It is true that clogged pores and acne are not life-threatening; however, it is all too easy to underestimate the devastating effects it can have on someone’s psyche. Some people are so badly affected by low self-esteem and unkind words from peers that they sink into depression and even consider suicide.
Thankfully, there are many treatments available from a pharmacy and your doctor that can help to tackle this problem.
The different types of pimples are:
White heads and Black heads (Comedones) – Pores can get clogged over time with oil, keratin (a protein) and bacteria. Sometimes, these pores close up, forming a white head. If the pores stay open, it gets exposed to air and turns darker, becoming a blackhead.
Papules and Pustules – These are formed when the clogged pores get inflamed. They can look like pus-filled blisters.
Nodules – When the swelling from the papules and pustules spreads to a deeper layer of skin, nodules are formed. These feel big and hard, and are even more painful than papules and pustules.
Cysts – When nodules get further inflamed, they can rupture and release pus deep into the skin layers, triggering further inflammation and swelling.
Areas of the body typically affected by acne are the face, chest and back.
When to Seek Medical Treatment
- If you have severe acne, such as cystic acne
- If the acne bothers you to the point that it affects your mood drastically
- If over-the-counter treatments do not help you
- If you experience scarring from acne
- If the acne is related to a medication that you were started on
Comedones are caused by an overproduction of oil and cells accumulating at the opening of the oil gland, blocking the exit of dead cells and oil. P. acnes, a form of bacteria that is present on the surface of the skin, thrives on the excess oil and breaks it down to by-products that irritate the skin further, causing inflammation.
Some factors that exacerbate acne are:
- Overproduction of oil
- Hormone fluctuations
- Medications such as steroids, male hormones or female hormones
- Excessive friction on the skin, which might be caused by clothing or harsh chemicals
Clean skin twice a day with a gentle cleanser. Do not use overly harsh and abrasive treatments as this can worsen the acne.
Check cosmetic products to ensure they are non-comedogenic, meaning that they will not clog pores. Oil-based products tend to clog pores more.
Do not squeeze or pick at your acne as this can cause permanent unsightly scarring. Some people are prone to picking in times of stress.
If acne occurs on your body, avoid abrasive clothing that rubs against the skin.
Try to minimise touching your face, and keep hair away from contact with your face if necessary.
Over-the-counter products are more useful for treatment for comedones. More severe acne involving more than 10-25 pustules, nodules and cysts should be treated by a doctor or a dermatologist.
Benzoyl perozide is a tried-and-tested remedy for acne, and works by releasing oxygen to target P. acnes, which favours conditions with little oxygen. It is available in 3 common concentrations – 2.5, 5 and 10%. Always start with the lowest concentration first as this can cause skin irritation, and the higher concentrations do not necessarily work better.
Salicylic acid helps by removing dead skin cells that accumulate at your oil glands and unclog pores. It also helps to bring down inflammation.
Sulfur is also used for acne, and works by removing dead skin cells at the skin surface, and killing bacteria. This ingredient is often combined with resorcinol, which also helps to unblock pores. Care should be taken to avoid eye contact.
Azelaic acid is a pharmacy medication that is indicated for the treatment of acne. It helps by killing bacteria and getting rid of unwanted skin cells.
Before using such products on the skin, apply a small amount on your hand and wait for about three days, before proceeding to use it on a larger area. If any serious allergic reactions occur, such as difficulty in breathing, swelling of the tongue and throat or low blood pressure occur, seek medical attention immediately. Thankfully though, such reactions are rare.
Prescription medications such as topical and oral antibiotics and retinoids are available with a prescription. For women, certain birth control pills can help with cystic acne too. When seeking treatment for acne, please inform the dermatologist if you are planning for a family, as certain medications must be avoided.