About Topical Acne Treatments
Topical acne treatments are applied directly to the skin, usually in the form of a wash, toner, gel or lotion. Many topical acne treatments are available at drugstores or department stores and are available without a prescription. Dermatologists will often use topical medications along with other treatment options as part of a comprehensive approach to treating acne.
The majority of consumer acne products and a large portion of prescription acne medications are administered topically. For most people who suffer from acne, topical acne medication is tried prior to other methods because of the decreased risk of side effects associated with this type of treatment. Additionally, topical acne treatments are often less expensive than oral medications or laser procedures.
Topical acne treatments come in many formulations, but there are active ingredients that are used by many manufacturers. Benzoyl peroxide is a key acne-fighting ingredient found in many over-the-counter acne washes and lotions, and it can be used to treat most cases of mild to moderate acne. Salicylic acid is contained in washes, toners and lotions as well. According to the American Academy of Dermatology's AcneNet, salicylic acid is primarily effective at treating small, non-inflammatory acne. Topical retinoids are available by prescription, and are effective at treating mild to moderately severe acne.
The effects of topical acne treatments vary depending on the type of ingredients contained in them, but the desired end result is the same. Benzoyl peroxide clears up acne by drying up excess oil, unclogging pores and fighting the skin bacteria that causes acne. Salicylic acid has no effect on bacteria or excess oil, but unclogs pores and promotes even shedding of dead skin cells to prevent clogged pores. Retinoids also gradually unclog pores and prevent further clogged pores. Side effects of these topical acne treatments may include excessive dryness of the skin, mild skin irritation or redness, which may resolve as treatment progresses.
Effective acne treatment is highly beneficial for sufferers because it not only improves a person's physical appearance, but may improve psychological health as well. Social inhibition and low self-esteem often accompany acne. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, an estimated 80 percent of adolescents and young adults will experience acne. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of teenagers speak with their physician about acne treatment. Topical acne medications that can be purchased over the counter may be the only method of treatment for individuals who are too embarrassed to speak with a physician or who cannot afford prescription acne treatments.
While topical acne treatment has its benefits, it may not be enough for people with moderate to severe acne. People who suffer from severe or persistent acne may try many OTC topical treatments without experiencing the desired results. Additionally, for women who are pregnant or people with skin conditions or highly sensitive skin may not be able to use certain topical acne medications and should discuss treatment with a medical professional. Finally, topical acne medications may increase sun sensitivity, and extra care should be taken to protect the skin from overexposure.
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