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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Unclogged Pores: What’s New in the Treatment of Acne

(ARA) - Who hasn’t suffered an embarrassing breakout at a socially sensitive time? Affecting nearly 85 percent of all people at some point in their lives, acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States.

While it is a well-known rite of passage for adolescents and young adults, some people in their 30s and 40s continue to suffer from this skin problem. There is no cure for acne. However, new treatments target the cause of acne and help patients keep their skin healthy and clear.

“Patients, regardless of age, today have more choices than ever before to treat acne,” said dermatologist Wendy E. Roberts, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif. “Since what works for one person may not work for another, it’s advantageous for patients to work with a dermatologist who can create an effective individualized treatment plan.”

A recent American Academy of Dermatology poll shows that while people are starting to learn the truth about what causes acne, there are still some areas of confusion. Although 53 percent understand that acne is not caused by poor hygiene, myths still exist about the role of diet and stress. Sixty-two percent of respondents still believe that acne is caused by stress, while half continue to believe acne is caused by diet.

In fact, acne is caused by three major factors: overproduction of oil by enlarged oil glands in the skin, blockage of the hair follicles that release the oil, and growth of bacteria called P. acnes within the hair follicles. Research has led to many new acne therapies and changes in existing treatment options.

Topical and Systemic Therapy

Depending on the type and severity, acne can be treated with oral or topical antibiotics, or topical retinoids. “These treatments are a cornerstone of therapy and can achieve good results in patients, even those with moderate to severe inflammatory acne,” said Dr. Roberts. Since some topical ingredients can stain or bleach, Dr. Roberts recommends applying the treatment before going to bed and using white towels when washing to avoid staining clothes or colored towels.

In some patients, the effectiveness of topical retinoids can be enhanced when combined with oral treatments. These combination therapies allow all the factors causing acne to be targeted, making the treatment plan more successful. “Combination therapies should be discussed with a dermatologist who can recommend the most effective treatment after evaluating important factors such as the type and degree of acne, the patient’s skin characteristics and environmental factors,” noted Dr. Roberts.

Cosmetic Procedures

Combination therapies using oral and topical antibiotics or topical retinoids, in conjunction with a chemical peel, also have been found effective in managing acne. Chemical peel solutions with glycolic acid or salicylic acid are applied to the skin to exfoliate and help unblock the pores, open the blackheads and whiteheads, and stimulate new skin growth. This helps the skin absorb topical medications and also may treat blemishes which result from breakouts.

Similar to chemical peeling, microdermabrasion results in superficial exfoliation of the skin. “Chemical peels and microdermabrasion are minimally invasive, produce almost no discomfort and involve almost no recovery or down-time for the patient,” stated Dr. Roberts. “These procedures are best used in combination with other acne treatments. And because these procedures help smooth the skin’s surface, they can help diminish scars created by acne.”

Laser and Light-based Therapies

New laser and light treatments can specifically target two of the factors that cause acne. Lasers use heat to damage the oil glands, while photodynamic therapy, a light-based treatment, uses the combination of a medication on the skin that is then treated with a light to target the oil glands and P. acnes bacteria. Both these therapies reduce the overproduction of oil, which helps diminish, and in some cases completely remove, acne.

“These therapies cause minimal pain and discomfort to the patient,” said Dr. Roberts. “Lasers also promote collagen formation and renewal, which regenerates new skin and also can be used to treat acne scarring.”

“To help prevent acne scars, do not pop, squeeze or pick at acne, and seek treatment early for acne that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications,” advised Dr. Roberts. “There are many treatments available today and a dermatologist can guide a patient to the most effective treatment for his or her type of acne.”

For more information about acne and skin care, visit the Academy’s Web site at or contact the Academy toll-free at (888) 462-DERM (3376).

Courtesy of ARA Content


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