Acne occurs when the small pores on the surface of the skin become blocked with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Each individual pore on the skin opens up to a follicle beneath the epidermis. Within these follicles lie a singular hair and a sebaceous gland. The sebaceous gland produces sebum, an oil designed to keep your skin lubricated and soft. However, when hormonal changes and other factors cause the gland to produce an excess of sebum, the oil will be pumped through the follicle, and may pick up dead skin cells and P. acnes bacteria on its way out. Should these substances clump together, a plug will form. As this plug starts to press up against the surface of the skin, the body responds with an accumulation of red and white blood cells to combat any infection, and this results in inflammation and redness. Acne can occur on the face, back, neck, chest, arms, and buttocks, and any other skin area with a saturation of sebaceous pores.
You’re a typical hormonal-acne patient if, well past puberty, you’re breaking out around your period, usually in the jawline area, says Anolik. A consistent routine is key—as is enduring a waiting period of two to three months for said routine to work, he continues: “Even powerful prescription treatments can take a few months to really clear things up, and that’s our biggest challenge. People who get frustrated and don’t stick to their treatments get stuck in a cycle of trying and quitting too early, and feeling like nothing works.”
Glycolic acid: A true magic maker, glycolic acid is the smallest acid in size, meaning it’s able to penetrate deeply into the skin’s pores to do its work. It breaks apart the cellular glue holding dead skin cells together to reveal a fresher, brighter complexion. It also promotes cellular turnover by boosting collagen and elastin, helping your skin regenerate and repair itself.
Sure, we’ve all heard that toothpaste or rubbing alcohol can help dry out a zit, but many DIY treatments aren't solutions for how to treat acne. In fact, applying toothpaste or rubbing alcohol are more likely to cause irritation and dryness than treat the actual pimple. Instead, stick with topical over-the-counter and prescription spot treatments with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide that are specially made to target pimples, says Dr. Hammerman. For an all-natural spot treatment, she suggests dabbing tea tree oil on the area a few times a day with a cotton ball.
Acne refers to pimples, blemishes, blackheads, zits or whiteheads. While this problem is commonly associated with teenagers, many adults suffer from acne as well. Stress, hormones, environmental factors and more can lead to acne problems, causing individuals embarrassment and slashing their confidence. Outlined below are tips for eliminating acne once and for all so you can have healthy, glowing skin.
There are several low-level light devices designed as at-home acne remedies on the market — but do they really work? Some, like the Zeno electronic "zit-zapper" are FDA-approved as acne remedies, but reviews with these products are typically mixed. Even the best acne treatment won't work for everyone, as the severity of the acne, types of acne and quality of the device are all factors. Ask your dermatologist for a recommendation if you're considering purchasing an at-home light device to treat your acne.
Another study focused in on dairy. In 2005, an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology took on milk and milk products. By examining the diets of 47,355 women, researchers observed a significant connection between milk and dairy intake and breakouts. Some researchers believe this is caused by high levels of hormones found in our milk products. Much of the milk consumed is produced by pregnant cows, who pump out progesterone, IGF-1, and other compounds that are then passed into the milk. We may also be subject to Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). These hormones can signal the oil glands to start producing more sebum, which can affect acne. Unfortunately, switching to organic milk doesn’t seem to make a difference, and neither do skim milk options. In fact, skim milk has been observed to worsen the skin, which researches have attributed to lower levels of estrogen and different processing activities. Milk is also known to contain a number of vitamins, some good and some not so beneficial to your skin. Research has shown a correlation between acne and vitamin A in milk.
Extractions: An extraction is the physical unclogging of a clogged pore. The aesthetician pushes a tool called an extractor around each acne lesion, forcing the pus, bacteria, and sometimes blood up through the clogged follicle opening. It is an aggressive procedure that should only be performed by an experienced aesthetician or dermatologist as it can damage your pores if done incorrectly.
Many over-the-counter lotions and creams containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide are available to help prevent acne and clear it up at the same time. You can experiment with these to see which helps. Be sure to follow the instructions exactly — don't use more than you're supposed to at one time (your skin may get too dried out and feel and look worse) and follow any label directions about allergy testing.
Have good hygiene. There is a balance between under-washing and over-washing skin. Under-washing leaves excess skin cells, oil, bacteria, and other debris on the skin, potentially clogging pores and creating blemishes. Over-washing irritates and dries the skin, contributing to excess oil production and more breakouts. Refrain from washing problem areas more than twice a day. When washing, use gentle cleansers with smooth grains and light scrubbing to exfoliate. Avoid products containing large grains, such as almond or apricot shell fragments, that will potentially damage or irritate the skin.
If you’ve made a concerted effort with over-the-counter regimens and/or diet and still aren’t seeing results, a dermatologist is absolutely worth it. There are many levels of care: Prescription retinoids (Retin A, Tazorac, Differin et al) and/or topical antibiotics are the mildest, along with blue-light treatments like Isolaze, which kill bacteria and clear pores, with virtually no downtime. Light lasers like Clear and Brilliant can clear pores and treat the red and brown tones left by old acne lesions. “Some patients think they’ve got a severe problem, when they really only have a few pimples, surrounded by red and brown marks from old breakouts,” notes Anolik. Oral antibiotics represent a more aggressive (and unsustainable long-term) solution; birth control pills and hormone-mitigating medications like Spironalactone and Deldactone can get many more-severe patients’ acne under control. Most aggressive is Accutane; while it can be severely drying and can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy, it represents a cure for truly-severe acne cases, says Anolik. “Used correctly, it is something of a miracle for people who’ve tried everything and failed,” he says.
One study that gained a lot of traction in the acne vs. food debate appeared in the Archives of Dermatology in 2002. This research was based on the study of 115 people in Eastern Paraguay and 1,200 individuals in Papua New Guinea. The individuals in this study lived on a diet of self-raised lean meats and fresh plant foods, and scientists were astonished to record not a singular case of acne in either population. Based on this evidence, researchers concluded that the standard Western diet composed largely of starches and refined sugars might be a culprit between the high rates of acne in the Western world.
No one factor causes acne. Acne occurs when sebaceous (oil) glands attached to the hair follicles are stimulated at the time of puberty or due to other hormonal changes. Sebum (oil) is a natural substance that lubricates and protects the skin. Associated with increased oil production is a change in the manner in which the skin cells mature, predisposing them to plug the follicular pore. The plug can appear as a whitehead if it is covered by a thin layer of skin, or if exposed to the air, the darker exposed portion of the plug is called a "blackhead." The plugged hair follicle gradually enlarges, producing a bump. As the follicle enlarges, the wall may rupture, allowing irritating substances and normal skin bacteria access into the deeper layers of the skin, ultimately producing inflammation. Inflammation near the skin's surface produces a pustule; deeper inflammation results in a papule (pimple); if the inflammation is deeper still, it forms a cyst.