What is Acne?
Acne refers to a mix or range of different skin irregularities including blocked pores (blackheads and whiteheads), pimples and even deeper lumps (cysts or nodules) that can appear on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms.
Acne is the most common dermatological condition for both men and women of all ages, irrespective of race or ethnicity. Although teenagers are more susceptible to acne, some adults can be affected even if they were acne-free in their youth.
Men and women are affected about equally, but in different ways. Young men are more prone to more severe, enduring forms of acne, while women are more prone to intermittent acne associated with both the use of cosmetics and with hormonal changes linked to their menstrual cycle.
Even though acne is not life threatening, it’s cosmetically unpleasant and, in both moderate and severe cases, can lead to permanent scarring. The best way to avoid such scarring is early treatment. The majority of acne conditions can be controlled with non-prescription treatments; however, some require more advanced treatment by a doctor.
What Causes Acne?
Acne is a result of the skin's production of large amounts of oil, and an inability to bring this oil to the surface effectively due to blockage of the pores (or ducts) by dead skin cells. The skin becomes its oiliest during puberty as the hormones that cause physical maturation also cause the sebaceous (oil) glands of the skin to enlarge and produce more sebum (oil). The male hormones mostly responsible for this at puberty and beyond are found in both males and females, but more abundant in males. Acne is also a factor of family history.
Acne can also be exacerbated by oily cosmetics, certain medications such as some antibiotics, menstruation, emotional stress or your environment.
Myths About the Cause of Acne
There are many myths as to what causes acne and we’d like to dispel a few of these.
Greasy, rich or sugary foods
Even though some people believe that certain foods aggravate their acne, extensive scientific studies have found little connection between diet and acne. There is some evidence that high GI foods (highly refined sugars) may aggravate acne. If your acne is being treated properly, these foods should not cause or exacerbate your condition.
Acne is caused by the oil generated by the glands beneath the surface of the skin and not by dirt or surface skin oils. Therefore, vigorous washing and scrubbing does not assist in the treatment of acne, instead it can irritate your skin and make acne worse. Dermatologists recommend gently washing the affected areas twice a day with mild cleanser and warm water and then gently pat the skin dry. This helps to remove dead skin, dirt and excess surface oil. Washing in this way should be done in conjunction with an acne treatment.
The light application of makeup can temporarily hide acne but heavy makeup should be avoided as it can also irritate your skin and make acne worse. Use oil-free, non-pore-clogging (non-comedogenic) cosmetics and toiletries for your skin and hair.
The stress of day-to-day living is not a major contributing factor in the onset of acne, although it can worsen pre-existing acne. Occasionally, acne can be a side effect of drugs prescribed to treat extreme cases of stress. In such cases, consult with your doctor to discuss the possibility of an alternative treatment.
Myths About the Treatment of Acne
Almost all cases of acne can be treated effectively, however, there are a few myths regarding appropriate treatment methods. So let’s dispel some of these.
Exposure to sun, solariums or sun lamps
Tanning does not clear acne it simply hides it. Excessive exposure to sunlight or tanning booths increases the chance of developing melanoma and other skin cancers. Some acne treatments increase the skin's sensitivity to the ultraviolet light from sun lamps and tanning booths, so it is unwise to combine these treatments. Protection from the sun with a broad-spectrum sunscreen or covering up with clothes is even more important if you have acne.
Specialised light treatments with specified light wavelengths have proven to be effective in the treatment of acne. These treatments do not contain the ultraviolet rays of natural sunshine and solariums and therefore do not carry the threat of skin cancer.
Squeeze or pick at acne
You should never do this as it drives germs deeper into the pores and may cause the oil glands to rupture (burst), potentially increasing the inflammation. If blackhead or whitehead removal is needed, it should be performed by an experienced health care professional with the appropriate instruments to avoid bruising or rupturing of the skin.
Available Acne Treatments at Foley Dermatology
There is no single treatment for acne that works for everyone as many factors need to be considered including the person's age, skin type, motivation and lifestyle, as well as the kind of acne present, the causes of the acne and any co-existing conditions.
Your medical practitioner will assist you to create your own customised plan to effectively combat your acne. Commence treatment early to avoid the possibility of acne scarring and be patient to give acne treatments sufficient time to take effect. Generally speaking, it takes at least six to eight weeks before you will begin to see any improvement.
Non-prescription and prescriptive treatments such as topical antibiotics, retinoids, and others such as azelaic acid and beta-hydroxy acids (salicylic acid) can be effective. However, combinations of non-prescription medications can have side effects; so avoid combining medications unless otherwise directed by a dermatologist or other medical practitioner.
Oral medications can be an effective option in the treatment of acne. However, seek advice from your doctor to discuss the course of treatment most appropriate for you:
Non-ablative Resurfacing Acne Laser Treatments
Non-ablative resurfacing Acne laser treatments produce infrared waves. These bypass the epidermis and selectively heat acne lesions, mildly tightening the skin to reduce the appearance of acne scars. These infrared systems have also been found to be highly effective in combatting acne by reducing the size and activity of sebaceous glands, inhibiting the production of skin oil.
For more information on Acne laser treatments and other Acne Melbourne services, contact our Acne Treatment Clinic here at Foley Dermatology & Associates.