Acne Treatments: Putting Your Best Face Forward
The high cost of professional treatment and the accessibility of accurate information have increased self-diagnosis and treatment within the skincare industry creating a boom for over-the-counter acne treatment products. If consumers choose to take on acne treatment without professional guidance, they must determine the type of condition and the type of treatment that will be most effective. Also note that what’s purchased over-the-counter is generally weaker than what’s supplied through the trained hands of dermatologists and aestheticians. Lisa VanBockern, licensed Aesthetician and owner of Tempe, Arizona-based Skin Script Product points out, “Products you purchase within a med spa or physician’s office, such as Skin Script, contain higher percentages of active ingredients and lower phs so that the active ingredients can penetrate the skin.”
What causes acne?
Teen hormonal imbalances aside, acne in various forms including whiteheads and blackheads manifests in how the skin’s pores and hair follicles handle bacteria, produce oils or sebum and how it sheds dead skin cells. Skin-type as well as experiencing any combination of these irregularities will determine the type of treatment.
Clearing up the face’s blemishes is as complicated as determining the cause for the blemishes in the first place. Knowing how acne is manifested in only part of the equation. Self-diagnosis can lead to a whole new set of skin problems as Orange County plastic surgeon and director of OCBody.com, Dr. John Di Saia MD warns, “Mixing several of [acne treatments] together can actually be worse for sensitive acne prone skin than using fewer more often. Patients sometimes come to the office with a duffel bag full of products that ran them hundreds of dollars and actually make things worse.”
With acne and skin types determined, selecting a treatment is based on the combination of ingredients. Most acne treatments incorporate variations of the following substances:
Benzoyl Peroxide–an anti-bacterial that reduces inflammation and removes excess oils while removing dead skin cells. In varying strengths, it can cause minor irritations such as redness, scaling, and excessive dryness.
Salicylic Acid–A Beta hydroxy in varying concentrations prevents clogged pores in oily skin by reducing the excessive growth of skin cells inside the pore that lead to clogged pores. Salicylic acid also breaks down solid sebum also known as whiteheads.
Glycolic Acid–used for normal skin, it is a water-based acid that exfoliates the pores.
Retinols–A Vitamin A derivative it breaks down blackheads in normal or combination skin and affects skin cell production.
Lactic Acid–Derived from sour milk, is best for exfoliating excess dead cells that affects dry skin.
Sulphur and Resourcinol–Often paired, sulphur and resourcinol removes dead cells, reduces excess oil and breaks down both black and whiteheads. Side effects include redness and peeling.
Alcohol and Acetone–Removes dirt and excess oil in the form of astringents and washes for oily, combination and normal skin.
Since acne targets the skin’s pores, being plagued with one form often contributes to the manifestation of other acne symptoms. VanBockern recalls, “I was taught to put salicylic on acne…one of my first acne clients actually got worse…I was stumped. After close observation, we realized that she had dry skin…salicylics were further drying her face and trapping oil underneath…making [her skin] worse.” VanBockern switched to treating the acne according to its underlying skin-type which resolved her client’s acne issues.
Much like the layers of the skin, selecting an acne treatment involves knowing the skin’s inherent type and the acne symptoms that are plaguing it in order to best select from the dizzying array of choices located in the retail aisle.