Causes & Treatment of Acne
Pimples are not just for teens anymore. More and more people are failing to outgrow teenage acne and continue to suffer into their twenties. Others who were clear in their teens, find they suddenly break out in pimples in their thirties.
What causes acne?
Whether you are a teen or an adult, dermatologists will tell you that hormonal changes are the only cause of acne. Almost all teenagers get at least mild acne at some point. While many people swear that certain foods, sweating or poor hygiene can cause acne, the American Academy of Dermatology finds no evidence to support these assertions. In general, if you think something makes your acne worse, of course you should avoid it. However, the cause is probably particular to you individually, since studies show no link between any of these things and acne. It may be better to worry less about what you do and more about what you can use to heal your acne.
Stress and Acne
It is likely that those who experience their first case of acne in their thirties (late-onset acne) or those who fail to outgrow acne (persistent acne) developed the condition due to stress. Stress increases the levels of androgens, which in turn causes the same skin reactions that teens experience when they go through puberty. Oil glands in the skin go into high production, clogging pores and causing pimples.
Those with a family history are also more like to suffer from acne, so there appears to be a genetic component as well. Certain hair and skin products may also be to blame if they contain oily ingredients.
Serious Health Concerns
It is important for women to understand that some causes of acne can be life-threatening. Late-onset acne in women can be one of many signs and symptoms of polycystic ovaries. There could also be a tumor in the adrenal gland causing excessive oil production. Women with acne who also have excessive hair on their faces, thinning hair and irregular periods should see a doctor in case there is a more serious underlying condition.
What Not to Do
The clogged pores, inflamed pimples and deep lumps can be treated in several ways. In treating acne, it is important to understand both what you can do about it and what you should not do. For instance, because many people tend to associate acne with dirt, they will often over-wash. You should only wash your face twice a day with very mild soap and warm water. Over-washing can result in more acne, not less. When you wash too much, you irritate the skin, causing the oil glands to secrete even more oil and clog pores further. The same goes for salon facials, which feel really good, but do little to actually help acne and can sometimes make it worse.
You should also avoid wearing any cosmetics that have an oil base. Wear as little make up as you can to get by. When you do use makeup, choose those labeled “non-comedogenic” or “non-acnegenic”. Wash your face before going to bed as usual. Also shade your face when applying hair spray as it can irritate skin and worsen acne.
It cannot be said enough that you should not “pop” or prod at pimples. This irritates the skin further and can spread bacteria to other pores creating more pimples. Interfering with pimples also increases the chance that a blemish will result in a scar.
Some people will pick at their faces no matter what you tell them. If you must pick, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly beforehand. Also treat the pimple with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to prevent an infection that will cause scarring. Remember that any time you touch or pinch a pimple, you encourage your oil glands to create more oil, resulting in more pimples.
Things to Try
Many of us prefer to try home remedies before seeing a dermatologist. You can try using toothpaste (not gel) as an acne cream, but use caution because it can burn sensitive skin. Toothpaste has natural astringents and surfactants that help to reduce the redness in pimples.
Because aspirin is made of acetylsalicylic acid, similar to salicylic acid, it can be crushed and added to some lemon juice to create a natural exfoliant. This works in a similar way to retinoic acid, a common acne treatment. These products help to remove dead skin cells from your skin, reducing the occurrence of clogged pores. The vitamin C in the lemon juice is a natural antioxidant and the ingredients work together to boost healing and reduce redness. Apply a small amount to the affected areas before bed.
Get more rest, relaxation and water. If there is a chance that stress is causing your pimples, make sure you get plenty of rest and take some time to relax. Try to drink plenty of water as well. Often times, just treating yourself well can clear your skin up. Try to take it easy for at least two weeks to see if you notice a difference in your skin.
Over the Counter Treatments
Several over-the-counter remedies are available for acne. Benzoyl peroxide remains a popular treatment because it absorbs oil and kills the bacteria that lead to pimples. It is often best to use such a cream at night, since it can cause dryness and redness. Wash your face in the morning after using benzoyl peroxide products and nourish your skin with an oil-free nutrient-fortified moisturizer.
Facial toners are another popular acne treatment because they reduce redness and shrink pores. Smaller pores are less likely to become clogged with makeup. Witch hazel is a good choice for small budgets. You can also use lemon juice or a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide, diluted to 3% (Mix 1 cup water with 1.5 teaspoons hydrogen peroxide). Avoid rubbing alcohol as a toner because it tends to dry the skin, encouraging oil glands to secrete even more oil. Avoid using medicated toners without the advice of a dermatologist.
When to see a Dermatologist
As stated earlier, if you notice hormonal changes besides acne, you should see a doctor to make sure you do not have an underlying serious medical condition. You should see a dermatologist if you have tried the remedies discussed here for at least two weeks and still have a problem with acne.
The dermatologist has a number of prescription medications at his disposal, including prescription strength benzoyl peroxide and retin-A to reduce bacteria and clogged pores. Some women may be given a birth control pill that helps to fight acne. A new therapy in recent years, photodynamic therapy, allows dermatologists to treat acne with a special blue wavelength light that kills bacteria and reduces the size of oil producing glands. The dermatologist will also have treatments available to help reduce scarring from previous acne, such as microdermabrasion or a chemical peel.
All of these treatments can be enormously helpful for skin that does not respond to simple home remedies for acne.