Acne is a condition which affects thousands of individuals. For the most part the majority are teenagers. However, acne is not limited to the young and it is not uncommon for women who are pregnant, going through menopause or any individual going through a very stressful period in their life, to suffer from an outbreak of acne.
Individuals who suffer from mild, moderate or severe inflammatory acne can be treated with over-the-counter medications, prescription topical medications, prescription oral medications or a combination of these. Through years of research a variety of medications have become available to help clear acne. And, after years of case studies, there are also a variety of more natural products that can be used to help clear acne and prevent the condition.
To achieve long-term control, dermatologists will often combined therapies. The role of each medication or treatment protocol offers an important treatment, attacking different factors in the development of the condition.
Over-the-counter medications are usually mild and contain benzyl peroxide, sulfur, salicylic acid, lactic acid or resorcinol. These products can be incredibly helpful for mild to moderate acne. It is important to try several different over-the-counter medications prior to scheduling an appointment with the dermatologist. Give each medication at least three to four weeks before determining it is not helping the skin. Sometimes the condition will actually look worse before it gets better.
When attempting to switch over the counter medications read the labels and be sure that you are not switching from one medication which uses salicylic acid as the primary ingredient to another one which has the same primary ingredient. You should assume that your results will be the same. Attempt to find a product whose active ingredient is different from the one you just tried.
If the acne does not respond to these treatments a doctor or dermatologist will be able to recommend another topical treatment which is stronger. Tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova) and Adapalene (Differin) are examples of topical prescription products that are derived from vitamin A. These derivatives can be caustic to the skin initially and may cause peeling, redness and irritation. They work by promoting cell turnover and preventing plugging of hair follicles. Some physicians also recommend the use of Retin A in order to help clear skin and prevent scar tissue.
There are a line of topical antibiotics used to kill skin bacteria responsible for the development of some white heads, pustules and cystic acne. A combination of a vitamin A derivative and antibiotic can be used to achieve optimal results.
Individuals who suffer from moderate to severe acne may benefit from oral antibiotics to reduce the bacterial growth and fight the inflammation. Often times these antibiotics are used for months at low doses and in combination with topical products.
There are several different types of pustules, pimples, blackheads and cysts which are acne. For deep cysts antibiotics may not be enough. In these cases physicians may prescribe Accutane, which is a powerful medication and only used in cases where individuals may suffer from psychological stress related to their condition. This is because of the severe side effects that may be experienced. Individuals will require close monitoring. The medication is associated with severe birth defects and is given to women only after they have had a negative pregnancy test and are willing to undergo routine pregnancy testing during treatment.
Oral contraceptives are also used to help clear the skin in women. The theory is that they help to control the hormonal balance of the woman and prevent over production of sebum or oil. Oral contraceptives do have other side effects which may make the risk versus benefit ratio too high for some women.
Laser and light therapies may be used to reach deeper layers of the skin without harming the surface. The laser treatment is believed to damage the oil glands, which causes them to produce less oil. It can also kill the bacteria, which precipitates inflammation. Researchers have found that laser and light therapy can improve skin texture and lessen the appearance of scars. (1)
Other common topical medications can include Salicylic acid, erythromycin, clindamycin and combination drugs such as benzyl peroxide and sulfur or erythromycin and benzyl peroxide.
Dermatologists have a variety of medications which they can use to approach the treatment of acne outbreaks over time. These medications can also be used in combination in order to give the person the best possible outcome for their skin.
(1) MayoClinic.com: Acne