Acne is a common skin condition that afflicts more than 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24. Some adults suffer acne well into their 40s. There is no cure for acne, although there are numerous treatments for helping to prevent serious outbreaks. Treating your acne and blackheads can also help improve your appearance and self-esteem as well as prevent the development of lifelong-pitted scars.
Acne begins with sebaceous glands secreting excess oil and flooding the follicle. When the oil presses up close to the skin and hardens to form a plug this is called a blackhead. A blackhead is not caused by dirt. The black color is the oil and skin debris accumulated at the opening of the gland. Whiteheads are formed in a similar manner, but the plug is much deeper under the skin.
Treatments for acne include:
- Soap and Water
- Salicylic acid
- benzoyl peroxide
Acne sufferers may employ mild exfoliate such as scrubs to gently remove excess dead skin cells, but should avoid seriously abrasive products because the irritation can cause the areas of acne to spread out and increase.
Mild cleansers, such as soap, remove excess oil, debris, and dirt from the surface of the skin. While dirt is not a cause of acne, the interaction between dirt, sweat, and other debris can contribute to the infections suffered by plugged pores and lead to mild inflammatory acne. Many over the counter topical cleansing pads contain salicylic acid alone or in combination with benzoyl peroxide. Used two to three times daily, they can help dry out and remove excess oils secreted by the sebaceous glands.
Using products such as pore strip pads may remove the hardened sebum plugs found in blackheads and whiteheads, but they do not do anything to treat the excess oil that is produced. In caring for your skin, you should employ the following methods:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Drink plenty of water
- Wash with mild soap and water once or twice daily
- Use mild exfoliates and avoid abrasive cleansers
- Use an over-the-counter product containing salicylic acid
- Mild alcohol washes may produce similar effects to salicylic acid
The most important thing to remember about treating acne is to remember to not pop or burst the blackheads, whiteheads, or pustules without the supervision of a physician. While a seeming relief, trauma to the pore area can actually open it to infection by skin-based bacteria and a further outbreak of acne or scarring.
Washing with mild soap and drying the skin out may leave it feeling a bit red and tender, while also a tightening effect is normal. Women should use water-based cosmetics in favor of oil-based as well. For moderate acne, these methods will help keep the skin supple and avoid aging and scarring.
If the acne is severe and doesn’t respond or the skin becomes more inflamed and irritated, it is always best to consult a dermatologist.