Acne is one of the most common skin condition and it affects about 85% of people at a certain point in their lives. While not life-threatening, acne is a source of low self-esteem and psychological distress.
In severe cases, it can be painful and can even leave behind permanent unsightly scars. Fortunately, there are several acne remedies available!
Acne can appear almost anywhere on your skin surface but is commonly found on the face, chest, back, neck, and shoulders. It typically appears as pimples that are either white (whiteheads) or black (blackheads).
Blackheads have a black appearance because they are found at the surface of the skin while whiteheads are white because they form just below the surface of the skin.
What Causes Acne?
Acne occurs when oil, dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cells clog up your skin pores and pimples or infections form on the affected area.
Each skin pore is connected to a hair follicle in the sebaceous gland. The sebaceous or oil gland produces sebum, an oily or waxy secretion that coats, protects and moisturizes our skin. That sebum travels up the hair out of the pore and onto your skin to lock in moisture and prevents dryness.
When excess sebum is produced, it blocks the pores and bacteria referred to as Propionibacterium acnes starts to grow. In response to the bacteria our white blood cells that fight infections attack the bacteria and this leads to inflammation and acne.
Factors that cause an increased risk of developing acne
Main factors that cause increased risk include hormonal changes, genetics, infections, diet, medication, and stress. Now we will have an look at these factors:
Acne is associated with the fluctuation of hormonal levels in the body so it often occurs during teenage years, pregnancy, and during menstruation. This is because the hormones trigger an increased production of sebum which causes acne.
If your parents had acne while growing up, chances are that you will also get them since they can be inherited. This is because some families tend to overproduce sebum and dead skin cells which clog up pores and lead to outbreaks.
Taking certain medications such as corticosteroids and some birth control pills could lead to the development of acne. Contraceptives with only progesterone cause increased production of sebum which consequently increases the risk of contracting acne.
Foods to avoid with acne
Eating foods rich in refined sugars and carbohydrates such as bread is also another cause of acne. These foods have a high glycemic index, which measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar level. They cause a rise in insulin which is believed to increase sebum secretion. Foods with a high glycemic index include white bread, sugary soft drinks, pastries, and other processed foods.
Hormones produced when somebody is stressed lead to higher sebum production and skin inflammation. It also reduces the rate of healing of acne wounds.
Types of Acne
It is important to know which type of acne you are suffering from because it determines the treatment course taken.
While whiteheads and blackheads are the most well-known types of acne, they are not the only ones. Acne can be classified into inflammatory and non-inflammatory. It is then further subdivided into:
As the name suggests, this type of acne does not cause swelling. Whiteheads and blackheads are found in this category. This type of acne can easily be treated using over-the-counter medication.
- Blackheads (Open Comedones)
They develop when skin pores are blocked by both dead skin cells and sebum. They are referred to as open comedones because the top of the pore remains open while the rest of it is clogged. This is why it appears as black from the surface.
- Whiteheads (Closed Comedones)
They form the same way as blackheads with pores getting clogged by sebum and dead skin cells only that the top of the pore is closed. It takes on the appearance of a tiny bump on the skin surface.
These refer to pimples that are red and swollen and often painful. They occur when sebum and dead skin cells clog up the skin and bacteria also causes an infection underneath the skin. Types of inflammatory acne include papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.
These occur when severe inflammation breaks down the walls around the pores. It leads to hard and tender to the touch clogged pores. The skin next to the pore is typically pink in color.
They form the same way as papules with the only difference being the bumps they create on the surface of the skin being full of pus. They are usually red with yellow or white tips.
Nodules are found deeper than papules and pustules. They occur when clogged and swollen pores get irritated and increase in size.
They develop when sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells clog up pores even much deeper than nodules. They form as a result of a serious infection and are very likely to leave a scar. They appear as red or white bumps that are bigger than all other acnes and are very tender to the touch.
Home and natural remedies
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is known for it’s anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and hence is one of the most popular natural acne remedies. It can get rid of redness, swelling, and inflammation with no serious side effects.
A study done in 2017, concluded that tea tree oil can significantly improve mild to moderate acne if applied twice a day for 12 weeks.
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Aloe Vera, Cinnamon, and Honey Skin Masks
Aloe Vera, cinnamon, and honey all have antibacterial properties. They are excellent in soothing the skin since they reduce redness and irritation. You can make a great face mask by combining these 3 ingredients.
Mix 1 tablespoon of pure Aloe Vera gel with 2 tablespoons of honey and add a bit of cinnamon. Leave the mask on for 15 minutes and repeat the process 1-3 times per week.
Apply Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegar is known for it’s ability to kill bacteria and viruses and hence apple cider vinegar is often used as home remedy to get rid of acne. It includes succinic and lactic acids that have been shown to suppress inflammation and improve the appearance of acne scars.
You should never apply undiluted apple cider vinegar on the skin because it can cause burns and irritation. If you do want to give this home remedy a try, mix 1 part of apple cider vinegar with 3 parts of water (add more water if you have very sensitive skin) and apply the mixture on the skin. Let it sit on the skin for 20 seconds and rinse off with water.
Use Green Tea on Your Skin
Green tea contains tannins and flavonoids that are known to reduce inflammation and fight bacteria. It also contains antioxidant that reduces sebum production and inhibits the growth of the P. acnes bacteria.
To use green tea as acne remedy, make yourself a cup of green tea, let it cool off and apply on your skin (either apply with cotton ball or pour the tea in a spray bottle to spritz it on your skin). Allow the skin to dry and then rinse with water and pat dry.
Depending on the type of acne, treatment in different forms can be administered including topical medications, oral medications, and undergoing medical procedures.
These are creams, lotions, or gels that are applied to the affected skin in the morning and before sleeping at night. Some are readily available over the counter while others require a prescription.
OTC topical medications contain benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid that tones down the amount of sebum the body produces and decreases inflammations. They do away with resulting scars and prevent others from appearing.
Prescription topical treatments have tretinoin, a more potent alternative to benzoyl peroxide, which comes vitamin A. They may also have clindamycin, an antibiotic. They kill bacteria more effectively and are prescribed for moderate or severe acne.
These are ingested and absorbed into the entire body. They can only be prescribed by a doctor and are used where topical medications are not effective. The types of oral medications include:
- Antibiotics and Birth Control Pills
Antibiotic pills like tetracycline treat bacterial infections from the inside and get rid of acne on the skin surface while at it.
Androgens are responsible for stimulating the production of sebum in the body thus they trigger the appearance of acne. Birth control pills that have estrogen and progesterone in them lower the level of androgens in women.
It reduces the size of the sebaceous gland so it produces less oil. It also regulates the rate of skin cell renewal so that dead cells don’t block bacteria and excess sebum from exiting the pores. It is a powerful drug with serious side effects so it can only be prescribed by a doctor to treat severe cysts.
Some procedures are done by doctors to treat severe acne, these include:
- Drainage and Extraction, Laser Therapy
Drainage and extraction involves the manual drainage of dirt, pus, fluids, and dead skin to reduce infections and pain.
Laser light is used to remove bacteria that lead to infection and acne.
- Chemical Peels and Microdermabrasion
The top layer of the skin is removed and whiteheads and blackheads are eliminated in the process.
Note: These procedures may be painful and could leave you with scars.
How to Get Rid of Acne Scars
Even after acne is gone, you may be left with ugly scars that you want to remove. Here a few ways you can do that
Home and natural remedies to get rid of acne scars
Home remedies are a great way to clear your skin from acne scars. People have used them for long time and here are some that have proven to be most effective.
Aloe Vera Gel
Applying Aloe Vera gel directly on the acne scars can reduce scar tissue size and inflammation. It works the best if you can get the gel directly from the plant (here is a great instruction on how to get the gel from the plant).
Just apply the gel on the skin and let it sit for around 15 minutes. Afterward, rinse off with water. Do it twice a day for several weeks. After the first week, you can expect to see the results.
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It has cell regenerating and skin-nourishing properties so it works well both on old and new scars. It’s super convenient to use and you only need to apply a small amount of product.
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Medical treatments for acne scars
Topical retinoids speed up cell regeneration, improve skin texture, and reduce discoloration. They can be found in OTC creams and serums.
Salicylic and Lactic Acids, Alpha hydroxy acids
Products with salicylic acid clear pores, reduce swellings, and exfoliates the skin. Peels, serums, and ointments with lactic acid lighten acne scars and improve skin texture.
Alpha hydroxy acids are found in products that treat acne and they help in removing scars since they mildly exfoliate the outer layer of the skin.
Dermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser therapy remove the top layer of the skin and with it scars that have formed on its surface.
8 Frequently Asked Questions About Acne
Acne is a very common skin condition and most of us will be affected during a period in your life.
The main cause is related to our skin natural balance and with excess production of sebum – an oily substance that protects our skin.
The way to prevent and cure acne is to keep or regain the skin balance. This can be achieved correct nutrition and proper skin care. All though we cannot directly control the hormonal situation of our body, but we can practice a natural and chemical free treatment and care great success in acne and acne scars treatment.
This article does not intend to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. You should always consult with your doctor before using remedies to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease.