There are more than a few misconceptions about acne. It seems every commercial you see promises instant acne cures in one form or the other. There are also a lot of urban myths about what causes acne and how to treat it. This article aims at sorting out the BS from the real acne treatments and giving YOU some real options for treating acne.
What Is Acne?
Acne is a skin condition which tends to appear mostly in teenagers. By the end of puberty some of them are lucky enough to be rid of it. Others, however, do not share the same fate and so the condition continues into adulthood. Acne can therefore attack both men and women, and each finds it unbearable. People who suffer from it can only think of how to get rid of acne. Getting rid of acne is not easy, however. And for some, it’s much harder than for others.
What Causes Acne?
The skin, the body’s largest organ, has some important functions. One of them is helping to protect the body from bacteria and viruses. It does this by bringing dying cells, which are being replaced, as well as dead cells, to the surface, which then join together to form a protective layer. However, the body also produces oil known as sebum, within the hair follicles. This oil also travels to the surface of the skin, along with the cells being replaced.
When too much oil is produced by the body, however, the excess oil and the dead skin cells may block the skin’s pores. When this happens, bacteria are attracted to the area, and they grow and cause inflammation of the skin, sometimes, as well as pus formation. Pustules, pimples, or even cysts may form as a result.
Difference Between Acne and Blackheads
Acne and blackheads are related but not exactly the same thing. A blackhead is a type of acne that’s caused when excess oil accululates in the sebaceous gland ducts. The “blackhead” is made from keratin and sebum mixed with bacteria which darkens when it oxidizes in the air. Acne is the general condition which might refer to an outbreak of pimples or “bad skin.” If you have blackheads, you have acne but you might now have any pimples. Make sense?
Two Acne Treatments
There are many different remedies on the market. We can break acne treatments up into two broad categories:
- Chemical acne treatments
- Natural acne treatments
Let’s take a deeper look into these treatments.
Chemical Based Remedies
There quite a few people who feel that acne cannot be cured, but can be controlled. They posit that acne treatments are split into three categories, which are decided by the type as well as the severity of the acne. This determines the grade of acne, which must be known in order to select the best treatment program.
Grades I and II – which are mild to moderate – can be helped with products purchased over the counter. However, Grades III and IV, which are moderately severe to severe or cystic acne, require the care of a dermatologist. A dermatologist is a physician who specializes in the care, treatment, and diseases of the skin. He is equipped to develop acne treatment programs that suit individual skin types. The physician’s programs would be based on the categories of treatments mentioned earlier, which are, namely –
Topical treatments are ointments, creams, or lotions which are applied to the surface of the skin. They are able to treat mild to severe acne, according to their strengths. The products can be picked up over the counter or with a prescription. Severe acne requires prescription medicines. You can buy topical treatments at your local drugstore. These are typically the most common form of “acne treatment.”
Systemic treatments operate internally. They may be used orally, as pills, or as injections, and treat severe and cystic acne.Systemic medications are available only by prescription, and are sometimes used alongside topical ones. Where topical remedies do not adequately treat moderate acne, systemic types are employed. The most popular acne oral treatment was Accutane (before it was taken off the market).
Procedural acne treatments are carried out by dermatologists, health care practitioners, or estheticians, in treating mild to severe acne. As their names suggest, they are therapies involving procedures, and are intended to support the topical or systemic treatments, or both. Some of these procedures include –
- Comedo extractions – These are often done by estheticians during facials. The procedure involves coaxing sebum and cellular debris plugs from the pores, in a gentle manner. The removal of whiteheads, blackheads, and comedones that are soft and closed, reduces the total number of breakouts on the skin.
- Light chemical peels – These procedures do not actually peel the skin, but rather remove dead skin cells and help to clear debris from the pores, thereby improving acne. If the acne is moderate, an esthetician can treat it during a facial, but if it is severe, a dermatologist should perform the procedure on the acne.
- Microdermabrasion – This treatment can be done in a dermatologist’s office or at a skin spa. A machine quickly discharges very fine crystals over the surface of the skin, blasting dead skin cells away, painlessly. The procedure loosens debris from inside the pores, and is best suited for blackheads and whiteheads that are not inflamed.
- Phototherapy – This involves treatments using light or laser. They either reduce inflammation or shrink sebaceous glands. There are different treatments which include red light, blue light, and photodynamic therapy, and they can be used to treat all kinds of acne.
- Corticosteroid injections – These are used on cysts – those lesions which seriously damage the tissues of the skin. They effectively reduce inflammation as well as the occurrence of scarring. They also cause the lesions to heal very quickly.
Many goods on the market try to treat acne. Because they are mostly chemical-based, however, they may also harm the body. This has implications for natural remedies.
Natural Remedies For Acne
Since they have little or no side effects, some people tend to favour the use of natural products in the treatment of acne.There’s a lot of BS information out there about natural acne treatments. The medical community, in general, is pretty skeptical of non-chemical treatments. And truth be told, there may be some good reason for that skeptism, but you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater — there are some real natural acne treatments that people say work.
Tea Tree Oil
This popular remedy is believed to contain a constituent that kills the bacteria which cause severe breakouts of acne, and which live on the skin. It is an essential oil that is usually diluted and topically applied to acne lesions. The oil can be diluted with either water, if the skin is oily, or aloe vera gel, if the skin is sensitive. The gel would neutralize any chemical reaction and prevent the development of rashes.
A tea tree oil mask can also be made using a hypoallergenic green clay powder. Two or three drops of the oil could be added to this powder, followed by water poured a little at a time until a paste is made. The mixture could then be applied to the face, as a mask, once or twice weekly.
The good news about Tea Tree Oil is that there are actual scientitif studies that show tea tree oil is just as effective as Benzyl peroxide for treating acne. Trea Tree Oil doesn’t dry your face out or cause any side effects which makes this probably one of the most effective natural acne treatment.
A Cleansing Diet
Acne results from dirt, not only on skin surface but also within the body. The proposed cleansing diet consists of fruits, vegetables, and water, taken for seven to ten days. This is believed to effectively eradicate toxins from the body. Once the toxins are removed, the pores would be opened and the skin would be healthier and clearer.
Some of the cleansing fruits and vegetables to be used include –
- Papaya – which has an enzyme that helps to digest proteins. Papayas are rich in nutrients and fiber, which are very important in cleansing.
- Pineapples, pomegranates, and blackberries – help to kill parasites in the intestines.
- Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower – help to remove toxins from the body.
- Blends – the fruits and vegetables can be juiced and blended and consumed every two or three hours to combat hunger, retain energy, and cleanse the internal cells and organs.
Vitamin C & Zinc
Increasing the intake of foods rich in vitamin C and zinc is believed to play a part in improving the body’s immune system. Vitamin C is one of the vitamins which ensure that zinc is properly absorbed. Zinc is said to be an important factor in the functioning of enzymes and the balancing of blood sugar, which are both very important in the battle against acne.
Zinc also strengthens the body’s immune system, and helps to control the amount of oil released by the body. Most citrus fruits, including the kiwi fruit, are rich in vitamin C, while zinc can be found in chicken, beef, yogurt, most nuts, potatoes, and beans.
Research indicates that there is a mind and skin association with the development of acne, of which stress plays a big part. The feeling is that as long as the body possesses the right equipment with which to operate, it is quite capable of mending itself. Increasing the total number of hours of sleep the body receives can cause a reduction in stress which, in turn, helps to remove acne.
Stress can also be reduced through regular exercises. The best types of exercises are aerobic and strength training. Both these types of exercises have a cleansing effect on the body, which helps to reduce the bacteria which cause acne. The exercises should be done three to five times weekly, in a variety of ways.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, it is felt, also enhance the ability of the skin to heal itself. They work by making the oil that blocks the pores, thinner, thus assisting in the removal of acne. It also minimizes the overproduction of sebum. Omega-3 fatty acids fight acne by reducing the inflammation of existing breakouts. Foods that have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids include fish oils, fish – such as sardines and salmon, and vegetable oils, like flaxseed oils.
This Syrup is a medication made from a number of different herbs used to treat skin diseases like acne. The Syrup filters waste materials from the blood, cleansing it, thereby treating the acne from within. The cleansed blood makes the skin appear smooth.
Witch hazel is said to produce an anti-bacterial ingredient known as tannin acid. Witch hazel is therefore able to reduce inflammation resulting from acne, and the tannin acid behaves like an astringent and so cleanses the skin. It also causes little or no allergic reactions, and is quite inexpensive and very accessible. A cotton ball may be soaked in the witch hazel solution and put on the affected skin area, like an astringent, twice daily.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar’s best quality is that it assists in dissolving fat deposits on the skin. For this reason the vinegar is believed to be a cure for acne. It is a strong solution, however, and so some skin types may react to it. One tablespoon of the liquid may be taken once a day, if the taste and odor can be tolerated. If not, the vinegar may be mixed with lemon juice.
It can also be applied as a topical treatment, in which case it should be diluted with water, using one part vinegar to eight parts water. Pure vinegar should never be used on the face. A grounded aspirin tablet can be added to the solution in a tightly-closed bottle. This can then be applied to the face, preferably at nights because of its odor.
Acne pimples can resist ordinary treatments, at times. If this should happen, baking soda can inexpensively and effectively go to the rescue. Baking soda does not have strong chemicals, but it can fight bacteria very well. It can be used as a –
- Facial Cleanser – Baking soda can be mixed with a little water until it looks like toothpaste. This solution can then be gently rubbed onto the face in a circular motion, for one or two minutes. The face can then be thoroughly washed and pat dry.
- Toner – Toners help to make the pores smaller, thereby decreasing the formation of acne. A baking soda toner can be made by filling a clean, empty spray bottle with warm water, and adding one tablespoon of baking soda to it. The bottle should be shaken vigorously to ensure that the baking soda has been completely dissolved. After cleansing the face thoroughly and drying it, the mixture should be sprayed onto the face and allowed dry without rinsing it off.
- Mask – A paste similar to the one used as a cleanser can be created with the baking soda. This time, however, it should be allowed to remain on the face for 30 minutes, not just a few minutes, or until it is totally dry. After about half an hour the mixture can be washed off.
Garlic, too, can be used as a home remedy for getting rid of acne. Along with its strong odor, garlic also contains components that are both antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. Since acne is caused by a proliferation of bacteria in the skin, garlic can very effectively get rid of them, thus getting to the root cause of the problem. Its antibiotic component has been found to be very potent and able to destroy many types of bacteria.
Fortunately, also, bacteria do not appear to become resistant to it, and so garlic can be used quite successfully for a long time, without the need for an increased dosage. Garlic is able to halt the inflammatory process of acne while simultaneously reducing the redness. Garlic works most effectively when eaten uncooked, since cooking tends to lessen its therapeutic values. To prevent problems of bad breath, the garlic could be eaten, raw, in salads.
Though not able to cure acne, toothpaste has the ability to dry out pimples, because of its high sodium content. It is considered as an ‘emergency’ or overnight treatment, in the event that one pimple appears on the face the night before an important engagement. In that event it is suggested that a small amount of toothpaste be spread atop the pimple and allowed to dry overnight. I
t can also be left on the pimple for 15 to 20 minutes before it is rinsed off. Persons have reported using toothpaste as a facial mask, by spreading a thin layer evenly over the face. The paste is allowed to dry for 10 to 15 minutes (maximum 30 minutes) and then washed off. This treatment is recommended for only once weekly, since the toothpaste can discolor and dry out the skin.
Treatments for Acne Scars
One of the biggest side effects of bad acne are the scars that result. You may be able to cure your acne over time, but the scars (if not treated properly) may remain for the rest of your life — a sign of your vicious battle with Acne. The good news is that there are some treatments to reduce or cure acne scarring. I won’t say these will completely heal scars, but you may be able to reduce or avoid them in the first place.
Some home remedies for getting rid of acne scars include –
Honey does not possess the properties required to cure acne, but it can help to fade away any scars that may exist. The process is slow, and therefore takes a long time, but success is sure. Masks made from honey help to retain moisture in the skin, and also give the skin a healthy-looking glow. The best types of honey are the raw and natural ones, rather than the processed ones. The best of the best is the Manuka honey, since it is the richest and purest of the lot. The honey mask can be applied daily, if time allows. A spatula may be used to evenly spread the honey on the cleaned face. This should be left on for 20 minutes, and then rinsed off completely with warm water. The skin should look and feel smoother.
Even though aloevera cannot cure acne, it very effectively heals acne wounds. Aloe vera products may be used to cleanse the face night and day, to improve acne symptoms and scars. A topical gel can be put on the affected area regularly, to minimize redness and swelling. An aloe vera cream or lotion may be used as a facial moisturizer, as it does not promote the production of oil on the face, as other moisturizers tend to do. Aloe vera can also be used at nights like a facial mask. It should be spread generously and evenly on the face before going to bed, and allowed to stay overnight. In the morning the aloe vera should be washed off with warm water, for best results.
Most acne cases disappear by the early twenties (and usually sooner), but acne can linger on through the adult years (called adult acne).