Steps to Clear Acne
Acne affects nearly 17 million people in the United States, according to the University of Virginia Health System. When dirt and oil clog the sebaceous glands, bacteria build up and lead to the formation of pustules, cysts, blackheads or whiteheads. Several steps help to clear acne and control embarrassing acne breakouts.
Daily cleansing of the skin removes the dirt, oil and bacteria responsible for acne. Columbia University Medical Center recommends washing your face twice daily with a mild soap. Use a new washcloth each day, as bacteria grow on damp cloths. If you exercise, wash the sweat off of your skin as soon as possible.
Several lifestyle changes help to clear acne and prevent new breakouts. Avoid touching your face, as this transfers bacteria and environmental pollutants to the skin. If you need to apply makeup or touch the face for any reason, wash your hands before doing so. Keep your hair away from your face to avoid transferring oil from the hair to the skin.
When daily cleansing does not control acne, use over-the-counter products to eliminate dirt, oil and bacteria. Astringents tighten the pores and eliminate the oil that contributes to acne. Use astringents only on oily areas of the skin. In some cases, dry skin leads to acne because the sebaceous glands produce excess oil to relieve the dryness. Moisturizers relieve dryness and prevent the production of acne-causing oil.
Over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and resorcinol also help to clear acne. Salicylic acid slows down the shedding of dead skin cells, which prevents clogged pores. This product also breaks down whiteheads and blackheads, according to the Mayo Clinic. Benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria, prevents clogged pores and removes excess oil from the skin. Resorcinol, usually combined with sulfur, removes excess oil from the skin and prevents clogged pores.
Topical Prescription Medications
For moderate to severe acne, seek the advice of a dermatologist, who may prescribe medications to control breakouts and prevent new blemishes from forming. Topical prescription medications for acne include clindamycin, azelaic acid, sodium sulfacetamide and erythromycin. These products kill acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation. Doctors also prescribe topical retinoids for acne. These drugs prevent the formation of whiteheads and blackheads, and unclog the pores. Examples of topical retinoids include tretinoin, adapalene and tazarotene.
Oral Prescription Medications
Doctors prescribe systemic acne medications for moderate to severe cases of acne. Oral antibiotics kill the bacteria that cause acne and reduce inflammation. Oral antibiotics for acne include erythromycin, minocycline, tetracycline and doxycycline. Oral contraceptives control acne breakouts caused by overactive sebaceous glands. Examples of oral contraceptives used for acne treatment include Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Ortho-Cyclen.
Oral retinoids, such as isotretinoin, normalize the shedding of skin cells. This prevents clogged pores and reduces acne breakouts. Isotretinoin causes severe birth defects when used by pregnant women, so use a reliable contraceptive method during treatment with this drug. Your doctor will determine the best drug for your condition based on your medical history, acne severity and causes of your acne breakouts.
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