The Best Acne Treatments on the Market
Churchill Hospital in Headington, Oxford, did a quality-of-life study in 1999 that compared acne patients with chronic disease patients. Using a self-esteem test, a severely affected group of acne sufferers "reported levels of social, psychological and emotional problems that were as great as those reported by patients with chronic disabling asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, back pain or arthritis." So it's no wonder that acne treatments are big business. Fortunately, acne is a very treatable condition.
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most-used non-prescription acne medications. It's formulated to kill the bacteria that cause P. acne (or non-hormonal acne). Benzoyl peroxide comes in three concentrations: 2.5%, 5% and 10%. It is recommended to start with the lowest dose, applied once or twice daily, and increase the dose or application once you begin to see results and know how the medication affects your skin.
For chronic or cyclical acne, you should continue to use benzoyl peroxide even after your blemishes are eliminated because even though the medication fights existing acne, it does not prevent the development of new breakouts.
Sulfur and Resorcinol
Sulfur and resorcinol are similar medications. They both work by drying the skin, causing the top layers to peel. They also both help break down whiteheads and blackheads. Sulfur is less irritating for some people.
Found in cleansers and exfoliators, salicylic acid slows the pores from shedding dead skin cells and helps prevent hair follicles from getting clogged. You can use a salicylic cleanser twice daily---in the morning when you wake up and in the evening before bed. If you notice oil buildup on your skin during the day and you don't have persistent drying from your acne regiment, you can use the cleanser a third time.
Use an exfoliator with salicylic acid only about twice a week, even with severe acne. Exfoliators have an abrasive ingredient that helps unclog pores. But if used too often, they will irritate skin and can exacerbate inflammation.
Top acne prescription medications named by the Mayo Clinic include tretinoin (sold as Retin-A), adapalene (Differin) and tazarotene (Tazorac), all derivatives of vitamin A. These topical medications work by promoting cell regeneration and preventing pores from clogging.
Also available by prescription are some antibiotics that work by killing bacteria in the skin by reducing proteins that the bacteria rely on to live. Popular medications include clindamycin (BenzaClin) and erythromycin (Benzamycin).
For women suffering from hormonal acne---breakouts that appear about a week prior to menstruation---topical skin treatments may not keep skin clear. In fact, pretreatment of hormonal acne is key. Three birth control pills have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in treating acne: Yaz (generic ethinyl estradiol and drospirenone), Estrostep (ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone) and Ortho Tri-Cyclen (ethinyl estradiol and norgestimate).
According to the Hormone Center of New York, oral contraceptives treat acne by lowering free testosterone and protecting the glands from overexposure to hormones. It could take several weeks before improvement takes effect.
Because men with hormonal acne won't benefit from oral contraceptives, it's recommended that they try an oral antibiotic or vitamin-A derivative instead.
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