Facing the facts: The causes of acne and how to treat it

Dec 18, 2014
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The occasional pimple that always seems to crop up right before that first date or big job interview is a rather inconvenient nuisance, but those who live with acne face a constant battle with their skin and can suffer a great deal of insecurity as a result.

The Mayo Clinic defines acne as a disease that is caused by bacteria, clogged pores, oil production of the skin and dead skin cells. The blemishes caused by this condition, which can come in the form of whiteheads, black heads, sections of red and inflamed skin or even cysts, tend to appear on the face, neck, back, chest and shoulders. These locations on the body are home to the majority of glands charged with producing oil. These blemishes materialize when oils and dead skin gather inside the hair follicle, obstructing the pore. This becomes a problem when the body produces too much of the oil, known as sebum, and this combined with dead skin finds a home in hair follicles and creates a suitable place for bacteria to grow. Inflammation occurs when the follicle becomes infected due to the presence of the bacteria.

Luckily for those who suffer from the condition, there are a lot of products available that will help prevent acne, and a good deal of information out there aimed at avoiding flare-ups.

Natural Acne Treatments

Those who prefer natural treatments might consider using products containing one or more of the natural ingredients researchers at the Mayo Clinic suggest for reduced inflammation. Products containing at least five percent tea tree oil have rivaled substances containing an equal amount of benzoyl peroxide but it tends to be a slower-working treatment. Those suffering from rosacea, which causes reddening of the skin, may not find tea tree oil to be a good fit because it can worsen the condition. Studies have shown that applying topical treatments with two percent of its ingredients consisting of green tea extract helped cut down symptoms of mild or moderate acne in young adults, and products containing zinc, bovine cartilage or aloe vera can offer similar relief.

Other Acne treatments on the market

In severe cases of acne, many opt to see their family doctor to obtain guidance on how best to control symptoms and obtain prescription drugs or recommendations for over-the-counter products. There are many types of medicines physicians might choose to lower the amount of breakouts patients may experience, including low dose contraceptives that contain estrogen. Products that include salicylic acid, like Stridex, can be effective, as can a variety of topical or oral antibiotics such as clindamycin and erythromycin. In addition, a doctor may suggest an androgen blocker, a medication designed to reduce the amount of oil the body produces.

Myth busters

The Mayo Clinic, in an effort to bust a few myths associated with acne and its causes, offers some good information about the factors that have little or no effect on how often break-outs occur that are contrary to popular belief.

Consuming foods high in grease was once thought to be a big problem for those living with acne, but research has shown that is not the case. Someone who works in a kitchen equipped with fry vats, however, may experience more problems with acne because oils in the work area can stick to the skin.

Wearing make-up doesn’t necessarily cause acne, either, particularly if cosmetics are washed off daily. Using oil-free products does help to prevent break-outs, though, and these cosmetics are not known to cause any adverse reactions for someone using medications to treat acne.

Dirty skin is another factor that was once thought to trigger acne, but it turns out that dirt is not the real problem. It’s using irritating chemicals or soaps and applying too much force when cleansing the skin that can make the condition worse.

At the end of the day, everyone is different. The most suitable options for treating and controlling acne for one person may not be best for someone else. Those who are unsure of how to proceed in their fight against acne should always consult with their doctor or a licensed dermatologist to find the best treatments available. Managing acne can be a challenge, but education about the disease and the various ways to treat it can help everyone feel comfortable in their own skin.