About Acne Treatment & Cures
Almost every teenager gets pimples. Acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States, affecting some 8 percent of people at some point, usually before their 20th birthday, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Even mild cases can cause emotional distress, and severe cases potentially can lead to scarring. Fortunately, there's a wide array of tested acne treatments and cures available.
Most acne results from four factors: overproduction of oil in the skin's oil-producing sebaceous glands, inflammation deep in the skin, proliferation of acne-causing bacteria and clogged pores. Most of the acne treatments available target one or more of these four factors, according to the AAD.
Over-the-counter acne treatments fight all cases of acne, from the mildest to the most severe, but may be most effective on milder cases, according to the AAD. Most over-the-counter remedies contain benzoyl peroxide, which kills acne-causing bacteria and also clears acne lesions. Benzoyl peroxide has been used to treat acne for decades and is the most effective over-the-counter option. However, it can cause skin dryness, and potentially can bleach sheets, towels and clothing if it comes in contact with them, the AAD says. Alcohol and acetone also are found in acne creams and lotions, and both have shown some effectiveness against acne.
Some people have severe acne that does not respond to over-the-counter treatment. In these cases, dermatologists have a range of prescription-only medications to try. Physicians can prescribe oral antibiotics to clear up the acne infection or order a more powerful benzoyl peroxide cream than what's available over the counter. Prescription medications to treat and cure acne also include retinoid ointments (the best-known one is Retin-A, or tretinoin) and isotretinoin, a medication that's taken by mouth. Isotretinoin carries with it a risk of serious side effects and should be taken under a physician's close supervision.
Dermatologists might combine prescription treatment of acne with a physical procedure to address the inflammation and clear the skin. Laser therapy and intense pulsed light therapy, when given in a series of treatments spanning several months, can clear the skin completely, according to the AAD. Dermatologists might also perform surgery to remove infected whiteheads or blackheads, and also can drain cysts that do not respond to medication.
According to the AAD, almost every case of acne is treatable. However, dermatologists warn that resolving acne, even a mild case, takes a fair amount of time. Every case is different, and what worked in one patient may not work in another. In addition, some treatments, especially those available only through a physician, carry the risk of side effects. All treatments should be coupled with careful overall skin care, including gentle washing twice a day with a non-drying soap, the AAD says.
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