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How to Get Rid of Acne

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Removing Acne Problems

The mention of the word acne usually conjures up images of teenagers with pimples on their faces. However, acne is a skin condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age. Thousands of dollars are spent each year by companies who make acne treatments.

Celebrity endorsements have become the norm as these companies try to convince people that their acne products are the only effective way to get rid of the problem.

Ideally, you want to keep you pores as clear and healthy as possible in order to prevent acne from coming on in the first place. Being careful about the types of products you put on your skin is also important. Prevention techniques can keep you from getting acne in some cases, but not always.

Arming yourself with information is one of the first steps in getting rid of acne, if it should become a problem for you. You should remember that if acne is particularly severe, or if it is bothersome to you, it may be wise to seek the professional advice of a dermatologist.

What is Acne?

Acne (an abbreviated form of the phrase acne vulgaris) is a skin condition defined by clogged, obstructed pores or hair follicles. The word 'vulgaris” means “of the common type”. The obstruction of the pores or hair follicles can lead to several types of visible skin bumps or lesions, including:

  • blackheads
  • whiteheads
  • pimples
  • cysts

These bumpy structures are called comedones, which hair follicles that have become filled with oil (sebum), and skin debris (keratin squamae). The presence of these materials in the pore or hair follicle widens the walls of the pore, which may or may not continue to the skin's surface. This is what causes the skin to form the comedo.

If the comedo is open, this means that the pore is widely opened, with the opening being filled with darkened skin debris material. An open comedo is commonly called a blackhead. If the comedo is closed, the skin opening has become completely obstructed or blocked by sebum or skin material, causing a minor inflammatory reaction in the area. When a large amount of oil is present beneath skin's surface, the ever present, usually harmless bacteria in the skin feeds off of the oil and multiplies.

This is the cause of the inflammation. An open comedo is commonly called a whitehead. If a comedo occurs further beneath the skin's surface, this forms a papule, or pimple. At the deepest level, this buildup of oil and debris may even cause a fluid filled sac called a cyst.

Where is Acne Usually Found?

Acne most commonly affects the face and neck area. In some cases, it may also be found on the back and chest, depending on the type and severity of the acne. These are the areas where the sebaceous (oil producing) glands in the skin are most active and most prone to becoming clogged or obstructed.

Myths About the Causes of Acnes

Many myths or old wives tales exist about the causes of acne. In most cases these myths are the result of ignorance, outdated thinking, or are intended to keep people from doing things that are not “socially acceptable.” Some of the common myths include:

  • Getting a tan will clear your skin: this is not true, but is likely believed because a tan may temporarily cover the redness caused by acne. Overexposure to the sun can or tanning beds cause many more skin problems, so it is not recommended for treatment of acne.
  • Acne is caused by lack of hygiene: cleanliness has no bearing on acne, since it is caused by obstruction of the pores that happens beneath the skin. Actually, washing the affected area more often could cause it to become more irritated. This is why scrubbing is not an effective method for getting rid of acne.
  • Popping a pimple makes it go away sooner: This is not true. Popping a pimple will likely force bacteria deeper into the skin, which could lead to more redness and inflammation. It could also cause scarring, which can last much longer than the pimple itself, possibly for months or years.
  • Avoiding makeup or shaving prevents acne: Shaving or wearing make up are not always the cause of acne, but they can be. Avoiding the two will not necessarily prevent acne. What's important is to use only makeup or shaving products which are labeled nonacnegenic or noncomodegenic. This means that the products are formulated in a way that will not contribute to the clogging of pores.
  • Using more acne medication will prevent acne: This is a perfect example of 'too much of a good thing'. Overuse of acne medication can lead to excessive drying of the skin, and cause more breakouts. It's best to use acne products, whether over the counter or prescription, exactly as described on the package.
  • Sex or masturbation cause acne: A perfect example of using a threat of an unwanted consequence to discourage people from doing something, this myth came from an old 17th century mindset. It was meant to keep young people from having sex before marriage, and has long since been disproved.
  • Stress causes acne: Theoretically, this could be true, because of stress hormones. However, it is much more likely the other way around: acne causes stress.

Why is Acne So Common in Teenagers?

As many as 8 in 10 teenagers will experience some degree of acne. It is known that the sebaceous glands, which produce oil(sebum) to keep the skin lubricated, are stimulated by male hormones released in the adrenal glands of both males and females.

These male hormones are called androgens. Hormone production in general is particularly active during the teen years, due to the onset of puberty. Glandular activity also increases throughout the body during this stage of development. This is the common logic in understanding why teenagers are so often plagued by acne.

How Puberty Can Encourage Acne

Puberty is a biological process which occurs in all humans (absent certain glandular problems or health conditions), signaling the transition from childhood into adulthood:

  • Begins between the ages of 8 and 13 in females
  • Begins between the ages of 10 and 15 in males. (This is why it's commonly said that girls mature faster or earlier than boys.)
Puberty in females is characterized by:
  • the onset of menstruation-hormonal changes that bring on the first period
  • a growth spurt- getting taller, or feet growing larger, etc
  • development of sexual organs/breasts
  • growth of pubic hair
  • added fatty tissue that gives the body a more feminine shape

Puberty in males is characterized by:

  • deepening/changing voice
  • development of sexual organs, increased sperm production
  • nocturnal emissions (commonly called “wet dreams”)
  • a growth spurt- getting taller, more muscular, feet growing larger, etc
  • growth of facial and pubic hair[5]

The spike in hormonal activity during the pubescent years is thought to be a main cause of acne. Also, during puberty, sweat glands, as well as oil (sebaceous) glands become much more active, which can lead to obstruction of pores and acne breakouts. The amount of time puberty can go on varies from person to person.

The many changes taking place in the body can cause a degree of stress in teenagers as they adjust to what is happening. Acne can aggravate the feelings of awkwardness and insecurity teenagers may already be experiencing.

What About Adults and Acne?

In some cases, adults who suffer from acne in their teenage years may continue to have problems with it well into adulthood.

Often, people who never had problems with acne before may get it in adulthood. This is especially true of women, who may have problems with acne during certain portions of their menstrual cycles, often directly prior to their period.

Women may also experience acne related skin problems as a result of several other factors:

  • medicines
  • pregnancy
  • perimenopause
  • menopause
  • certain cosmetics

Certain hormonal factors may also contribute to the presence of adult acne, including:

  • overproduction of androgens (male hormones)
  • imbalance of estrogen (female hormones)
  • imbalance of testosterone (male hormones)
  • The process that causes comedones to appear is the same, regardless of the age of the person.
  • Overproduction of oil and/or pores and hair follicles being clogged with debris leads to breakouts.[4]

Psychological Effects of Acne

The effects of acne on a person's quality of life can be devastating. In general, this can be the case whether the acne is mild or severe, as it is more about the person's perception than the severity of the condition. High school students, who may already be experiencing anxiety over fitting in with their peers, or feelings of awkwardness, are especially susceptible to these issues. Depending upon their personal situation and their reaction to breakouts, acne sufferers can experience the following:

  • Depression: This is characterized by feelings of hopelessness and disinterest in activities. It can be the result of embarrassment over the acne breakouts, or long term failure at getting rid of them
  • Social Dysfunction: When a person beings avoiding social interaction because of breakouts, or using excessive amounts of makeup to cover the acne, it can be a sign of social dysfunction. Often the acne is causing low self esteem and an unwillingness to be seen in public.

Getting Rid of Acne on Your Own

Advertisements for products promising to rid acne sufferers of breakouts have permeated our society. Television commercials, radio spots, and magazine and newspaper ads all tout one system or another as more effective than its competition. Add to that the internet banners, and it is no surprise that most people opt to attempt treatments on their own to get rid of acne.

Over the Counter Acne Treatments

There are a few medicines, which are part of many acne fighting products, that are widely accepted to be effective. Consumers looking for over the counter acne treatment should look for products containing one or more of these proven ingredients.

Some of them are:

Salicylic Acid

Part of a classification of medicines known as keratolytic agents, this ingredient works by breaking down and loosening the skin debris and oil that clogs the pores. It also causes the blemish to shrink, though it may take time for the full effect to happen.

Dryness may occur with use of salicylic acid, so it is best to use a small amount at first, until you skin becomes accustomed it. You should remember that use of a product containing salicylic acid increases the sensitivity of your skin to the sun. For this reason, it is advised that sunscreen be used along with these products. Also, sun exposure should be lessened, if practical.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a bactericide, meaning it kills bacteria, which is the cause of acne inflammation. It also works by increasing peeling and skin cell turnover as it clears pores of bacteria.

For the first week, the skin may be red and irritated, until it adjusts to the medicine. Benzoyl peroxide is available as gel or cream, and comes in concentrations of 2.5% and 5-10%. The higher the concentration, the more possibility there is for irritation, and it is arguable whether higher concentrations are more effective.

Extra care should be taken when using benzoyl peroxide, due to its bleaching properties. It could lighten or whiten hair, fabric, or other surfaces it is mistakenly applied to.


Nicotanimide is a drug that has anti-inflammatory properties. This medicine is available as Nicomide, in a vitamin supplement form. It also comes in pads, creams, or gels, usually with a 4% or 5% concentration.

Non-Medicinal Home Treatments For Acne There are some non-medicinal treatments that may be effective in reducing the symptoms of acne. Acne sufferers who do not wish to use a chemical agent to treat the condition, or whose acne is less severe, may wish to try one of these treatments.

Clove Oil

This oil is a natural extract from cloves, and has a strong, pleasant odor. Clove oil contains eugenol, which has anti-bacterial properties. Skin damage is also possible with the use of clove oil, so it is best to consult a dermatologist before use.


Because they may contain alcohol and menthol, which mah reduce acne, toothpastes are sometimes used as spot treatments for acne pimples. The ingredients in toothpaste that reduce acne symptoms can also dry out the skin, so it is not considered the ideal treatment.

Those who are already prone to drier skin may not want to use toothpaste for this purpose.

Popping Pimples

In order for this to work without scarring or introduction of more bacteria into the skin, it must be done properly. Hands and fingernails must be clean, and it is even better to wear gloves. Clean the area around the pimple with anti-bacterial cleanser, then exfoliate gently.

Avoid touching the pimple itself as you clear the sebum and debris from the area. This can be achieved by applying pressure in the area around the pimple. Antibacterial solution, as well as benzoyl peroxide, should be used during the process.

Getting Medical Help with Acne

Acne is a very common skin condition, affecting around 80-100% of people in westernized nations, so medical professionals see it on a regular basis. Dependent upon the severity of the acne, and the affect the condition is having on the sufferer, it may become necessary to seek medical intervention. Among those affected by acne who visit their health care professionals due to problems with acne, 15-30% will need medical treatment. Between 2and 7% will develop scarring that could last a lifetime.

===Who Should I See About My Acne?=== This depends on a number of factors, including cost, the availability of health care professionals in your area, the severity of your acne, or your own personal preference. If your acne is mild, or doesn't have much effect on your day to day life, you may be fine seeing your regular family doctor. When acne is more severe, or is causing problems for you, it is best to see either a dermatologist, or a nurse practitioner who specializes in dermatology.

Dermatology is a medical field that deals with the skin, and its problems and diseases, as well as the scalp, hair, and nails. Dermatologists complete four years of specialized training beyond their medical degree. Dermatology nurse practitioners also fulfill specialized educational requirements beyond their nursing degrees.

If your acne is interfering with your daily life, or causing you undue stress, you can be assured that a dermatologist or dermatology nurse practitioner will possess the knowledge necessary to help you.

What Can I Expect at My Appointment?

Medical diagnosis of acne is usually made during an examination. The first step will likely be confirming the presence of visible comedones (pimples, blackheads, et If comedones are not visible to the naked eye, you should be evaluated for other skin conditions which may be present. During the exam, your health care provider will ask you about the following factors, which could aggravate acne:

Use of oil based or oil containing cosmetics, which could include makeup, lotions, or creams. Commonly used items like headbands, shoulder pads, or bras with under-wire ( these are called mechanical occlusions). Wearing these items could cause blockage of the pores beneath them.

Excessive sun exposure, which could irritate or inflame the skin. Medicines, like anti-epileptics, bromides, or drugs containing iodide. Any medical conditions that may increase the production of androgens, or if you are female, you may be asked if you could be pregnant. Pregnancy causes a shift in hormones that may cause or worsen acne.

The health care provider will also take your health history, to help in determining the best course of treatment for your acne. Gathering information in this stage of the examination may include:

1An assessment of your general physical health, including any medical conditions, allergies, and family history that might be pertinent. The following data about your acne will be sought:

  • When did your problems with acne begin?
  • How severe is the acne?
  • What is your skin type?
  • Is there a family history of acne?
  • What is your personal assessment?
  • Is there evidence of scarring?
  • Is the acne having psychological effects?

Find out what treatments you have used, or are currently using, for your acne.

If you have used treatments before, the doctor or nurse practitioner will want to know:

  • What products you have used
  • When you used them
  • How long you used them
  • How effective they were in treating your acne

The health care provider may also:

  • take a sample of the sebum (oil) in your skin for testing
  • take photos of your acne test you hormone levels, if you are female.

There may be more steps, but this will be based on your individual situation, and the opinion of the health care provider.

How Will My Acne Be Treated By A Healthcare Provider?

Acne treatments prescribed by health care providers can be divided into four main categories: topical therapy, systemic therapy, hormonal agents, and adjunct treatments. The treatments are usually administered in this order, with topical therapy being the first treatment attempted, then moving on to the systemic therapy if the desired effect is not achieved, and so on.

Based on the severity of your acne, the doctor or nurse practitioner will make a decision about which category of treatment to use. Your treatment may involve medicines from more than one category.

get rid of acne

Topical Therapy

This type of therapy is meant to be applied directly to the skin, and can come in gel, cream or liquid form.

1. Retinoids 2. Benzoyl peroxide 3. Salicylic acid 4. Anti inflammatory agents 5. Antibiotic ointments, like erythromycin 6. combination agents

Systemic Therapy

This type of therapy is meant to be taken internally, to reduce or eliminate acne through the body systems.

1. Antibiotics- mostly tetra-cyclines. (only in some cases, as overuse of antibiotics can lead to worsening acne, or other drug resistant bacterial infections. 2. Trimehoprim-sulfamethoxazole- a type of antibiotic.

Hormonal Agents

This is an option for female patients, using oral contraceptives (birth control pills). Generally these are used when a woman already needs contraception, or there is suspicion that her acne may be caused by a hormone imbalance. The type of pill, and the specific course of treatment varies, and sometimes involves combined oral contraceptives.

As an example, the birth control pill Yasmin was promoted and prescribed for treatment of moderate acne. Due to licensing issues, Yasmin is no longer recommended as a first line acne treatment.

Adjunct Treatments

These are medical treatment for acne that don't fit in any of the other categories.

1. Chemical peels- can be performed by 2. Intralesional steroids- involves injecting steroids directly into acne comedones or lesions 3. Laser therapy- this is done to reduce the appearance of acne scars

Whichever course of treatment your healthcare provider advises for you, he/she will explain to you the proper way to take or use your medications, and how long you can expect to wait before you see results. Listen carefully, and follow your doctor or nurse practitioner's instructions closely. Doing so will assure you get the best outcome from your treatment.

My Acne is Gone, How Can I Keep it From Coming Back?

Once you have finished your treatments, and your acne is gone, you will need to take some measures to prevent it from returning. You may not always be able to stop acne from coming back, as some factors are out of your control. Still, it is best to take action in the areas you can control.

  • Keep your skin clean- You should wash your face twice a day, using your bare hands. Be gentle, as too much pressure could irritate the skin.
  • Choose your skin care and cosmetics products with careBe sure to look for makeup, lotions, creams, and other skin care items that are marked “nonacnegenic” or “noncomedogenic”. Products with these classifications won't clog your pores.
  • Choose water based products over those which use oil as a base. Water bases products are less likely to obstruct pores.
  • Limit sun exposure, when practical. Overexposure to the sun can irritate the skin.

As upsetting as acne may be, you can rest assured knowing it is a skin condition that can be treated in most cases. If you have acne, you are not alone, because it is very common. Most acne will go away on its own, but you can decide to treat it rather than wait it out. Whether you try home treatments, over the counter products, or seek prescribed medications from a health care provider is up to you. However, please be advised that it may be best to seek medical advice before beginning any acne treatment regimen.

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This page was last modified on 3 August 2013, at 18:44.
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