The Most Powerful Acne Spot Treatment
The National Institutes of Health reports that no one knows what causes acne. What is known is that a pimple forms when bacteria, oil produced by the sebaceous glands and dead skin cells clog pores. Breakouts typically occur on the face, neck, back, chest and shoulders. The FDA reports that acne is not a serious health condition, but can cause emotional distress and permanent scarring.
You should choose an acne medication based on the severity of your condition. According to Nicholas Medeiros of the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science, 30 percent of acne sufferers use over-the-counter drugs to treat breakouts. Benzoyl peroxide, found in most acne products, according to Medeiros, is a powerful bleaching agent that works by killing the bacteria that causes acne and removes excess sebum, causing existing pimples to dry out.
How it Works
Daniel Kern of Acne.org explains that benzoyl peroxide can heal existing breakouts as well as prevent future breakouts when used properly. Kern suggests applying a generous amount of benzoyl peroxide to acne-prone skin every day -- during breakouts as well as between breakouts. While often advertised as a spot-treatment medication, benzoyl peroxide works very well when applied over large areas of skin.
While prescription medications are very good at treating severe breakouts, many of them are taken orally. Oral contraceptives help control hormones that cause over-active glands to produce excess oil. Antibiotics, also taken orally, reduce the bacteria that causes acne and reduces inflammation, according to the Mayo Clinic. Topical prescription drugs used to treat acne should only be reserved for the most severe cases. Drugs like Tretinoin work by unclogging pores. While Tretinoin is more powerful than benzoyl peroxide, you can only get this drug with a prescription by your doctor. And because of the potential side effects and long list of warnings, prescription acne drugs are not recommended for everyone, unlike benzoyl peroxide, which is safe for most people.
Benzoyl Peroxide Formulations
Benzoyl peroxide gels and creams offer three dosing levels: 2.5 percent, 5 percent and 10 percent. You can also get benzoyl peroxide in cleansers and exfoliators. In a 1983 study published by the "Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology" by D.K. Chalker, benzoyl peroxide combined with the antibiotic gel erythromycin produced results that were superior to treating acne with benzoyl peroxide or an antibiotic alone. A combination gel is only available if you have a doctor's prescription.
When to Use Medication
Not all acne requires the use of medication. A 2008 study by the Japan Physiological Society found that simply washing your skin with soap and water could clear acne and minimize the production of sebum. Wearing loose tops and avoiding backpacks can prevent acne from forming on your back. If you wash your skin twice a day, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology, and take the proper precautions necessary for avoiding breakouts, try applying to the lowest dose of benzoyl peroxide to your skin. You should begin seeing results after three to six weeks.
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