Acne is a common skin condition characterized by pimples on the face, chest, and back. It occurs when the pores of the skin become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Acne vulgaris, or common acne, is the most prevalent of all skin diseases. Nearly 85% of young people develop acne at some time between the ages of 12 and 25 years. It usually begins at puberty and worsens during adolescence. Acne usually resolves on its own during early adulthood, some people continue to have acne outbreaks well into adulthood.
Risk factors of Acne
Risk factors for acne include:-
- Age. Teenagers are most susceptible to acne because of hormonal changes.
- Gender. Acne is more common in boys than in girls and boys tend to have more severe cases.
- Heredity. Acne runs in families.
- Hormonal changes in females. Acne can flare up right before menstruation, when levels of estrogen (female hormones that reduce oil production) drop, and during pregnancy and menopause.
- Disease. Hormonal disorders can complicate acne in girls.
- Personal hygiene. Abrasive soaps,hard scrubbing,or picking at pimples will worsen acne.
- Cosmetics. Oil-based makeup and sunscreen—which clog pores—and hairsprays can aggravate acne.
- Environment. Exposure to oils and grease, polluted air, and sweating in hot weather aggravate acne.
- Diet. Although foods do not cause acne, certain foods may cause flare-ups or worsen the condition.
- Drugs. Acne can be a side effect of drugs including tranquilizers, antidepressants, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, and steroid drugs, including anabolic steroids, which are chemically similar to the male hormone testosterone.
- Stress. Emotional stress may contribute to acne.
- Friction. Continual pressure or rubbing of the skin— for example by bicycle helmets, backpacks, or tight clothing—can worsen acne
Treatment of Acne
Acne cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. The goal of acne treatment is to reduce sebum and keratin production, remove dead skin cells to help unclog the pores, and kill bacteria with topical drugs and oral medications.
Treatment choice depends upon whether the acne is mild, moderate, or severe. Severe cases are referred to a dermatologist or an endocrinologist who treats diseases of the glands and the hormones. Most dermatologists use a combination of treatments, depending on the individual.
Mild non-inflammatory acne is usually treated with topical over-the-counter acne medications that reduce the formation of new comedones. These may contain:
- Benzoyl peroxide (Clearasil, Fostex)
- Salicylic acid (Stridex)
- Sulfur (Therac lotion)
- Resorcinol (Acnomel cream)
Treatment with stronger topical medications requires a doctor’s prescription. Such medications include comedolytics, which are agents that loosen hard plugs and open pores. They also include topical retinoids—natural or synthetic vitamin A derivatives—which increase turnover (death and replacement) of skin cells.
Topical antibiotics to kill bacteria may be added to the treatment regimen if inflammation is present. These include:
- Clindamycin (Cleocin-T)
- Meclocycline (Meclan)
- Sodium sulfacetamide
When acne is severe and the lesions are deep, oral antibiotics may be taken daily to reduce the spread of bacteria:
- Tetracycline,which is the mostcommonantibioticfor treating acne but which should not be taken while pregnant or breastfeeding
- Minocycline, which may have fewer side effects than other antibiotics
- Doxycycline for inflammatory acne
Alternative Acne Treatment
In addition to proper cleansing to keep the skin free of oil, alternative treatments for acne include :-
- A well-balanced diet high in fiber, zinc, and raw foods
- Intermittent fasting
- An elimination diet with the avoidance of alcohol,dairy products, caffeine, sugar, processed foods, and foods high in iodine, which appear to contribute to acne
- Avoidance of smoking
Nutritional supplements for Acne Treatment
- Essential fatty acids
- Vitamin B complex
- Vitamin A or beta-carotene
Herbs for Acne Treatment
Supplementation with herbs that are blood cleansers or blood purifiers, strengthen the action of the liver and the kidneys, and help with detoxification and excretion are used to treat acne. These include: #
- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) root tincture
- Burdock root (Arctium lappa), also known as gobo, which can be purchased fresh at health-food grocers or in Asian markets and can be used raw or cooked in salads, stir fries, or other vegetable dishes or as a tincture
- Red clover (Trifolium pratense), which can be consumed as a tea throughout the day
- Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) seed which can be taken as a tincture or ground up and eaten in combination with hot cereal, granola, or other foods