Acne comes in all shapes and sizes – the plugged-up pores of blackheads and whiteheads, deep lumpy cysts beneath the skin, or red, raised pimples. Ways to treat acne vary, too, and may depend on the type and severity of your blemishes and breakouts.
Take a hands-off approach. Resist the urge to pop, poke, and pick at pimples and other acne spots. Touching and squeezing can worsen blemishes, prolong breakouts, push pus and sebum deeper down into the skin, and cause infection, scabbing, scarring, and discoloured patches on the skin.
Be gentle. Another urge common among those with acne is to over-scrub, over-cleanse, and over-treat. Washing your skin too frequently and with too much gusto can cause further irritation. Use a mild soap or cleanser only twice daily, and pat dry.
Avoid irritants. You may notice that certain types of personal care products inflame or irritate your skin. Watch out for your skin's reaction to rubbing alcohol and astringents, too-abrasive exfoliating scrubs, greasy hair or cosmetic products that touch the face, and moisturizers containing cocoa butter or oils. Choose water-based or non-comedogenic products that will not clog pores.
Try topical treatments. Topical treatments – treatments applied directly to the affected skin – are probably the most popular approach to treating acne. Common ingredients in creams and gels include benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, retinoids, and antibiotics. Benzoyl peroxide helps to clear away acne-causing bacteria and dead skin cells, while salicylic acid and retinoids help to unclog pores and prevent breakouts. Antibiotics kill bacteria that contribute to clogged and inflamed pores. Wait about 15 minutes after washing your face to apply topical acne medication to avoid possible irritation. Talk to a doctor or dermatologist to find out which type of treatment is right for you.
Opt for oral treatments. Your doctor or dermatologist may recommend that you take oral medication to treat acne. An oral antibiotic may help to reduce the amount of acne-triggering bacteria present in your skin. Oral retinoids may be necessary for severe cystic acne. Oral contraceptives help to reduce the amount of sebum a woman's skin produces, thus reducing the risk of breakouts.
Seek further treatment. In some cases, dermatologists advise in-office procedures to treat acne. You might be asked to consider chemical peels; laser or light therapy; manual draining or extraction of blackheads or cysts; or injections of corticosteroids to prevent scarring and inflammation.
Whichever treatment plan turns out to be right for you, be sure to follow all medication label instructions and the advice of your doctors. Do not expect immediate results, as visible improvements to skin may take up to 6 to 8 weeks.
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