skin soft, lubricated and nourished. But, when this mechanism gets disturbed due to some unexpected reasons, acne develop.

Acne is usually caused by one or a combination of the below mentioned lubrication problems.

  • Presence of excess amount of oil in the pores
  • Accumulation of dead skin cells in the pores
  • Bacteria build up in and around the pores

In addition to these, excess activity of a particular hormone (androgens) can also cause acne. Whiteheads develop when the follicle wall bulges out. Blackheads, on the other hand, develop when the pores get congested with bacteria and oil, which, when exposed to the air, turn blown in color. Pimples are red spots with white centers that typically develop when follicles become inflamed or get infected by bacteria.

Symptoms of Acne

The signs and symptoms of widely vary from one person to another and the severity of their prevailing condition:

  • Whiteheads
  • Blackheads
  • Small red, tender bumps
  • Pimples which are full of pus at their tips
  • Large, painful,and solid lumps present beneath the skin’s surface (nodules)
  • Pus-filled, painful tiny masses of lumps present beneath the skin’s surface (cystic lesions)

Diagnosing Acne

Diagnosing acne is quite easy. If you have whiteheads, blackheads or pimples which do not go away for a long time, you have acne. Consulting a physician to understand the severity of your condition and whether or not they can be treated through over-the-counter pills or ointments is important.

Treating Acne

At-home care

Though a kind of skin condition, acne can be easily treated at home by undertaking a number of self-care activities. Some common and most effective home remedies to treat acne include:

  • Washing your face with a mild soap or face wash every now and then to remove excess dirt and oil.
  • Shampooing your hair on a regular basis
  • Avoiding using makeup that contains oil. Instead, use water-based makeup or the one labeled as “non-comedogenic”
  • Removing makeup and cleaning your skin thoroughly before you hit the bed
  • Avoiding wearing tight-fitting clothing
  • Eating a healthy diet that has minimal amount of refined sugars
  • Showering after exercising
  • Not wearing tight headbands
  • Not touching areas covered with pimples, blackheads and whitehead
  • Moisturize your skin with aloe vera – one of the best ways to treat acne.
  • Scrubbing your face once a day, as it’s highly fruitful in removing blackheads and whiteheads.
  • Applying honey and cinnamon mask every now and then.
  • Not pricking or squeezing pimples, as it can spread the bacteria and excess oil across the skin’s surface.

Medication

If in case the above mentioned home remedies do not work their magic, turn to over-the-counter acne medications. Consult your physician and ask them to recommend you a good ointment or pills which can treat your problem.

Most acne medications available in the market today contain ingredients that help kill bacteria, open pores and remove excess oil present on the skin. These medications are as follows:

  • Benzoyl peroxide – The chemical is an essential ingredient present in maximum acne creams and gels. The chemical helps in drying out pimples and preventing new ones from surfacing. Benzoyl peroxide also aids in killing acne-causing bacteria.
  • Sulfur – It’s a natural ingredient with a distinctive smell found in many acne treatment skin lotions, masks, and cleansers.
  • Resorcinol – An essential ingredient majorly used for removing dead skin cells and opening pores.
  • Salicylic acid – It’s typically added to soaps and acne washes. Salicylic acid aids in preventing the pores from blocking or bulging out.

While most over-the-counter medications, ointments and soaps are quite effective,if your acne condition still persists i.e. you continue to experience symptoms, it’s best to get tested. You may have an underlying condition which may be causing acne to develop again and again.

Some medications which are known to reduce acne symptoms and prevent scarring include:

  • Oral or topical antibiotics – These are special medicines designed to kill bacteria that cause the outbreak of pimples and reduce inflammation. Antibiotics are typically prescribed for a short duration of time, for say three days, so that your body doesn’t get accustomed to the medication and leave you prone to infections.
  • Topical creams – Some topical creams such as retinoic acid or prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide are strong and highly effective in treating acne. These not only reduce the production of oil, but also open pores and allow the skin to breathe easy.
  • Isotretinoin (Accutane) – It’s a vitamin-A-based medication that’s quite effective in treating certain types of severe nodular acne. However, the medication comes with its own set of serious side effects, and it’s typically used only when all other treatments have failed.

Therapies

A physician may recommend additional procedures or therapies to treat severe acne and prevent scars. These are usually suggested in select cases only – either alone or in combination with certain specific medications.

  • Lasers and photodynamic therapy – These are light based therapies that help in killing bacteria and preventing further skin damage.
  • Chemical peel – In this process, a chemical solution, such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid or retinoic acid is applied to the skin on a regular basis. The chemicals present in the solution effectively treats the problem and open the pores.
  • Extraction of whiteheads and blackheads – Special tools are used for gently removing whiteheads and blackheads which do not clear up even after using/applying topical medications.