In the United States, it’s not surprising that acne is the most common skin condition. Approximately 40-50 million Americans have it at any given time. It’s a big enough issue that June has been dubbed acne awareness month. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, adult acne is on the rise. This is especially true for women likely because they experience more hormonal fluctuations during their lifetimes.
Anatomy of a zit
We get acne when dead skin cells clog a pore or hair follicle. When things are working smoothly, these dead skin cells are sloughed off as part of the body’s ingenious detoxification system. Skin oil, called sebum, is supposed to keep our skin from drying out. However, in excess, dead skin cells can stick together and become trapped inside the pore. When bacteria that live on our skin also get inside the clogged pore, inflammation can result and an acne cyst or pimple can appear.
TYPES OF ACNE
Why should I get my acne treated?
Many believe you just have to live with it, but just allowing acne to ‘run its course’ can leave you with long-lasting dark spots and permanent scars. Since acne is often immediately visible on the face, it can lower self-esteem particularly for teens and young adults. As a result, acne sufferers may miss school, isolate socially, or even develop depression, shyness, or anxiety. It can also be physically painful.
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With all skin issues, it’s important to get the right diagnosis. There are some conditions that can look similar to acne so you want an expert opinion. Secondly, treatment depends on the kind and severity of the acne. A dermatologist grades the acne on a scale from 1—the lowest—to 4—the most severe. Grade 1 may include whiteheads, blackheads, papules, or pimples. Grade 4 may involve a lot of acne, cysts, or nodules.
Zip Zapping 101
For mild Grade-1 acne, a non-prescription product containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid may do the trick. Results are not instantaneous so you have to stick with it for at least a month or two. Be aware that many over-the-counter topicals with benzoyl peroxide can be very drying and irritating to the skin. They can also bleach clothing and linens.
In most cases of acne, prescription-strength regimens can be very effective and can be customized to cause less dryness and irritation. Topical creams can be used to kill bacteria and reduce the oil and may contain a retinoid for blackheads and whiteheads. Antibiotics, which kill bacteria and reduce inflammation, may be used topically and orally. Birth control pills and other oral medications are used when hormones are thought to be involved. The strongest treatment is Isotretinoin (Accutane). It is a true wonder drug for acne, but it is only used as a last resort.
In addition, lasers and light therapies can reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin. Special chemical peels and facials are also used to treat blackheads and papules. When acne cysts occur, dermatologists can inject these lesions with diluted strengths of steroids, which act as an immediate fix to decrease and eliminate the cyst.
A few natural tips
• Reduce your dairy intake. Milk and dairy products naturally contain a lot of hormones. Since hormones stimulate oil glands, eliminating or restricting milk, cheese, and other dairy products may curb your acne breakouts. Nowadays, there is no shortage of dairy substitutes such as almond milk and coconut milk-based products. The coconut milk ice creams are especially yummy!
• Wash your face with honey?! Yup! Since honey is antibacterial it can inhibit breakouts. Be sure to get raw or manuka honey.
•You can also try minimizing your salt intake, cut out soda, and try to eat only whole grains.
Keep it clean
It’s also important that you take the time to keep things clean. Sometimes you don’t think about all the dirt, oil, and bacteria you’re putting into the mix.
• Wash your face before you go to bed & don’t sleep with makeup on.
• If you use makeup brushes, be sure to clean them or get new ones every so often.
• Make sure your bedding, especially your pillowcase, is cleaned at least every 1-2 weeks.
• Clean your cell phone! It touches everything and then you press it against your face.
Is there a stress connection?
It’s always during exams, the big date, or interview that Mt. Vesuvius erupts front and center on your face, am I right? Researchers theorized that when acne sufferers are stressed out they produce more oily sebum. This clogs pores even more.
Stress can also lead to anxious behavior like picking at your skin, which only makes matters worse. There is even a condition called acne excoriee, which involves compulsive excavations of every minor blemish. In this situation, what might have gone unnoticed evolves into gruesome scabbing and scarring.
Managing stress, eating a healthy whole foods diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising all help keep the body balanced and working properly and this, in turn, can only benefit your skin.
It’s important to tailor an acne treatment regimen that works specifically for you and your issues. This often means combining approaches.
At SoCo, that’s what we do best!
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