FACE CONCERNS

Active acne

What is acne?

Acne occurs when hair follicles are plugged with oil and dead skin cells. Bacteria in the plug causes inflammation, leading to red pimples and bumps. While the pimples are able to heal slowly and go away on its own, new ones will still appear when one has acne.

Depending on its severity, acne can cause emotional distress and scar the skin. The earlier you start treatment, the lower your risk of such problems.

What causes acne?

Acne typically appears on your face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders because these areas of skin have the most oil (sebaceous) glands. Hair follicles are connected to oil glands. Four main factors cause acne:

  • Excess oil (sebum) production
  • Hair follicles clogged by oil and dead skin cells
  • Bacteria
  • Inflammation

Other factors that trigger acne or make it worse, such as:

  • Hormonal changes
    Such as puberty, pregnancy, and the menstrual cycle.
  • Skin irritation from
    Cleaning or scrubbing your skin too vigorously.
    Pressure from collars, hats, helmets, and backpack straps.
    Squeezing or picking at existing pimples.
  • High humidity
  • Cosmetics
    Oil-based products, sunscreen, and hair products.
  • Medications
    Such as corticosteroids and anabolic steroids.

How acne develops

Under skin, our pores are connected to glands to form an oily substance known as sebum. These glands are and pores are linked by a canal known as a follicle that grows out thin hair to the skin’s surface. When sebum and dead skin cells clump together, a plug in the follicle forms, thereby causing inflammation and red pimples. Many often think acne and pimples are the same thing; however pimples are just one of the symptoms of acne.

Adult acne vs teenage acne

Acne formed during teenage years tend to form at the T-zone and appear mostly as tiny superficial blackheads and the occasional pimple.

Adult acne, on the other hand, is a lot more complicated and difficult to treat. Adult acne is mostly triggered by hormonal fluctuations; hence it affects women more than men as women deal with pregnancy, menstruation and menopause. Adult acne also occurs mostly along the jawline and chin and tend to be more cystic.

Acne prevention

Acne can appear anywhere on the back, chest, neck, shoulders, buttocks and upper arms. There are many self-care steps you can take to help prevent acne or to help heal and keep acne manageable. Here are a few to try:

  • Wash your face with warm water and a mild facial cleanser.
  • Use noncomedogenic hair products, sunscreen, and makeup.
  • Avoid squeezing or picking at blemishes.
  • Avoid touching your face with your hands, your phone, and your hair.
  • Maintain a healthy diet, and avoid skim milk and food products with high glycemic load.

Acne symptoms

Acne signs vary depending on the severity of your condition:

Blackheads
Clogged hair follicles
Whiteheads
Open plugged pores
Papules
Small red, tender bumps
Pustules (also known as pimples)
Pimples which are papules with pus at their tips
Cysts
Large, solid, painful lumps under the skin
Nodules
Painful, pus-filled lumps under the skin

Current acne treatment options include:

Topical creams

Topical acne creams prescribed by doctors containing retinoid and benzoyl have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-comedomal properties. These properties provide a multi-prong approach to acne. Prescription creams have remained a mainstay of acne treatment in the last 25 years and are used to treat moderate acne.

Oral antibiotics

Oral antibiotics like doxycycline and commonly prescribed for inflammatory acne and work by reducing bacteria and fighting inflammation. Studies have shown that oral antibiotics are safe and highly effective in treating acne, especially cystic acne in adults.

Oral antibiotics

Oral antibiotics like doxycycline and commonly prescribed for inflammatory acne and work by reducing bacteria and fighting inflammation. Studies have shown that oral antibiotics are safe and highly effective in treating acne, especially cystic acne in adults.

Facial treatments

Facial treatments can be useful for mild acne. However, instead of going for facials at beauty salons, opt for medical facials instead. Medical facials use water pressure and a textured tip for physical exfoliation, acids for chemical exfoliation and suction to ensure dead skin is left off the surface. Devices and treatments like LED light therapy and micro currents may also be used for bactericidal effects.

Chemical peels

While there are different kinds of chemical peels out there, generally chemical peels are useful in penetrating comedones and pores to clean up the skin, prevent clogging and neutralise bacteria. Jessners’ Peels are commonly used for acne treatment due to their anti-inflammatory properties and combination of active ingredients. Each ingredient has its own unique benefits and mechanism of action. As some peels are better for infected acne or acne marks, the type of chemical peel used will be determined by your doctor after assessment of your skin.

Steroid injections

Steroid injections are usually used as instant reliefs for emergency situations. Steroid injections instantly reduce inflammation and are especially useful for adult cystic acne.

Laser treatment

In recent times, laser therapy have become increasingly popular in the treatment of active acne. Not only do lasers show promising results, they are also non invasive procedures with minimal downtime. While there needs to be more research on the best laser for acne, a current favourite among doctors and patients is the PicoSure Laser. The pico laser comes with multiple wavelengths and lenses to treat across different stages and types of acne, be it inflammation or acne scarring. With that said, results from lasers vary between patients and some may require more treatment sessions than others.

Take note

Do be careful when you’re exploring your options, and always get a professional diagnosis before undergoing any treatment.

Many “miracle” products and services are scams in disguise, but a certified doctor or dermatologist will be able to give you real results.

Dr. Isaac Wong, founder of The Artisan Clinic
Consult our specialists
From The Artisan Clinic in Singapore
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