Hit the zits…

Hit the zits…

…Know what it takes to treat tricky acne

By: Dr. Deepti Dhillon, Cosmetologist, Appleskin, New Delhi.

Do the smooth, spotless faces on the cover of glossy magazines mock you? There is every possibility for you to turn green with jealousy for those models seem to flaunt a clear and radiant looking visage 24×7 be it any season, while you are struggling to handle your breakouts!

We all know time and nature spares no one. So does acne! Also known as pimples/zits, these ugly spots come in many avatars. Depending upon the severity acne could be mild to moderate or severe. The mild/moderate forms include whiteheads, blackheads, papules and pustules and the severe form of acne vulgaris comprises of nodules and cysts.

Almost all of us have experienced the appearance of these zits just before that special date/ party/ occasion leaving us feeling glum and even wrecked up at times. It is indeed everyone’s nightmare!

Treating acne is not a child’s play. Mostly, overnight ‘miracles’ don’t happen in this case. One need’s to have a dedicated regime for the control and further occurrence of acne. But before we jump on to the treatment part, let’s first see what the signs to watch out for are.

Signs to look at

A sticky scalp with flaky dandruff, an oily T-zone on the face, open pores and dry, pink and itchy skin on the rest of the face are the indicators of an acne-prone skin. In terms of the eruption, the face is not the only soft target of acne. The latter can erupt on upper chest, back, shoulders as well. Sometimes, another condition called folliculitis (inflammation of one or more hair follicles) is mistaken for acne. The former can occur in the beard of men and in areas of more hair growth in women. Ladies, in particular, are more prone due to their use of hot wax and often get folliculitis on upper shoulders and areas of the leg where thicker hairs are found.

Root Cause

Coming on to the causes of breakouts; these are caused when an individual doesn’t follow a proper hygiene. Not removing dirt, grit and sebaceous secretions off the face makes the facial skin prone to pimples. In open pores where sebum and dirt are accumulated, bacterial growth also occurs. The bacterium Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), is a normal part of our skin surface. Although in itself it doesn’t cause acne it definitely plays a part in worsening the condition. This bacterium proliferates in the blocked pores and produces chemicals that alter the composition of the oil, which makes it more irritating to the skin and causes inflammation and leads to pimples.

There could be other causes too. For example, it is observed that acne could also run in the family. It is also caused by hormonal imbalance in the body. Acne flare-ups can also occur due to the sensitivity of an individual towards the components of food items such as artificial coloring/sweetening agents and also in some cases, certain food types can lead to zit formation. Fried foods, Chinese fast food, certain kinds of cheeses, chocolates, pasta and even some types of flavored bread can cause acne. Last but not the least, there is a relatively uncommon/lesser known cause behind it. Some activities that excessively heat up the skin like talking on the phone for long hours without using hands-free) can lead to acne eruption on the cheek, which is in contact with your cell phone.

Treating Acne

Right treatment of acne is very important. As if the physical symptoms aren’t bad enough, the emotional side effects are painful to bear too! The treatment for acne can be divided into two parts – intrinsic and extrinsic.

If one knows that eating a certain kind of food aggravates his/her acne condition then avoiding that food item is the best thing one can do. Also, when acne is caused by hormonal imbalances it becomes necessary to undertake the right medical treatment. Just visiting a dermatologist (in this case) would not be enough. One should consult a gynecologist or an andrologist and undertake blood tests to rule out the extent of hormonal imbalance. Until this imbalance is restored, superficial application of products and ointments won’t help!

Coming on to the extrinsic treatments, it is essential that proper skin cleansing regime is followed daily. Having said that doesn’t mean that one should scrub it so harshly and often to make the skin squeaky clean that he/she only ends up with a dry and irritated skin. Over cleansing strips the natural oils away from the skin and this triggers the ‘reverse overdrive’ where the skin starts producing excessive sebum to overcome the resulting dryness. Similarly, one should clean one’s scalp regularly with a good anti-dandruff shampoo.

Using the right product is important. Pick a face wash that is gentle enough not to dry your skin and still cleanses away the oil build-up effectively. For severe acne, one should use a face wash that has peroxide or salicylic acid in it. Besides this, homecare also plays a pivotal role in keeping acne at bay. Benzoyl peroxide/ glycolic/ salicylic acid/ Retin A based creams can be used. For infected pustules seeking a dermatologist’s consultation is a must. He/she will put you on a course of low long-term antibiotics to cure your condition.

Office procedures

Another aspect of extrinsic treatment for acne comprises of office procedures. The latter include chemical peels of various types, lasers such as Q switch NDYAG and blue light lasers.

Post-acne Scars

Various kinds of post-acne scars can occur in an individual depending upon the severity of acne in him/her that the patient happily neglected. There could be color changes, as in hyper/hypopigmented scars; texture changes in skin such as an ice pick scars, punch hole scars, hypertrophic scars or keloids. All these complex manifestations are difficult to treat. For post acne pigmentation, a Dermatologist will advise procedure such as microdermabrasion, peels and medlite laser. For deeper scars, subcission and punch excision are done. Also hyaluronic acid – based fillers can be used to fill up the deep crater-like scars and provide a smoother and even texture to the skin.

Remember, when it comes to acne the age-old idiom prevention is better than cure holds true. So, it is better to zap the zit in time and under medical supervision than to waste a lot of money on every dubious ‘wonderful’ product(s) as advertised on the TV!

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