Acne is the most common, yet misunderstood of all skin conditions. Little progress has been made in the field, despite years of scientific research and numerous medications on the market, both prescription and over the counter.
Most teenagers will experience some form of Acne Vulgaris,the scientific name for everything from comedones( blackheads) to cystic acne. It's part of puberty to experience an increase in the size and number of oil, or sebaceous glands.
Most researchers believe acne is characterized by four main characteristics.
First is retention hyperkeratosis. This is when the follicle becomes clogged by oil, dead skin cells and the p. acnes bacteria. All hair follicles contain an oil gland. The glands on the jawline and chin tend to be larger and produce more oil, or sebum.
Second is the presence of the p.acnes bacteria, which some researchers believe is the basic problem. However, all skin has p. acnes bacteria at varying levels. So, why are some individuals prone to acne while others never break out?
Third is oil production. However, many people are extremely oily and never experience a break out while even the driest skin can be acne prone.
Fourth is the hormonal connection. It's a fact that the male hormone testosterone will increase oil production and cause exacerbation of acne breakouts. Conversely, the female hormone estrogen will usually improve skin with acne breakouts. This is the thinking behind using birth control pills to treat acne in women. However, some birth control pills also contain progesterone, which may be in a form which aggravates the acne breakouts.
A commonly overlooked aspect is diet and environmental factors. In the US, we allow many food additives, preservatives, colors and emulsifiers that are banned in the EU, The UK and Canada. Many of these additives have been linked to increased acne breakouts. Another factor is the many substances added to our water supply. Fluoride, chlorine and various heavy metals have been linked to a variety of skin conditions. Using a water filter specially made for chlorine and other heavy metals will improve the skin.
Other methods utilized for acne include LED blue light therapy, which helps to kill the p.acnes bacteria. Benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and oxygen therapies all kill the problematic bacteria and reduce acne.
A most common, but rarely effective treatment is oral antibiotics, but as acne is not a conventional infection, their effectiveness is limited and the side effects are problematic. Nevertheless, most conventional dermatologists still prescribe them as a first line defense.
Alph hydroxy acids can help by removing the dead skin build up in the follicles. The side effects are minimal and can be managed.
An important factor is diet. While there is no proven link between junk food and breakouts, many people will experience a flare in symptoms after a sugary treat. This is most likely due to a spike in the glycemic content of the blood sugar level. Interestingly, high glycemic foods are also linked to cross linking of our skins collagen fibers. High glycemic foods can be as damaging as UV radiation.
In summary, there are many effective treatments available today to treat acne of all severities. Rely on your esthetician to advise you of the most effective approach for your current skin condition. Rarely are invasive treatments like Accutane necessary.