Acne Treatment – Best Acne Treatments For Mild To Severe Acne

If you ever go to the skin care section of any major drug store you will probably see an entire rack of products marketed as being acne treatments. From medicated washes and scrubs, to topically applied creams, to alcohol-based astringents, and beyond. This doesn’t even include all of the prescription acne treatments that only a doctor or dermatologist can give you. There seem to be countless acne treatment systems out there, and knowing which ones to go with and which to avoid can be quite a challenge for anyone struggling with a skin condition. This is why I’ve outlined below some of the more common types of acne treatments on the market today, with a bit of helpful information on each of them.

Before you read on, you should be aware that a large part of choosing the right acne treatment for you is knowing why you are breaking out in the first place. In addition to reading this article, you might want to check out our page on acne causes and try to figure out the best approach to treating your skin.

Why so many treatment options?

There are so many acne treatment systems on the market, but why does there need to be so many? Well there are several answers to that question. One answer is simply that there is huge market demand for acne treatments, so beauty and cosmetic companies all want to come out with their own line of acne products. This is somewhat unfortunate, because it causes a lot of unnecessary confusion for consumers. The truth is that a lot of the over-the-counter (OTC) products you’ll find in stores are pretty much the same things, just with a different brand label on the package.

However, the more medically relevant reason as to why there are so many treatments available is that there are many different possible causes of acne, and not all can be dealt with the same way. This is a very important thing to understand, because it’s easy to get discouraged if you try out a particular treatment option and is doesn’t seem to be working for you. Don’t give up; you just need to try a different approach until you’ve found a solution that works for you and your skin.

External Treatment Options

The first line of defense against acne is usually some sort of external treatment, often in the form of a topically applied cream or gel. For mild to moderate cases one of these topicals is often enough to achieve clear skin, with minimal irritation to the skin.

Benzoyl Peroxide

By far the most popular topical treatment, and still one of the most effective, is benzoyl peroxide. Commonly found in concentrations ranging from 2.5% to 10%, benzoyl peroxide (BP) is capable of treating mild to moderate acne with minimal side effects including dryness of the skin, redness, and peeling of the skin. It will also increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and cause you to burn more easily, so be cautious of this. Unlike some other forms of treatment, BP doesn’t seem to generate bacterial resistance which could cause it to lose it’s effectiveness over time.

Salicylic Acid

Also known as beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid is a treatment for mild acne which is commonly found in facial washes and scrubs. Pretty much every face wash you will find in a store that is labeled as being for acne is going to contain some amount of salicylic acid. Because it can cause dryness of the skin, it is highly advised that you do not use a product which contains salicylic acid if you are also using benzoyl peroxide, as  the combination often leads to excessive dryness, redness, and peeling which will only worsen the condition if your skin.

Topical Retinoids

It has been known within the medical community for decades that vitamin A was a key component in the fight against acne, and because of this a group of chemical compounds known as retinoids were developed as effective acne fighting agents. Unlike some of the milder topicals, these medications are often able to treat more severe cases of acne.

Usually available only with a prescription, common topical retinoids include Differin (adapalene), Retin-A (tretinoin), and Tazorac (tazarotene), and there are several other which I haven’t mentioned.

When applied as a topical, as opposed to being consumed orally, retinoids have far milder side-effects and are generally better tolerated by patients.

It should be known before you begin using any sort of retinoid acne treatment that you will often experience an initial flare-up; a period of several week when your acne will actually get worse. Don’t be alarmed, as this initial break out is only temporary and your acne will begin to diminish as long as you keep using the medication as directed.

Internal Treatment Options

Usually reserved for more severe cases of acne, there are also a variety of internal acne treatments available; often (but not always!) in the form of a pill taken daily. Many of these treatments are only available with a prescription, and not over-the-counter.

Antibiotics

One of the most likely things that a dermatologist might prescribe you for moderate-to-severe acne is an oral antibiotic. These antibiotics are known to kill an acne-causing bacteria known as propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) which lives on your skin and leads to acne break outs. Common antibiotics for acne include tetracycline, minocycline, clindamycin, and erthromycin.

Although still widely prescribed, the bacterium propionibacterium acnes appears to be developing a resistance to these antibiotics, causing them to gradually lose their effectiveness.

Oral Retinoids

As I mentioned above, the group of chemicals known as retinoids are known to be effective at treating moderate-to-severe acne in topical form. However for more severe cases, there are also orally consumed options available.

Reserved for only the most severe and resistant cases of acne, a vitamin A derivative known as isotretinoin is one of the most effective acne treatments in existence. Isotretinoin is marketed under the brand names Accutane, Roaccutane, Amnesteem, Sotret, Claravis, and Clarus.

A course of isotretinoin (Accutane) typically lasts from 4-6 months and the patient may experience significant side-effects including (but not limited to): severe dryness of the skin, lips, and mucous membranes, nose bleeds, thinning hair, back pain, fatigue, and impaired night vision. It is also important to know that women who are pregnant should absolutely not take isotretinoin for any reason, as it may lead to serious birth complications and defects.

Hormones

More commonly used to treat acne in female, certain types of hormones have been known to reduce instances of acne. It is commonly noticed by women who are taking certain forms of birth control that acne inflammation tends to decrease and break outs become milder.

Phototherapy

A relatively knew form of acne treatment, phototherapy is a promising new development in the fight against this skin disease.

It has been shown that certain forms of ultraviolet light are capable of killing the P. acnes bacteria and treating acne. When applied twice a week, it has demonstrated to reduce acne lesions by up to 64%. The effect of the ultraviolet light is made even more effective if used in combination with certain forms of red visible light.

Laser Treatment

Traditionally used more for the treatment of acne scars rather than acne itself, laser surgery has also been found to be effective at preventing the formation of new acne lesions.

The laser can be used to burn away the oil gland (sebaceous gland) in your hair follicles, which is what produces the oil that lead to acne. It can also directly kill acne causing bacteria by inducing the formation of oxygen within them.

Summary/Conclusion

These are just some of the treatment options available to you; there are plenty more that I didn’t include in this list for a variety of reasons. The important thing is to know that no matter how bad your acne is, and no matter what is causing it, there is a treatment available which can clear it up and give you back your clear skin. It’s simply a matter of finding the right one that will work best for your particular skin type and kind of acne.


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