By: Laurie Edwards for Scars1
If you’ve ever been frustrated by your skin you’re not alone – acne affects an estimated 40 to 50 million Americans each year. Whether it’s the occasional blemish, regular outbreaks or persistent severe inflammation, the important thing to know is that effective treatments exist that can lessen the chances of physical scarring as well as the emotional effects of uncontrolled acne.
While you need to give medication a chance to work, if you aren’t seeing results in two to three months, discuss other options with your dermatologist.
Tips on Treating your Acne:
Some treatments may work better than others and can involve a lot of trial and error – keep an open mind and be willing to try different combinations.
Every situation is unique, so make sure you discuss your particular lifestyle needs and medical history with your physician to make the best treatment choice.
Treating Mild Acne
Often, mild cases of acne like whiteheads or blackheads can be controlled at home. Try washing your face with gentle soap twice daily to remove excess oils and dead skin or using an over-the-counter topical lotion that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicyclic acid.
Usually, it takes about 4-6 weeks for mild acne to respond to treatment, but be sure to continue with your regimen after that to prevent new breakouts. If you’ve given it the proper amount of time and still aren’t seeing much improvement, your dermatologist may prescribe prescription-strength topical treatments.
Treating Moderate Acne
More moderate cases of acne, those which cover one-third to one-fourth of the face or other affected region, usually require the help of physician-prescribed combination therapy. The various treatment options recommended for moderate acne include:
Physical methods, like extraction of acne lesions or light therapy.
Medications, such as topical microbials that kill bacteria, topical retinoids, lotions derived from vitamin A, oral birth control pills, or oral antibiotics.
Over-the-counter topical medications and cleansers.
The best way to prevent the scarring that is often associated with moderate acne is early treatment, so be sure to consult with your dermatologist when it becomes clear your acne is not something that can be managed on your own.
Treating Severe Acne
The cysts and inflammation of severe acne causes extensive damage to the skin and often result in scarring. As such, it needs to be treated aggressively by a physician. While the most severe and potentially disfiguring acne may require several different regimens and can take years to respond, almost all cases of very severe acne can be treated.
Common treatments for the most severe forms of acne include:
Drainage and surgical extraction, which is recommended for cysts that fail to respond to medication. Though it may be tempting to try to pick and drain acne on your own, resist the urge since this can lead to infection and further inflammation.
Injection of corticosteroids, which lessens the inflammation in cysts and decreases the chance of ruptures in them. Over the course of three to five days, this medicine, which is injected in to the cyst, works by “melting” it.
Isotretinoin, which is a potent drug reserved for the most acute cases of severe acne. It is taken in pill form, and treatment typically lasts for four to five months. Sometimes, even one round of treatment can prove successful. Though it is the most effective medication for treating severe acne because it is the only one that addresses every factor that causes acne, it comes with serious side effects and cannot be prescribed to everyone.
Isotretinoin can cause serious birth defects in fetuses, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires women of child-bearing age to take two pregnancy tests before starting this therapy and use two forms of birth control one month before, during and for one month after treatment. Other side effects like severe chest pain, trouble swallowing, joint pain and nausea could indicate a serious health problem and should be reported to a doctor right away.
Oral antibiotics. which can help resolve inflammation and usually begin with a high dose that tapers down over the course of treatment.
Oral contraceptives, which can help regulate the hormonal changes that can cause acne in women. They can be used as a long-term therapy but are not suggested for women who smoke, have any kind of clotting disorder or are over the age of 35 without consulting a gynecologist.