Acne: Treatment and Prevention

Acne is a skin condition affecting sebaceous glands and hair follicles. Find out what causes pimples and learn about the acne treatment options available.

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What is Acne?

Acne is a skin condition characterised by red pimples that typically appear on the face and neck and occasionally on the upper back, chest, or shoulders. Pimples typically result from inflammation or infection of oil-producing sebaceous glands.

Depending on its severity, acne can lead to scarring of the skin, causing frustration and emotional distress. It is usually not a serious medical condition but you may need to seek medical help if:
You develop persistent pimples or inflamed cysts.
Your social relationships or self-esteem are affected because of the cosmetic appearance of your skin.

It may present in the following forms:
Comedones: clogged openings of hair follicles, or pores, blocked with oil secretions, dead skin cells and sometimes bacteria. When comedones are open at the skin surface they are called blackheads. Closed comedones are called whiteheads.
Papules and pustules: small red, raised bumps that occur due to inflammation or infection in the hair follicles.
Nodules: large, painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin, formed by the build-up of secretions deep within the hair follicles.
Cysts: painful, pus-filled lumps beneath the surface of the skin.

Related: How to Have Good Skin

What Causes Acne?

Acne can be caused by one or more of the following factors:
Overproduction of oil (sebum)
Hair follicles clogged by oil and dead skin cells
Build-up of bacteria and infection

Related: All You Need to Know About Cosmetic Products

Risk Factors

Some risk factors include:
Hormonal changes in the body that can aggravate acne. These changes commonly occur in teenagers, women and teenage girls just before periods and in pregnant women
Use of certain steroid medications such as cortisone
Exposure to certain cosmetics
Family history
Stress

Related: Help Your Child Cope with Puberty and Self-Esteem

Acne Treatment

Most acne treatments work by:
Reducing oil production
Speeding up turnover of cells from the skin
Fighting bacterial infection and reducing inflammation

Treatment may be in the form of topical prescription medication applied to the skin or oral medication.

Topical treatments for mild acne include:
Over-the-counter lotions that contain benzoyl peroxide, sulphur, resorcinol, salicylic acid, or lactic acid.
They work by promoting cell turnover and preventing plugging of the hair follicles.
Oral antibiotics may be needed to reduce bacteria and fight inflammation in severe acne.
Isotretinoin is a powerful medication used to treat severe scarring cystic acne or acne that does not respond to other treatments.
Laser and light therapy: laser treatment affects the oil (sebaceous) glands, causing them to produce less oil. Light therapy targets the bacterium that causes acne inflammation.

Acne Prevention

Some acne prevention and self-care tips include:
Washing acne prone areas twice a day to remove excess oil and dead skin cells.
Using acne cream or gel to help dry excess oil.
Avoiding heavy foundation make-up.
Fully removing make-up before going to bed.
Wearing loose-fitting clothing as tight clothing traps heat and moisture and can irritate the skin on the neck, shoulders and the back resulting in acne eruptions.
Showering after exercising or doing strenuous work to wash oil and grime from the skin.
Avoiding picking or squeezing pimples as it can cause infection or scarring.


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Acne: Treatment and Prevention

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