What You Need To Know About Acne Treatments
Experiencing the embarrassment and discomfort of acne is almost like a rite of passage for teenagers. But what happens when acne does not heal, becomes severe, or shows up again in adulthood? Then it is time to take more serious action.
Although acne is a stubborn and complex condition, it typically improves once properly treated. This may include limiting excess oils, reducing inflammation, and/or decreasing harmful bacteria on the skin.
Here, we will cover some of the most common treatment methods for acne (both botanical and pharmaceutical) and ways we can heal the skin for a clearer, more confident future.
Antibacterial and Anti-inflammatory Products
Acne is formed when excess oil and dead skin cells cause blocked pores. When the pores are blocked, inflammation results and they become more susceptible to bacterial infection from acne-causing bacteria on the skin. These events perpetuate each other, making the acne worse. Antibacterial products work to decrease acne-causing bacteria and resulting infections. Anti-inflammatory ingredients decrease the inflammatory process and help calm acne.
- Green Tea Extract: Green tea is highly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which helps to prevent acne while also healing the skin after the breakout.
- Resveratrol: Resveratrol is a compound commonly found in red wine, grapes, and grapeseed extract. Research shows that resveratrol has helpful antibacterial and anti-acne effects on the skin.
- Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is a common herbal remedy for acne as it has a strong antimicrobial action. However, tea tree oil should be used with caution or in balance with other botanicals as it can be drying and irritating to the skin.
- Magnolia: The magnolia plant is not only beautiful to look at, but it helps us feel more beautiful, too. Magnolia contains phenolic compounds called magnolol and honokiol, which help to reduce the bacterial strains that cause acne and provide powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects without irritation.
- Benzoyl Peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide is a popular over-the-counter (OTC) treatment for acne and is used in many drug store products in low concentrations (around 3-5%). Higher concentrations (up to 10%) can be found to increase its ability to kill bacteria, but it can also be cytotoxic at these levels and may damage the skin.
While benzoyl peroxide is a helpful topical product to tame acne, too-high concentrations can make acne worse. Benzoyl peroxide is also known to damage the skin’s protective barrier, deplete the skin’s vitamin E stores, cause excess water loss (TEWL), and increase inflammation in the skin. Anytime there is inflammation in the skin, acne is more likely to occur.
To decrease the damage done by benzoyl peroxide, antioxidants like Vitamin E or tocotrienol may be included in the routine. This encourages better levels of Vitamin E in the skin and improves antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
Probiotics are recognized in both the aesthetics and the general wellness worlds. Oral probiotics can be used to help improve digestion and the body’s detoxification processes. They support the body’s natural microbiome and may help to prevent and manage acne. Medical studies have shown that acne is less severe in those taking supplemental probiotics. Topical probiotics are being investigated for acne and general skin health.
Antibiotics work by controlling the overgrowth of bacteria to slow or eliminate acne.
- Topical Antibiotics: Topical antibiotics are creams, lotions, or other products that are applied directly to the skin. Clindamycin (Cleocin-T) works by attacking bacter.
- Oral Antibiotics: Prescription oral antibiotics are used in cases of severe acne when more mild topical treatment does not help. But these drugs need close monitoring and cannot be taken long-term as they can lead to GI inflammation or other complications. Doxycycline is the most common oral antibiotic for acne.
- Adjuvant Treatment: Although not in the antibiotic class, azelaic acid (Azelex) has both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Desquamation helps to increase the skin’s renewal process by activating the skin to turn over cells more rapidly, decreasing the likelihood for pores to become clogged and form a pimple. There are two types of desquamation agents or exfoliators:
- Alpha hydroxy acids: Alpha hydroxy acids increase exfoliation of the skin’s surface. Acids in this group are glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid.
- Beta hydroxy acids: Beta hydroxy acids work to dissolve sebum (skin oils), clean out debris from the pores, and reduce inflammation. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid and is a common ingredient in many acne face cleansers. A more natural choice is Salix alba or white willow bark extract. This contains salicin, a similar molecule to salicylic acid.
- Enzymes: Enzymes exfoliate the skin and help treat acne. Bromelain (an enzyme found in pineapple) and papain (from papaya) are helpful natural enzymes that may be included in skincare products.
Vitamin A and Derivatives
Vitamin A, also known as retinol, helps to encourage skin cell turnover while promoting a healthier skin surface. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant and safe and gentle to use. Vitamin A derivatives, however, are chemical modifications to Vitamin A that are used in prescriptions for stronger peeling. They are often related to inflammation and irritation.
- Tretinoin: Tretinoin (Retin-A) is such a Vitamin A derivative. It increases exfoliation of the skin and may cause visible peeling, redness, and dryness. These side-effects can be offset with a well-designed cosmeceutical.
- Isotretinoin (Accutane): Isotretinoin (Accutane) is a famous acne medication, but it is only used in the most severe cases. Accutane has several side effects that range from dryness, itching, and peeling to birth defects and severe depression.
- Adapalene (Differin): Adapalene (Differin) is a topical Vitamin A derivitative available over-the-counter (OTC) in some countries and by prescription in others.
Aesthetic Solutions and Treatments for Acne
Along with offering cosmeceuticals to help combat acne and heal the skin, aesthetics professionals also offer services that can help reveal your healthiest skin. Microdermabrasion and peels, for instance, can help to increase exfoliation and encourage healthy new skin cell development. These treatments, however, do have potential side effects, so be sure to seek treatment from a qualified professional aesthetician.
Whether you are suffering from mild breakouts or severe acne, there are solutions for you to feel good about your skin. Contact us to learn more about finding the right solutions for acne.