An acne treatment plan should focus on both treatment of existing blemishes and prevention of new ones. This twofold anti acne approach allows acne sufferers to see rapid progress in their complexions and maintain clearer skin over time. There are a variety of non-prescription and prescription anti acne medications on the market; understanding the active ingredients is a valuable first step to deciding on a personal anti acne regimen.
Non-prescription Anti Acne Products
• Benzoyl peroxide is the active ingredient in a number of different anti acne products. An organic peroxide, it reacts with skin to break down into oxygen and benzoic acid; these compounds together produce an oxidizing effect. This oxidation causes drying of natural oils and sebum within the skin. This drying action is responsible for a portion of benzoyl peroxide’s anti acne effects, along with its antimicrobial properties. Benzoyl peroxide also has a tendency to cause peeling, which can aid in healing existing break-outs and preventing new ones.
• Alcohol-based astringents basically cleanse the skin, removing oils and impurities. The most common active ingredients in these anti acne products are various forms of alcohol and acetone; both have significant drying properties. While these astringents can help prevent acne, they have little or no effect on existing blemishes.
• One of the beta hydroxyl acids, salicylic acid is often used in anti acne products as a chemical exfoliant. Salicylic acid is a keratolytic agent; put simply, this means that it causes the outer layer of the skin to thin and flake off, preventing it from remaining on the skin’s surface to clog pores. This can help prevent further outbreaks and even help speed healing.
• Sulfur is often used as a secondary anti acne agent along with other active ingredients; since it is a keratolytic compound like salicylic acid, using the two compounds together is not recommended.
• Topical anti acne products containing retinol are becoming more common. Retinol is best known as an anti-wrinkle treatment, but its ability to increase the production of collagen in the skin may be helpful in conjunction with other anti acne medications.
• Alpha hydroxy acids, much like previously mentioned retinol, are best known as ingredients in anti-aging creams. Their utility in fighting acne is still unproven; however, as an additional step in a complete anti acne regimen, these collagen-building compounds are unlikely to do any harm.
Prescription Anti Acne Medications
• Isotretinoin, better known as Accutane, is a very effective anti acne product. Isotretinoin occurs naturally in the body, and is a retinoid, a class of compounds instrumental in regulating the growth of skin cells. Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A and, as such, play an important role in ensuring a healthy immune system and proper functioning of cells throughout the body. Isotretinoin can have serious effects if used improperly, so it’s essential to use this anti acne product only under a doctor’s supervision.
• Minocycline is an oral antibiotic that shows significant success in treating serious cases of acne. Like other tetracycline antibiotics, minocycline reduces the P. acnes bacteria that cause acne. This allows the body’s natural immune system to fight off this bacteria, preventing acne and clearing up existing break-outs. Doxycycline is also sometimes used for this purpose.
• Hormone-adjusting medications, such as birth control pills and antiandrogens, are among the more effective anti acne skin care products available. These therapies work by suppressing the production of androgen, a hormone associated with overactive oil production in the sebum glands. Because these medications work directly on the body’s hormonal levels, they produce significant improvements in most cases of acne. However, these anti acne treatments can have serious side effects, and should only be used under the supervision of a physician.
The right combination of prevention and treatment can produce amazing results, virtually eliminating acne symptoms in many cases. Understanding the effects of anti acne medications and how they interact with each other will allow acne sufferers to achieve the best results possible for their condition, no matter how mild or severe.