Acne Prevention Skin Care
Hair follicles normally secrete oil called "sebum" which travels up the tiny hair follicles to the skins pores where it lubricates and protects the skin. Sometimes there are overworked oil glands which enlarge and produce too much sebum which can get trapped in the hair follicle. Clogged pores which are either called blackheads or whiteheads, allow bacteria overgrowth of Propionibacterium acnes. This bacteria further inflames the hair follicle and surrounding skin resulting in acne. In severe acne cases lesions become red and inflamed and may be filled with puss. Sometimes this acne can extend deep into the skin and form nodules or cysts. This severe form is called cystic acne and can be painful and cause scarring.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends some of the following acne control guidelines.
- Do not pop, squeeze or pick at the acne lesion. This can spread the inflammatory process and worsen the acne.
- Twice a day wash your face gently with mild soap or a sulfur soap. Just pat your face dry and do not rub it with a towel.
- Use only "noncomdomedogenic" skin products that do not clog pours.
- Avoid oil based products.
- Avoid acne irritants such as airborne grease from fast food restaurants, rubbing or friction from sporting equipment etc.
- Give anti-acne products time to clear up the lesions. This can mean several weeks or even months.
- Some acne products increase the skin's photosensitivity. When in the sun wear a hat and use sunscreen and avoid tanning booths while using these products.
Non Prescription Topical Medications
Benzoyl peroxide is the active ingredient in many of the over-the-counter acne treatments. It is an antibacterial agent effective against acne-causing bacteria and must be applied once or twice daily for several weeks before it has an effect. Salicylic acid is an ingredient found in many non prescription acne lotions, creams and pads, and it reduces abnormal shedding of the skin cells along the hair follicle. It does not effect sebum production or the acne causing bacteria. It does need to be used daily. Sulfur based soap (e.g., Sulfo Lo is a good anti-bacterial soap that produces dry skin.
Your doctor may prescribe topical antibiotic preparations containing clindamycin or erythromycin which help kill acne bacteria. Remember that they do not effect abnormal skin cell shedding or sebum production so they also have to be used together with other acne preparations. The doctor may prescribe other creams and lotions that normalize the skin shedding and decrease acne production.
Sometimes you may be prescribed oral antibiotics such as erythromycin, tetracycline, doxycycline or minocycline. If the acne is quite severe and nodular the doctor may also prescribe Accutane®. This drug is known to cause birth defects in babies and absolutely should not be used if a woman is not on an effective contraceptive.
If a woman has excess male hormone production, this can increase the amount of sebum that is produced. Certain birth control pills that are more estrogenic and less androgenic can decrease sebum production. Other medications may also be used if you have a tendency toward increased hair growth and male hormone type of excess.
Diet and Acne
In general, it is no longer felt that dietary products have any influence on acne. Chocolate, caffeine or fats are not statistically related to causing acne based on overall studies. There may be some individual differences in that certain foods do flare up acne lesions and if you determine that you are sensitive to something, discontinuing that food is the wisest course of action.