Acne Basics – Part 2
May 20, 2013
In the last posting, we introduced some of the basic causes of acne. Today I will present some of the available acne treatments.
lmost all cases of acne can be effectively treated. The goal of acne treatment is to heal existing lesions, stop new lesions from forming, and prevent acne scars.
Different acne medications are available that control one or more of the underlying causes of acne. Common classes of acne medications include the following:
- Topical retinoids (Differin, Epiduo, Retin A Micro, Tazorac, or tretinoin) help unclog sebaceous glands and keep skin pores open.
- Antibiotics, such as doxycycline and minocycline (Solodyn), may be used to fight the P. acnes bacteria.
- Isotretinoin (Amnesteem, Sotret) remain a mainstay of treatment for severe acne by reducing sebum (oil) production.
- Hormonal agents
- , such as birth control pills, may be used by women to reduce sebum (oil) production .
Your doctor will prescribe acne medications based on the following factors:
- Severity of your acne
- . Mild acne may respond well to a topical retinoid alone. Moderate acne may respond better to a combination of topical retinoid with an antibiotic or other medication. Severe acne with scarring may need treatment with isotretinoin (Amnesteem, Sotret).
- Results of previous treatments
- . Medications may be added in a step-wise fashion, if previous acne treatments are found to be ineffective.
- Degree of scarring
- . More aggressive therapies may be started earlier if there already signs of acne scars.
- . Some treatments are available only for women, such as birth control pills.
Non-prescription acne medications may provide sufficient results for some people with mild acne. However, most people with moderate acne and all with severe acne will need to use prescription acne medications for effective treatment.
Whatever your treatment plan, it is important that you give it enough time to work. This may mean waiting 6 to 8 weeks to see results.
While the older acne lesions are healing, the medication is hard at work keeping new lesions from forming. Staying on your medication is the most important step to getting acne under control.
How can I keep my acne under control?
After your acne clears, your doctor may recommend that you continue therapy with a topical retinoids to keep it under control. It is always a good idea to maintain good skin care and use skin care products labeled as "non-comedogenic" (do not promote acne).
For ongoing acne skin care and prevention of acne, follow a few simple guidelines:
- Clean skin gently—Use a mild skin cleanser twice a day, and pat skin dry. Harsh cleansers and astringents can actually worsen acne.
- Do not pop, squeeze, or pick at acne lesions, as this can promote inflammation and infection. Keep hands away from your face and other acne-prone parts of the skin.
- Limit sun exposure—Tanning only masks acne at best. At worst, sun exposure can lead to skin damage, especially if you are using an acne treatment that makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight and UV rays (this includes tanning booths).
- Choose cosmetics with care—As mentioned above, choose non-greasy skin products, and look for words like "non-comedogenic," "oil-free," and "water-based." Some facial products contain active acne-fighting ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, to help keep mild acne at bay.
- Be patient with your treatment—Find out how much time it should take for your acne treatment to work (generally 6-8 weeks) and then stick with it. Stopping treatment early may prevent you from seeing good results or even cause a relapse of symptoms. Your skin may look worse before it begins to improve. You may need to try more than one type of treatment
Feel free to call our office if you have any questions or need more information on how to address your acne.
Reviewed and recommended by: Dr. Alia S. Brown