Acne: active ingredients & solutions part 1

     

     Hi everyone. I started a series in skin care, How to build a skin care regimen a few months ago [LINK HERE]. This post is a continuation of that series.

     Acne is a common skin disease commonly found in the face, back and upper chest. It can present as blackheadswhiteheadspustules (pus-filled lesions), papules (solid elevations of varying sizes) and nodules (large-sized papules). Although it is  most commonly found in adolescents, it begins in adulthood in some individuals. My advice is that  you should treat acne as soon as possible to reduce post-acne scarring which is difficult to treat.

     It starts within the pores (sebaceous hair follicles) which contain glands (sebaceous glands) which produce sebum (the natural oil that your skin produces).  It usually takes about 2-3 weeks before a blemish to appear on the surface of the skin.
     Common causes of acne include:
  • Extra sebum. Sebum overproduction can lead to an increased chance of clogging of the follicle leading to acne formation.
  • Bacteria. The bacteria that causes acne, Propionibacterium, is normally found on skin but when a follicle is clogged, it quickly multiplies, causing inflammation.
  • Inflammation. The body responds to bacteria collection in a blocked follicle by inflammation, leading to a red, painful pimple.
  • Hormones.
  • Genetic.
  • Follicle fall-out. Overactive shedding of dead cells can block the follicle and increase the chance of acne formation.
     I suffered from moderate acne for years but when I understood the above principles, my acne cleared up:
I started my regimen in April 2009 and within 2 months, I saw a dramatic change in my skin. My skin is not the clearest in the world: I have post-acne scars that I’m working on and I still get occasional breakouts but it’s nothing like I used to in the past. So how did I do it? I used products with the following active ingredients [These products are just examples. When choosing products, just look for the following ingredients]:
  1. Antibacterial agents. I rotated between Dettol Body Soap and Sebamed clear face antibacterial cleansing foam. If you have dry skin, the Sebamed might be not be right for you: you can also try Cetaphil Antibacterial Cleansing Bar.
  2. Salicylic acid: The first product I used is called Neutrogena clear pore oil eliminating astringent but later changed to Stridex medicated pads maximum strength because it’s 2% salicylic acid and alcohol-free. These products are a bit drying and if you have dry skin, you might want to look for a milder product with salicylic acid. Salicylic acid exfoliates dead skin so if you have overactive dead cell formation and follicle fall-out, this will help with that. It also penetrates skin pores and keeps them clear of debris. The strength of salicylic acid over-the-counter products range from 0.5% to 2%. It can cause dryness of the skin and if you have sensitive skin, you might want to start with 0.5% and build up from there or start by using it every other day.
  3. Benzoyl peroxide: I incorporated this into my night time regimen. The strengths available are 2.5%, 5% and 10%. I love Mary Kay Acne Treatment Gel. It’s a 5% formula. Benzoyl peroxide works by removing dead cells on the skin. It also reduces the acne-causing bacteria on the skin thus reducing inflammation on the skin. It can lead to peeling, itching, irritation and reddened skin  so you have to start out slowly. It also bleaches clothes that it comes in contact with so you should use a white pillowcase.
  4. Sulfur: I steamed my face once a week and applied proactiv refining mask for 15 minutes. I also like Queen Helene mint julep masque. They both contain sulfur which causes skin to dry and slough off. It also helps to unclog blocked pores and minimize skin oiliness.
  5. I used a serum to fade out my post-acne spots (they haven’t totally disappeared  yet!) I wanted to use a hydroquinone product but I couldn’t find any at the time that stated clearly that it was non-comedongenic so I used Caudalie radiance serum. It works very slowly though but I like it because it’s non-comedogenic. [I don't use this anymore because it's difficult to obtain: you can use any fade cream which does not clog pores].
  6. I stopped using facial scrubs because I felt that the grains went into my pores and clogged them.
  7. I discarded all my skin products that did not clearly state non-comedogenic.
  8. I did salicylic acid peelS. For more about peels, click HERE.
  9. Other general stuff I did were to stop using a face towel and to wash my pillowcases often.  I noticed that every time I used a face towel I broke out. If you disinfect yours regularly, this might not be a problem for you.
     In summary, any basic skincare regimen for acne should be followed at least twice a day to see results and should incorporate all the above ingredients in whatever combinations you like: it’s sort of a trial and error thing. For example, you can:
  • cleanse with a face wash containing benzoyl peroxide. Washing your face regularly helps to reduce extra sebum on the skin. Don’t wash more than 3 times a day because this can cause a negative feedback and lead to more sebum production. The same applies to use of products which are over drying.
  • use a toner with antibacterial properties
  • apply a salicylic acid treatment followed by a moisturizer. Any moisturizer which is non-comedogenic and contains spf 15 is good. I currently use   Dermalogica supersensitive faceblock spf 30
A word of caution: You must commence any skincare regimen very slowly, adding one product at a time over a week or more. This is important so that you can determine if you react to a particular product.

 

Dr Fomsky

 

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