Acne Treatment: Types, Side Effects, and More

Acne and you Acne results from plugged hair follicles. Oil, dirt, and dead skin cells on the surface of your skin clog your pores and create pimples or small, localized infections. Treatments work to clear away bacteria and dry up the excess oils that lead to acne. Different acne treatments include lifestyle remedies, topical medication, oral medication, and medical procedures. The treatment that’s right for you depends on your individual condition. If you have mild to moderate acne, such as whiteheads or blackheads, your treatment should be relatively easy. However, if you have cystic or inflammatory acne, your treatment may be more challenging. Cystic acne is one or more large, painful, red cysts under the surface of your skin. Your doctor or dermatologist can help you figure out what type of acne you have. LIFESTYLE CHANGES Lifestyle remedies Many people with mild acne or pimples can manage their condition with lifestyle changes. Oil is a major cause of acne, so keeping your face clean and your hair away from it is important, especially if your hair tends to be greasy. Oils from your hair and face also build up on your bedding. Changing your pillowcase daily or weekly can help prevent this buildup. Wash your face two to three times per day with lukewarm water and a gentle cleanser that’s not abrasive. Don’t scrub your skin too hard. This can aggravate your skin even more. Also, try not to use skin care products that can be irritating, such as scented lotions or oil-based makeup. Choose moisturizers and sunscreens that are labeled “noncomedogenic.” This means that the product won’t clog your pores. These adjustments can go a long way in helping you resolve mild acne. If you need something a little stronger, your doctor may suggest you also use topical or oral medication. TOPICAL DRUGS Topical medications Topical medications are lotions, gels and creams that you apply to your skin. You typically apply a thin coat on your skin in the morning and before bedtime after washing your face. Some are available over the counter, and others require a prescription. OTC acne products usually contain the active ingredient salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These substances reduce the amount of oil your body produces. They also fight inflammation. These effects help treat existing blemishes and prevent new ones from forming. Prescription topical medications can help when OTC products aren’t strong enough. These acne gels or creams may contain tretinoin (a retinoid drug that comes from vitamin A), a stronger version of benzoyl peroxide, or an antibiotic called clindamycin. These may do a better job of killing bacteria when your acne is moderate to severe. ADVERTISEMENT ORAL DRUGS Oral medications Oral medications for acne are also called systemic treatments because they are absorbed throughout your entire body. They’re only available with a prescription from your doctor. These drugs are commonly used to treat moderate to severe acne that doesn’t respond to topical agents. The three types of systemic drugs used to treat acne include: Antibiotics Your doctor may prescribe a daily antibiotic pill, such as tetracycline. It can help fight bacteria and infection from the inside out. Antibiotics are commonly used with topical medication when gels and creams alone don’t improve your condition. Birth control pills Regulating hormone levels can help improve acne for some women. However, you should not use birth control pills during pregnancy. If you’re pregnant, ask your doctor what you can do to banish breakouts. Isotretinoin Isotretinoin is a strong drug in the retinoid family. It reduces the size of oil glands so that they make less oil. It also helps regulate skin cell turnover so that the cells don’t block the release of bacteria and excess oil from your pores. Isotretinoin is mostly reserved for people with severe cystic acne. Your doctor may prescribe it when other acne drugs haven’t worked. However, the side effects can be severe, so it isn’t for everyone.
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