Acne is one of the most common skin conditions. It causes pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads and can even lead to other complications, such as clogged pores and even infection. Acne is typically caused by hormonal changes during puberty, but it can also be caused by excess stress, poor hygiene, or medications. Acne typically appears on the face but can also affect your body, and in extreme cases, can even lead to permanent facial scarring. There are various effective treatments for acne that reduce both your risk of developing acne scars and the amount of care you receive. In mild to moderate cases of acne, treatments such as topical creams and light therapy can help to control and diminish the symptoms.
Acne commonly appears on the chin, forehead, nose, cheeks, and chest and can range from mild to severe. Most cases of mild acne are characterized by whitehead lesions (white heads), blackheads (blackheads), and large papules or pimples (pustules). These lesions can become infected and worsen the condition. Severe cases of acne can result in cystic lesions, extensive skin discoloration, permanent scarring, and nodules.
During adolescence and young adulthood, hormonal changes occur causing increased risk of acne. The increased production of sebum (oil produced by the sebaceous glands) is one cause of acne. This oil, which contributes to the clogging of pores, can increase the risk of acne if it is not washed away promptly. Hormonal acne occurs more often in girls than in boys. In addition to increased risk of acne during adolescence, hormonal acne is more common after pregnancy and can also be associated with increased risk of acne scars.
Women who are pregnant or intend to become pregnant should be aware of possible acne risks and the medications that can help them. The use of oral contraceptives and birth control pills can be associated with increased risk of acne. Birth control pills, also known as anti-pregnancy pills, contain estrogen-like effects on the skin that can inhibit the proliferation of bacteria. Oral antibiotics are commonly used to treat infections of the skin and are recommended for women during pregnancy to reduce inflammation and possible acne flare-ups.
Other medications that have demonstrated potential effectiveness in the prevention and treatment of acne include benzoyl peroxide and resorcinol. Benzyl peroxide kills the bacteria that cause pimples while resorcinol has been found to promote the shedding of the dead skin cells that create a natural exfoliation of the skin. These two medications can be used together for improved acne control. To prevent scarring, salicylic acid must be combined with other acne medications for best results.
Light therapy is an alternative therapy that can also be effective in the treatment of mild to moderate acne. Because it kills bacteria and light triggers cellular turnover, it can lead to a reduction in acne bacteria, which is the reason it is often prescribed along with antibiotics. Light therapy can come in the form of blue-yellow laser therapy, pulsed-light therapy and photo-dynamic therapy. It is important to discuss any medications you are currently taking with your doctor. Light therapy may interfere with some antibiotics and may increase the side effects of certain medications. Before starting any treatment regimen, check with your health care provider.