Acne responds well to treatment, especially if treated early, at the onset of the condition. There is a myriad of products sold for the treatment of acne, many of them without any scientifically proven effects. However, a combination of treatments can greatly reduce the amount and severity of acne in many cases. Generally there are four types of treatments that have been
Killing the bacteria that are caused by the blocked follicles. This is done either by the intake of antibiotics like tetracyclines, or by treating the affected areas externally with bactericidal substances like benzoyl peroxide. However, reducing the p.acnes bacteria will not, in itself, do anything to reduce the oil secretion and abnormal cell behaviour that is the initial cause of the blocked follicles. (It's fighting a secondary effect, not a primary cause if you will). Therefore, acne will generally reappear quite soon after the end of treatment — days later in the case of topical applications, and weeks later in the case of oral antibiotics.
Reducing the secretion of oils from the glands. This is done by a great daily oral intake of Vitamin A derivates like isotretinoin over a period of a few months. The product is sold by Roche under the names Accutane in USA and Roaccutane in Europe. Isotretinoin has been shown to be very effective in treating severe acne and is effective in up to 80% of the patients. The drug has a much longer effect than anti-bacterial treatments and will often cure acne for good. The treatment requires close medical examination by a dermatologist since the drug has many known side effects. The most common are dry skin and nosebleed. It can also permanently damage the liver and cause depression. The drug also causes birth defects if women become pregnant while taking it.
Normalizing the follicle cell lifecycle. A group of medications for this are topical retinoids such as Tretinoin (brand name Retin-A), Adapalene (brand name Differin) and Tazarotene. They are also related to Vitamin A, just as Accutane in the previous entry, but put on your face instead of swallowed. They can give significant irritation of the skin, but are probably rather less nasty than Accutane because less of it circulates in the bloodstream. The retinoids appear to influence the cell creation and death lifecycle of cells in the follicle lining. This helps prevent the hyperkeratinization of these cells that can create a blockage.
Exfoliating the skin. The topical treatment salicylic acid for example encourages the peeling of the top layer of skin to prevent a build-up of dead skin cells which combine with skin oil to block pores. It also helps to unblock clogged pores. The topical retinoids may be the best compromise between genuine effectiveness and side effects in many cases, but (relatively new) they are not as widely used as the other treatments as of the year 2004. It is advisable to ask a doctor / dermatologist about the tradeoffs between these treatments for any individual case.
Popping a pimple or any physical acne treatment should not be attempted by anyone but a qualified dermatologist. Pimple popping irritates skin, can spread the infection deeper into the skin and can cause permanent scarring.
Lasers have been in use for some time to reduce the scars left behind by acne, but research is now being done on lasers for prevention of acne formation itself. The laser is used to burn away the follicle sac from which the hair grows, to burn away the sebaceous gland which produces the oil, and to induce formation of oxygen in the P. Acnes bacteria, killing them. As of the year 2004, this is still mostly at the stage of medical research rather than established treatment.
Because acne appears to have a significant hereditary link, there is some expectation that cheap whole-genome DNA sequencing may help isolate the body mechanisms involved in acne more precisely, possibly leading to a more satisfactory treatment. (Crudely put, take the DNA of >1000 people with significant acne and of >1000 people without, and let a computer search for statistically strong differences in genes between the two groups). However, as of the year 2004 DNA sequencing is not yet cheap and all this may still be decades off.
Treatments that promise "fast", miraculous” or “overnight” results often capture the attention of acne sufferers hoping for quick resolution. However, the fact remains that acne does not clear overnight. On average, 6 to 8 weeks are needed to see initial results. Once acne significantly improves or clears, continued treatment is needed to keep acne from re-appearing. If acne does not improve in 6 to 8 weeks, treatment may need to be adjusted as not every acne treatment clears every case of acne.
More information on acne
What is acne? - Acne is an inflammatory skin disease which affects the tiny pores which cover the face, arms, back and chest and the oil glands attached to them.
What causes acne? - One important factor does seem to be rising levels of the hormones called androgens (male sex hormones) that are found in both boys and girls at the time of puberty. Another factor is heredity or genetics.
What's the treatment for acne? - Acne treatments include killing the bacteria that are caused by the blocked follicles, reducing the secretion of oils from the glands, normalizing the follicle cell lifecycle, and exfoliating the skin.
Acne medicine and medications - Topical acne medications may contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, salicylic acid or tretinoin, or retinoic acid. There are numerous non-prescription acne cleansers, astringents, moisturizers and pimple creams available.
Acne scars and treatments - Acne scars occur when spots become inflamed or don't heal properly. Acne scars are very hard to treat and it is unusual for the scars to be successfully removed completely.
What is acne rosacea (adult acne)? - Acne rosacea is a chronic skin condition of the forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin. Rhinophyma may also develop in association with inflammatory rosacea.
What causes acne rosacea? - Flare-ups of rosacea are caused by triggers that stimulate the blood vessels in the face to dilate, which causes facial flushing. There may be some relationship between rosacea and Helicobacter pylori bacteria.
What are the symptoms of acne rosacea? - Symptoms of acne rosacea include frequent flushing, vascular rosacea, inflammatory rosacea, and several other conditions involving the skin, eyes, and nose.
What're the treatments for acne rosacea? - The goal of treatment for rosacea is to reduce or eliminate symptoms and stop the condition from getting worse. Presently, there is no cure for rosacea.