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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Acne Treatments

There are 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. There are four types of treatments that have been proven effective:

  • Killing the bacteria that are harbored in 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 or erythromycin. 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. 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 Viatmin A derivates like isotretionin 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 (which can be severe). At the end of the initial treatment, about 25% of patients need to take a second treatment for another few months to obtain desired results. The most common side effects are dry skin and nosebleed. It can also permanently damage the liver and, some studies suggest, cause depression. Because of this, the drug is typically used given a last resort after milder treatments have proven insufficient. The drug also causes birth defects if women become pregnant while taking it. For this reason, female patients are required to either use birth control or vow abstinence while on the drug.
  • 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. Like Accutane/Roaccutane, they are related to Vitamin A, but they are administered as topicals and generally have much milder side effects. 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. Retinol, a form of Vitamin A, has similar but milder effects and is used in many over-the-counter moisturizers and other topical products.
  • Exfoliating the skin. This can be done either mechanically, using an abrasive cloth or a liquid scrub, or chemically. Common chemical exfoliating agents include salicylic acid and glycolic acid, which encourage 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 already clogged pores. Note that the phrase "peeling" is not meant in the visible sense of shedding, but rather as the destruction of the top layer of skin cells at the microscopic level. Depending on the type of exfoliation used, some visible flaking is possible. Moisturizers and anti-acne topicals containing chemical exfoliating agents are commonly available over-the-counter.
  • Phototherapy. It has long been known that short term improvement can be achieved with sunlight. However studies have shown that sunlight worsens acne long-term, presumably due to UV damage. More recently, visible light has been successfully employed to treat acne- in particular intense blue light generated by purpose-built fluorescent lighting, or lasers. Used twice weekly, this has been shown to reduce the number of acne by about 64%. The mechanism appears to be that the porphyrins generated by the P.Acnes, under irradiation by blue light, generate free radicals damaging, and if consistently applied over several days, ultimately kill the bacteria. Since porphyrins are not otherwise present in skin, and no UV light is employed, it appears to be safe, and has been licensed by the U.S. FDA. However, the equipment is relatively expensive; several hundred US dollars upwards (c. 2004), and works best for mild-moderate acne.

Benzoyl peroxide and the topical retinoids may be the best compromise between cost effectiveness and genuine effectiveness and negative side effects in many cases. The topical retinoids are relatively new and not as widely used as the other treatments as of the year 2004. It is highly advisable to ask a 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.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Acne".


At 1:31 PM, Blogger MarkPC17 said...

Just found your site in my research on pimple remedy. Thanks for providing information on Acne Treatments. Always looking for info like this for pimple remedy and found your site helpful. Best of success in growing the website.


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