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Is your acne stubborn enough to follow you into your twenties? Adult acne is a bothersome problem that requires attention and treatment. You shouldn't ignore your skin, because it's the largest and the most exposed organ that needs care and pampering!

Acne vulgaris, while widely considered a pubertal skin problem, is not always limited to teenagers. People can keep on experiencing acne into their twenties and beyond. This is known as adult acne. Adult acne is more common in women [1] and it is a common skin disease, as eighty percent of all individuals experience it at some point of their lives [2].

Acne is a troublesome skin condition which is characterized by the presence of pimples on the face, chest, neck, and back area. Acne occurs when the pores of the skin get clogged because of excessive oil, dead skin cells, debris, and bacteria. What exactly leads to adult acne is still unknown but some hormonal factors combined with external environment are most probably the culprits.

Though acne is not a serious health issue, it can lead to emotional distress and low self-confidence in persons who suffer from it. There is also an increased tendency of using makeup and cosmetics in order to hide blemishes. [3]

Before you decide to seek medical treatment for your acne, it is important to recognize which type of acne you suffer from and whether it requires pharmacological treatment or not. Not every kind of acne needs excessive medications and vigorous procedures.

Acne ranges from mild to severe. Mild acne includes comedones, commonly known as blackheads and whiteheads. Blackheads are open while whiteheads are closed. When the oil buildup increases with time, it makes a perfect medium for bacterial growth. This process of infection and inflammation in the comedones can also lead mild acne to become moderate or severe. [4]

Moderate acne is characterized by papules and pustules instead of comedones. Papules are tiny bumps, while pustules are pus filled, and both of these are generally known as pimples. People who only have a small number of papules and pustules can still be considered to have mild acne. [5]

The severe form of acne is characterized by lots of papules and pustules. Nodules and cysts can also be present, which is referred as nodular or cystic acne. This type of acne is painful and frequently causes scarring.

Various treatments are available to cure acne. These treatments range from home remedies to drugs, and procedures involving lasers. Not every treatment works for your kind of acne, just as home remedies will not work if someone is suffering from cystic acne and a heavy dose of antibiotic is not at all needed for a person with mild comedones. Here are some effective methods to treat or control acne according to the level of the severity.

1. Watch What You Eat

Your acne is actually affected by what you eat! While people might think the correlation between diet and acne is a myth, the latest research shows that it is not. Your food intake can actually exacerbate or improve your acne. Remember grandma telling you to cut down on chocolates to cure acne? Well, she was right! Chocolate actually exacerbates your acne [6].

Oily foods can also make acne worse, as fatty acids are implicated in the acne causing mechanism. There is also a weak association between acne and dairy products. [7]

So a careful diet can help control mild to moderate acne. Increase your water intake and eat fresh vegetables and salads to have a healthy and glowing skin. A balanced diet is always a good idea, not only for healthy skin but also for your overall well-being.

2. Take Care Of Your Skin

The skin is a sensitive organ that requires care and pampering. Clean your skin gently and don’t rub it vigorously with a towel. Patting it dry with a napkin is always a better option. Try to use a mild skin cleansing product with no added artificial colors to cleanse your skin.

If you have oily skin, take care that you don’t apply a lot of oily products on your face as they will cause clogged pores. Look for oil-free makeup products and wash your hair regularly to avoid greasy hair. Avoid touching your face. Stop using harsh scrubbing agents and most important of all, do not pick at those pimples! You actually cause more inflammation and infection if you do this. [2]

Minimize sun exposure as much as possible! It is wise to use a sun block and an umbrella when stepping out in the sun. 

3. Natural Products Can Help

Natural products obtained from plants can help soothe your acne. These products usually contain anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agents that control the infection and inflammation, and hence calm acne.

Tea tree oil is one such natural product which has shown some promising results in controlling mild to moderate acne [8]. It is widely used and recommended by beauty experts as well.

Another such product is aloe vera gel. Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and healing properties, justifying its use in treating acne. [9]

4. Topical Medicines Are The First Line Pharmacological Therapy

Do you still suffer from acne after trying home remedies and making lifestyle changes? Always seek professional help. Topical medicines are used to treat acne before any oral drug is given. These medicines mostly contain antibiotics and are available in the form of cream, lotion, face wash, or gel. These medicines are normally used at night or two times a day for at least a month to see any visible difference.

Common antibiotics used in topical medicines include erythromycin and clindamycin. Salicylic acid is also broadly used in topical acne curing treatments. Benzoyl peroxide is a new topical agent which is showing promising results to treat acne and the major benefit of it is that bacteria don’t develop resistance against this agent when compared to antibiotics. One potent topical agent is isotretinoin or Retin-A, which is a retinoid that helps to treat moderate to severe acne. [10]

Topical agents can be combined with oral agents to treat severe acne.

5. Oral Medications Are The Ultimate Cure For Your Stubborn Acne

Oral medication jumps in when topical agents fail to control your acne. Your dermatologist can combine oral and topical agents or can recommend oral medicines alone.

Oral medications used for the purpose of curing acne include antibiotics, hormonal therapies, and retinoids. Antibiotics include tetracycline, doxycycline, azithromycin, and erythromycin. Hormonal therapies include contraceptive pills and spironolactone, which regulate hormones in your body to correct any hormonal cause of acne. Accutane is the most common retinoid, and isotretinoin is a retinoid that treats severe cystic acne. [11]

Self-medication for acne is strictly discouraged. A retinoid should never be used without prescription as it has proven teratogenic effects. Doctors prescribe the correct dose of the drugs for the correct duration after examining how severe your acne is.

6. Chemical Peels For Acne And Skin Rejuvenation

Chemical peels are gaining popularity in the world of skin care. Dermatologists conduct and supervise the process of peeling. They apply a chemical peel on your face and neutralize it after a fixed time. The chemical in peel removes a thin layer of your skin, exposing the fresh skin below it.

Chemical agents used in process of peeling include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), beta-hydroxy acids (BHA), glycolic acid, and trichloroacetic acid. Chemical peels can treat acne as well as rejuvenating your skin and fading acne scars. [12]

Your dermatologist decides the number of peeling sessions according to your skin type, severity of acne, and potency of chemical peel that dermatologist is using for the procedure. There are usually one to two sessions per week.

7. Laser And Light Treatments For Acne

Laser and other light treatments are proving to be a very effective option that offers long-term remission. Because of the high efficacy and low adverse effects, these treatments are increasingly becoming popular as an alternative to traditional oral medicines.

Different wavelengths of diode laser, erbium glass laser, and pulsed dye laser are used for the laser treatment. While intense pulsed light, low intensity light, and photodynamic therapy are used for the light treatment. Your expert plans weekly or fortnightly laser sessions at clinic and the intensity of the laser or light varies according to condition of your skin. [13]

Lasers and phototherapies not only give you a long-term remission from acne but also lighten your acne scars.

8. Microdermabrasion is your new friend!

Microdermabrasion is one of the latest treatments for acne. It involves the peeling of superficial layer of the skin. It is different from chemical peeling because the dermatologist utilizes an instrument instead of a chemical. That instrument uses tiny crystals to exfoliate your skin.

Dermatologist recommends sessions of microdermabrasion according to the condition of your skin. The number of sessions varies from person to person. The results of microdermabrasion are encouraging in treating moderate to severe acne. It also has a great ability to treat acne marks and age spots. [14]

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