Acne is an incredibly common skin condition that millions of Americans of all ages face each year. With moderate to severe acne comes the risk of scarring, but you don’t have to worry about scars if you practice good skincare and follow some simple guidelines for treating and preventing acne.
Acne is the name of a skin condition characterized by pimples or nodules that form within or near the sebaceous gland. The sebaceous glands produce oil that the skin needs to protect itself from water and other elements, but sometimes they produce too much. Sebum, the oil produced in the sebaceous glands, then becomes backed up (sometimes by dirt and other microscopic debris) and clogs the gland. Rather than stopping production, continued sebum is produced and pimples develop, usually starting as whiteheads or blackheads.
Acne can happen to anyone, but it is most commonly associated with teenagers. This is because one of the biggest causes of sebum overproduction is hormonal changes. During adolescence and into puberty, the body begins producing new or more hormones than ever before, causing some people’s sebum production to spike. Acne is also more likely in people who are genetically predisposed to it (their parents or grandparents had acne) or in people with naturally oily skin. Acne is not simply something that happens to people who don’t wash their faces or eat oily foods; those are myths. Acne, and the scars it can produce, can actually negatively impact a person’s mental health.
There are different subtypes of acne, which can be characterized by the different forms pimples take. Cystic and nodular acne are two forms of acne that are considered more severe, and both are more likely to contribute to scarring. The main reason for these two causing more scars is simple enough: both affect skin at deeper layers than traditional acne. Nodular and cystic acne both produce larger pimples that take root deeper into the skin. As a result, these pimples can leave behind a few types of scars. Regardless of the kind of acne or scar they’re at risk of creating, properly treating acne is the key to preventing scarring.
There are a number of treatments available for acne, and their effectiveness often depends on the severity of your acne. The first, and perhaps most important acne lesson is not to pick or pop pimples. Doing this actually exposes the open wounds to a number of bacteria that rest on your face and can be on your fingers. Pimples that have their pus drained are susceptible to infection, especially if they were popped manually with a finger or non-sterile object. Infected acne is very likely to produce scars, even if the infection is minimal and doesn’t require treatment. Isotretinoin, which comes from vitamin A, may help.
If you catch acne early and work with your dermatologist to treat it traditionally with topical and oral medications, it’s very likely you can avoid scarring and the troubles of acne altogether. Some popular acne treatments include topical salicylic acid and the oral medication isotretinoin.
For some, even being this proactive doesn’t work, and your acne is more severe. Laser therapy, especially a kind of light therapy called high frequency therapy, is very effective at preventing acne scarring. High frequency works by applying a glass electrode to the pimple and delivering a small shock to it. This actually kills the germs and bacteria within the pimple itself, drastically reducing the risk of infection. The treated acne then resolves and clears away on its own. Other laser treatments like red and blue light therapy can be alternated to treat even the harshest acne that is likely to cause scarring. Even if your acne has been going on for some time and has caused scarring, treatments are out there that can help reduce the appearance of acne scars. These treatments include laser and light therapies that can treat scarring and active acne at the same time.
No matter your age, acne can creep up and wreak havoc on your skin and self-esteem. Acne scars are almost always avoidable, so reach out to a New England Dermatology consultant today and get the treatment you can depend on.
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