Acne Fighting Products
Somewhere between 40 and 50 million people in the United States, including 85 percent of teenagers, suffer from acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. There are so many products available for fighting acne that it's difficult to know which ones to try. While different products have varying degrees of success from person to person, there is a definitive list of types of acne-fighting products that are generally recognized as effective by the medical establishment.
Over-the-Counter Topical Products
A variety of active ingredients make up over-the-counter topical treatments for fighting acne. They don't all work the same way, so finding the mechanism of action that addresses your specific acne causes is key. These treatments must be used continuously.
Benzoyl peroxide, labeled by the Mayo Clinic as the most effective acne-fighting ingredient, kills the bacteria that causes acne, strips excess oil from the skin and exfoliates.
The combination of alcohol and acetone removes oil from the skin and kills acne-causing bacteria. Another effective combination, according to the Skin Care Physicians site of the American Academy of Dermatology, is resorcinol and sulfur.
Salicylic acid is useful for combating non-inflammatory acne, explains Skin Care Physicians. It regulates skin cell shedding, inhibiting the blocking of pores. It is also believed to help break down aggregations of sebum, the skin's oil that contributes to acne.
Glycolic and lactic acids are two common alpha hydroxy acids used in over-the-counter topical products for fighting acne. They exfoliate the skin and reduce inflammation, and can help prevent acne scarring, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Prescription Topical Products
There are several common prescription topical products for fighting acne for those who can't treat their condition successfully with over-the-counter products. Some ingredients available over the counter, like benzoyl peroxide, are also available in higher concentrations by prescription. The following are available only by prescription.
Prescription-strength antibiotics kill the bacteria that contributes to acne formation. Skin Care Physicians includes azelaic acid, clindamycin, erythromycin and sodium sulfacetamide as effective ingredients. Your doctor will advise you on which is best-suited to your particular type of acne.
Other prescription topical products are derived from vitamin A, known as retinoids. Adapalene, tazarotene and tretinoin are three standard types. These products help break down buildup in pores. They can, however, cause various skin irritations.
Prescription Oral Products
Oral antibiotics are often used to treat chronic moderate to severe acne, says Skin Care Physicians. These products, like their topical counterparts, work by killing the bacteria that contributes to acne, which also soothes inflammation. Erythromycin, tetracycline, doxycycline and minocycline, are standard oral antibiotics used to fight acne.
Isotretinoin is an oral retinoid used only as a last resort for severe, chronic cystic acne conditions. This is because, as the Mayo Clinic explains, while it's highly effective, there are often serious side effects, including birth defects in children of pregnant women who take the medication.
Birth control pills are sometimes prescribed to women with chronic acne. They can help women whose acne is caused by overproduction of sebum, according to Skin Care Physicians, by suppressing the sebaceous glands that produce it.
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