Acne comes in many forms and levels of severity. The type and condition will reflect the form of treatment or medication that may be necessary.
Acne is a part of life for many individuals, many of whom are adolescents and young adults. While most people will grow out of acne for the most part by the time they reach adulthood, it can still pose a problem for those who are dealing with it. Numerous acne medications and OTC treatments have been introduced to help tame breakouts, but there are some precautions to keep in mind before heading over to your pharmacy.
Topical Acne Treatments
The most commonly used acne treatments are topical treatments, or those which are applied directly to the breakout. Two of the most popular topical treatments are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Both help to dry out the skin, removing oil which can lead to acne. They have been proven effective as spot treatments, but there are some things to keep in mind before using:
They can dry out the skin. While this is the reason they work for drying out pimples, it can also backfire if you overdo it. Start off with a small amount of cream and then apply to a limited area to see how your skin will respond. If dryness doesn’t become an issue, apply the maximum recommended amount. If your skin does become too dry, consider applying the cream less often or move on to another treatment.
Peroxide may cause discoloration. Those with darker skin tones may find that benzoyl peroxide causes splotches and other discoloration on the skin. For this reason, people of color may want to avoid their use.
Other acne treatments may contain the ingredient retinol A. This is considered safe for most, but pregnant women should avoid its use due to the potential for birth defects, according to WebMD.
Because acne is often caused in part by hormonal fluctuations that occur during puberty, some find that taking prescription birth control pills can help lessen breakouts. This works because the pill keeps hormones in balance by supplying a low dose of certain hormones and keeping others in check. While contraceptives do work for many women, they are not without potential side effects. For instance, the pill may cause blood clots and an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, especially if you smoke. Others have reported weight gain while taking the pill, although this isn’t true for everyone.
Other prescription medications have been developed for the treatment of acne specifically. These may also lead to side effects in some people, and should be used with caution under the supervision of a doctor.
Antibiotics can also be used to treat acne in some patients. These may also cause side effects like nausea or dizziness, and when used for a long period of time, drug resistant infections may become more of a risk. Antibiotic use is also linked with candida overgrowth and yeast infections.
Severe Acne Treatments
For those who have severe acne that doesn’t respond to other treatments, specialized medications may be needed. These most often shut down oil glands altogether, leading to reduced breakouts. These are most often oral medications, such as Accutane, says WebMD. While these drugs are highly effective, they also have side effects. In some, personality changes and aggressive behavior have been reported. Birth defects are also a large risk, so pregnant women should not use oral acne medications in this class.
Those who wish to avoid harsh treatments can focus on keeping the face clean and using a light moisturizer. Having the skin become overly dry can actually encourage oil glands to produce even more oil, so maintaining the right balance of moisture is important. Use products that won’t clog pores and that are intended for use with your specific skin type.