What is acne and how is it treated?
Acne is a common chronic inflammatory skin condition that involves the dysfunction of the pilosebaceous unit (hair follicles and oil glands). It is managed by reducing oil production, speeding up skin cell turnover, treating bacterial infection and reducing inflammation. This ultimately helps the goal to prevent scarring.
Elements that interrupt the physiological processes of acne include:
- Antibiotics to reduce counts of Cutibacterium acnes bacteria.
- Anti-inflammatory ingredients to calm red and inflamed skin.
- Comedolytics to unplug blocked follicles.
- Keratolytic agents to exfoliate the surface scaling.
- Agents that affect keratinisation to help normalize skin cell maturation.
- Hormonal therapy to reduce androgen activity like sebum production.
The Three Main Types of Acne Management
Acne management usually involves a combination of approaches. The three main options are topical applications, oral medication and clinical skin treatments.
Topical Treatments for Acne
Retinoids encourage exfoliating of the skin, keeping pores unclogged and preventing comedones. And Retinols as per our skincare lines ZO, SkinCeuticals, Vivier
Salicylic acid is a keratolytic. By softening keratin, it takes off the upper layer of skin. As well as unclogging pores, it breaks down whiteheads and blackheads. It also allows additional topical products to penetrate the skin better.
Azelaic acid – as an antibacterial, keratolytic and comedolytic, it reduces Cutibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermis on the skin. It also helps normalize the shedding of dead skin cells and decreases inflammation by scavenging free radicals. Azelaic acid also importantly improves post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Benzoyl peroxide reduces the number of bacteria on the surface of the skin without causing bacterial resistance. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect. As an oxidizing agent, it is keratolytic and comedolytic. It also has an anti-inflammatory action.
Topical antibiotics such as clindamycin or erythromycin, improve acne by stopping the growth of acne-causing bacteria. They also help reduce inflammation and are thought to decrease the amount of blocked pores.
Nicotinamide may improve acne through its anti-inflammatory action and by reducing sebum production.
Oral Treatments for Acne
Oral antibiotics are commonly prescribed. They can be used for short periods of time, up to 6 months.
Oral contraceptive pills are a hormonal intervention that reduce androgen activity. This helps with the reduction of sebum production. Consequently, there is less follicle obstruction and the medium for bacterial growth is reduced. It is a more medium-term treatment and can take up to 6 months to see results. This treatment comes with associated side effects and should be considered with the patient’s GP.
Machines and Other Interventions to Reduce Acne
Chemical peels, will promote exfoliation of the skin using ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid or retinoic acid.
UV light therapy, may help as it has an antimicrobial and an anti-inflammatory effect which promotes skin healing.
Microneedling, can be effective for acne scarring due to its induction of collagen production.
BBL Clear and Skintyte, an effective solution for clear and beautiful skin. This non-invasive, intense pulse light treatment is designed to address active acne.
Know Your Limits
Due to the psychological impact this condition can have on an individual, the rewards of managing acne well can be profound, as long as realistic expectations are discussed. It takes time, patience and effort from the patient and practitioner alike!