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Acne can be a troubling condition for many, especially adolescents. Not only it can be painful, but if left untreated, it can have a profound impact on one’s social life and self-esteem.
How does acne form?
Acne is a medical disease which requires treatment. It happens when your hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead cells. During the development of acne, increased sebum production, growth of bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes, accumulation of dead cells and inflammation can be involved.
Acne if not treated properly can lead to scars on the face and negatively impact one’s psychosocial life. The earlier the treatment of acne, the less likely that will happen.
Treatment of Acne
In general, the doctor or pharmacist offers treatment based on the severity of acne and sometimes, age. Several factors used to evaluate the severity of acne are the presence of whiteheads or blackheads, presence of papules or pustules, redness, size and locations of the pimples, as well as the history of treatment.
Here we outline some of the most common topical product you can apply onto face for acne treatment.
Topical benzoyl peroxide (BPO)
This is one of the most accessible acne treatment available in community pharmacy. Benzoyl peroxide is commonly used for mild to moderate acne, which the blackheads and whiteheads are more predominant. It works by killing the bacteria in the pimple, breaking down the dead skin cells and reduce inflammation. Benzol peroxide preparations can be available in different concentration, i.e. 2.5%, 5% and 10%. They are an over-the-counter product and therefore does not require a pharmacist or a doctor prescribes it to you.
Examples of products:
Topical retinoids and retinoid-like product
Retinoid products are derived from vitamin A and include tretinoin, adapalene and tazarotene. It works by plugging off the hair follicles. It is useful for non-inflammatory acne. As these products can cause skin hypersensitivity to sunlight and sunlamps, you should apply them only in the evening, and apply adequate sunscreen in the next morning. These were controlled medicine in Malaysia, hence you can only get it from a pharmacist or doctor.
Examples of products:
Antibiotics are effective in treating mild to moderate acne. Topical clindamycin and erythromycin are the most widely prescribed antibiotics as these are effective and relatively well tolerated. These antibiotics prevent the growth of Propionibacterium acnes. Nevertheless, the preparation that contains a combination of antibiotics with either BPO or retinoids shows better results than using antibiotics alone.
However, these products should not be used for a long period of time, as it may promote antibiotic resistance. These were controlled medicine in Malaysia, hence you can only get it from a pharmacist or doctor.
Generally, these topical products are safe to use. Nevertheless, some people may experience skin redness, peeling, dryness, itchiness and hypersensitivity after using them. Kindly consult a pharmacist or a doctor if those problems persisted.
What if all these don’t work?
If one product doesn’t effectively reduce your acne after using for a recommended duration, you may switch to other product based on the advice of your healthcare provider.
However, if all products don’t work, you may consult a dermatologist for further treatment. At this point, usually oral medications will be given instead.
Nevertheless, it is important to manage your expectations: acne treatment is not an overnight success, it usually takes weeks to months to show effect, and can even get worse before it gets better. Acne can take months to years to clear up completely, so talk with your healthcare providers about the risks and benefits of different treatments.
Here are some lifestyle tips to stay away from acne!
Take a low glycaemic load diet. A high glycaemic index food means that it can raise your body blood sugar level very quickly after eating it. Foods that are high in refined carbohydrate and low in fibre are the examples of a high glycaemic index, such as junk food, carbonated drinks and biscuits. Instead, go for low glycaemic index food such as whole grain, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
Manage stress effectively.
Stop smoking (if applicable).
Keep your face clean and remove makeup diligently.
Avoid pinching your pimple. This is because your fingers may be dirty, and pinching your pimple is the best way to introduce bacteria into the pimple!
How about supplements?
So far there is no strong evidence suggesting that supplement can reduce acne.
Have any questions about acne management? Talk to our online doctors, pharmacist or nutritionist!
CPG Malaysia: Management of Acne 2012
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