What do you do when Drug Store products aren’t enough?
Acne is a common problem, especially in young adults and perimenopausal women. Some people suffer with acne through their entire life! Acne in and of itself is frustrating, but it can leave behind scars that can last your lifetime. So what can you do about acne? There are a lot of products available at any pharmacy that are a good start, but what about when that doesn’t work? What are the other options?
What is Acne?
Acne is caused by the blockage of a pore with sebum (oil) and shed cells. Once the pore is blocked, it becomes an ideal environment for the proliferation of bacteria. The bacteria feed on the sebum, producing irritating free fatty acids. This irritation leads to inflammation and inflammation leads to scars.
Soaps, Creams and Other Topical Acne Treatments.
Exfoliation of the dead/shed cells will help prevent pores from becoming blocked. Inflammation is a big part of acne and you want to make sure that the products you’re using aren’t causing more inflammation. Be careful not to scrub too aggressively and avoid products with rough scrubbing particles (like crushed apricot pits). Choose instead cleansers that are not overly drying and use a round microbead scrubber.
Moving to professional products is a good step if drug store cleansers and treatments aren’t working. Look for products that will gently exfoliate and also decrease inflammation. Some of my favorite products are the iS clinical products. For acne I like the Active Serum (which contains glycolic, salicylic and lactic acids to help exfoliate and prevent pore blockage), Cleansing Complex (which contains chemical exfoliants and also chamomile to decrease inflammation) and the ProHeal Serum (which contains Vitamin C and Olive Leaf to decrease inflammation.) Tretinoin (Refissa) or Adapalene (Differen) are topical retinoids which can also help to improve acne by increasing cell turnover.
Chemical Peels for Acne.
If topical home products still aren’t enough, you can consider doing a salicylic acid peel. We like the Perfect Peel at Imagen, it includes Salicylic Acid along with other acids and glutathione. Some of our patients have a peel every 2-3 months to help keep the acne under control in combination with their home products. You can read more about chemical peels here.
Oral Treatments for Acne.
If you’re still having problems with acne control, you may need to consider oral treatments. Medications like antibiotics or medications that regulate your hormones (birth control pills or spironolactone) may be necessary.
What About Acne Scars?
While acne is embarrassing and unsightly, it is temporary. That being said, it’s important to treat it to avoid scarring that is not temporary. Be sure to avoid picking or squeezing any active acne, as this will increase inflammation and thus increase the likelihood of scarring. If you already have scarring, you can read about how to treat the scars here.