What is Acne?
Acne is a disease that is manifested by chronic inflammation of the hair follicles and oil glands in/on the face, chest, and back that affects almost all males and females during puberty. Acne may present as comedones (whiteheads & blackheads), papules, nodules, cysts or papulopustules.
What Causes Acne?
There are numerous factors that contribute to acne. One of which is an increase in androgens, male sex hormones. These hormones are typically found during puberty in both boys and girls, when there is an increase in hormonal activity. These hormones cause the sebaceous gland to enlarge and produce more sebum, promoting acne. Acne is also prevalent in pregnant and menstruating women due to hormonal changes in their body. Birth control pills may help control the level of hormonal activity.
Studies have shown that many teenagers with acne problems have a family history of acne. Additionally, drugs such as androgens and lithium are shown to increase acne. Some cosmetic products make the skin and hair follicles clump together, which create a skin plug, promoting acne in those areas.
Factors that can promote an acne flare include:
- Changing hormone levels in adolescents and adult women
- Oil from skin care products (moisturizers or cosmetics) or grease encountered in the work environment
- Friction and pressure from sports helmets or equipment, backpacks, tight collars, or tight sports uniforms
- Squeezing or picking at blemishes
- Hard scrubbing of the skin
- Stress. (e.g. Less sleep, anxiety, schooling, tests, relationships etc)
How Is Acne Treated?
We offer various treatments (depending on the severity of the acne) in our offices across Queens, Long Island and Bergen County. For mild acne, many dermatologists might recommend an over-the-counter prescription or topical medication applied directly to the affected areas. These areas can be small or they can cover large areas of a person’s skin. The most common ones include:
- Benzoyl Peroxide – Helps lessen P. acnes, which can reduce oil production
- Resorcinol or Sulfur –Can help reduce blackheads and whiteheads
- Salicylic Acid – Reduces blackheads and whiteheads and helps cut down on the shedding of cells lining the hair follicles
Topical medications come in many forms: solutions, creams, lotions, gels, foams, soaps, cleansers, pledgets and pads. Some of these topical medications may cause side effects such as burning, skin irritation, or redness. These side effects often improve or disappear with continued use of the medicine under your dermatologist’s guidance. If there are severe side effects, you should inform your dermatologist.
Several types of prescription topical medicines are used to treat acne. They include:
- Antibiotics – Slow or stop the growth of bacteria and reduce inflammation (and may reduce the formation of comedones).
- Vitamin A derivatives (retinoids) – These vitamins are typically used to unclog existing comedones (plural of comedo) to allow other topical medications to enter the follicles
- Others – Included are Benzoyl Peroxide prescription strength along with any product containing sodium sulfacetamide/sulfur, Azelaic acid (Azelex), topical dapsone, and topical antibiotics including erythromycin, clindamycin and dapsone – which has additional properties.
Other Treatments for Acne
Your dermatologist or Physician’s Assistant (specializing in acne) can remove a patient’s comedones and other lesions during your visit. This is called acne surgery. Your dermatologist can also inject corticosteroids directly into affected areas to help rapidly reduce the size and pain of inflamed cysts and nodules. This is helpful for brides, proms, parties, or special occasions for best results.
Can Infants Get Acne?
Yes. Male babies in particular have a greater chance due to high levels of the male hormone androgen. These hormones produce oil while the baby’s oil glands are immature and not fully developed which may lead to the growth of bacteria and to the development of acne. The acne, known as prenatal acne, will develop as red pimples and whiteheads on the cheeks and nose usually in the first few weeks after birth. As time goes on, the androgen levels decline and the acne usually goes away. If it persists, a doctor can prescribe the appropriate anti-acne medication.
For more information, please visit our offices located in Manhattan, Bergen County, Long Island, Queens and more.
The “Love Your Skin” show, hosted by Advanced Dermatology’s outstanding dermatologists, discusses various aspects of medical conditions of the hair, nails, and skin, and also covers cosmetic, laser dermatology and plastic surgery techniques and how they can better your skin’s health and appearance.
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