If you have acne and are wondering, "how should people with acne care for their skin", you have come to the right place. First, let's address the fundamentals of acne.
What is acne?
Acne is a skin disorder that result from hormones acting on your sebaceous gland (the skin’s oil gland) and hair follicles. These actions may lead to the clogging of pores and resulting in the outbreaks of lesions commonly known as pimples or zits. Acne is not a serious health threat, though it can cause significant emotional stress and lowered self-esteem.
What causes acne?
The exact cause of acne is still under study (aka unknown); however, scientists suspect that several factors, including hormones, contribute to the medical condition called acne. For example, the level of androgen, a male sex hormone, is increased during puberty and causes the sebaceous gland to enlarge and make more sebum. In addition, hormonal changes involved in pregnancy or start/stopping birth control pills can also cause acne. This effect also applies to certain drugs that include androgens, barbiturate, and lithium. In addition to hormones, heredity also plays a factor in acne development (thanks mom and dad!). Studies have shown that boys with acne usually come from families with a history of acne.
Your environment/surrounding can also trigger breakouts. For example, greasy cosmetics may alter the cells of the follicles and make them stick together. Friction caused by leaning on or rubbing the skin or the pressure from bike helmets, backpacks, or tight collars can contribute to or worsen acne. Also, environmental irritants (such as pollution and high humidity), squeezing or picking at blemishes, and hard scrubbing of the skin can make acne worse.
Factors That Can Make Acne Worse
Factors that can cause an acne flare-up include:
- Changing hormone levels in adolescent girls and adult women 2 to 7 days before their menstrual period starts
- Oil from skin products (moisturizers or cosmetics) or grease encountered in the work environment (for example, a kitchen with fry vats)
- Pressure from sports helmets or equipment, backpacks, tight collars, or tight sports uniforms
- Environmental irritants, such as pollution and high humidity
- Squeezing or picking at blemishes
- Hard scrubbing of the skin
Does greasy food or chocolate cause acne?
Chocolate and greasy foods are often blamed, but there is little evidence that foods have much effect on the development and course of acne in most people. Another common myth is that dirty skin causes acne; however, blackheads and other acne lesions are not caused by dirt. Stress doesn't cause acne, but research suggests that for people who have acne, stress can make it worse.
Will I get acne?
Acne, unlike other disorders, does not discriminate against its victims: people of all races can get acne. It is most common in adolescents and young adults. An estimated 80 percent of all people between the ages of 11 and 30 have acne outbreaks at some point. For most people, acne tends to go away by the time they reach their thirties; however, some people in their forties and fifties continue to have this skin problem.
How is acne treated?
Acne is often treated by dermatologists in extreme/severe cases. However, people may purchase topical medication without a doctor’s prescription. When purchasing over the counter treatments, pay attention to their potential side effects. For example, benzoyl peroxide, an ingredient found in most acne treatments, may cause irritation or drying of the skin. Instead, try products like Murad - a leader in skin care science - that contain salicylic acid rather than benzoyl peroxide. You should review the package insert that comes with your medicine and ask your health care provider or pharmacist if you have any questions about the possible side effects.
These medications are aimed at reducing several problems that play a part in causing acne:
- abnormal clumping of cells in the follicles
- increased oil production
What are treatments for blackheads, whiteheads, and mild inflammatory acne?
Doctors usually recommend an over the counter or prescription topical medicine for people with mild signs of acne. Topical medicine is applied directly to the acne lesions or to the entire area of affected skin. Be patient, it may take up to several months to notice improvements. These products may contain the following ingredients:
- Benzoyl peroxide – destroys P. acnes, and may also reduce oil production
- Resorcinol – can help break down blackheads and whiteheads
- Salicylic acid – helps break down blackheads and whiteheads. Also helps cut down the shedding of cells lining the hair follicles
- Sulfur – helps break down blackheads and whiteheads
How should people with acne care for their skin?
Step 1. The key is to clean your skin gently. If you have acne, you should gently wash your face with a mild cleanser, once in the morning and once in the evening, as well as after heavy exercise. Wash your face from under the jaw to the hairline and be sure to thoroughly rinse your skin. Ask your doctor or another healthcare professional for advice on the best type of cleanser to use. Using strong soaps or rough scrub pads is not helpful and can actually make the problem worse. Astringents are not recommended unless the skin is very oily, and then they should be used only on oily spots. It is also important to shampoo your hair regularly. If you have oily hair, you may want to wash it every day.
Step 2. Avoid frequent handling of the skin. When you touch your face, you are applying oil residue from your fingers to it. This can clog pores and may lead to breakouts.
Step 3. Avoid rubbing and touching skin lesions. Squeezing, pinching or picking blemishes can lead to the development of scars or dark blotches.
Step 4. Shave Carefully. Men who shave and who have acne should test both electric and safety razors to see which is more comfortable. When using a safety razor, make sure the blade is sharp and soften your beard thoroughly with soap and water before applying shaving cream. Shave gently and only when necessary to reduce the risk of nicking blemishes.
Step 5. Avoid a sunburn or suntan.
Step 6. Choose cosmetics carefully. While undergoing acne treatment, you may need to change some of the cosmetics you use. All cosmetics, such as foundation, blush, eyeshadow, moisturizers, and hair-care products should be oil free. Choose products labeled noncomedogenic (meaning they don't promote the formation of closed pores). In some people, however, even these products may make acne worse. For the first few weeks of treatment, applying foundation evenly may be difficult because the skin may be red or scaly, particularly with the use of a topical tretinoin or benzoyl peroxide.
Murad Acne Complex Skin Care System
- Heal and prevent acne breakouts
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- No Benzoyl Peroxide
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Recommended sites for more articles on acne:
Murad.com - Leader in Skin Care Science
NeoStrata.com - Dermatologist Developed Skin Care
PerriconeMD.com - Dr. Nicholas V. Perricone, a board certified dermatologist