by Cara Pellegrino

Just saying the word gives me the uneasy feeling of an insecure teenager plagued with pustules. And no matter how old we get, some of us never outgrow the angry eruptions of acne. Pimple, zit, comedone, papule, pustule, blackhead, whitehead: they all stem from underlying inflammation. What causes the inflammation may be a little more difficult to pinpoint. Hormonal changes, stress, medications, diet and genetics all contribute to acne breakouts. The key is in finding the right tools to manage the problem.

Like many of us, I’ve experienced acne and the suffering it brings in the form of embarrassment, unsightly appearance and actual physical pain. I’ve tried nearly every remedy on the market and helped guide others through their struggles with acne.

Topical treatments over the counter treatments such as benzoyl peroxide are generally effective but can be irritating to the skin. Many acne sufferers also have sensitive skin, and many acne remedies are drying and irritating to the skin. Vitamin A derived topicals such as Tretinoin, also known as Retina-A, is a popular topical treatment available by prescription only. Alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids are also effective in treating acne. AHA/BHA Face Cream by Skin Medica moisturizers while still combating acne. In order to combat dryness from topicals, washes, and even laser treatments, applying a moisturizer is key. Many acne patients are wary to use a moisturizer, thinking their already oily skin will break out more. On the contrary, overly dry skin can experience sebum build up under the surface, so moisturizers are still a vital tool in acne management.

Persons struggling with acne should also wear sunscreen, minimum SPF 30, on a regular basis. Exposure to UV rays can cause scarring, hypopigmentation and/or hyperpigmentation.

Salicylic acid washes such as Neutrogena oil free acne wash is my all- time favorite facial cleanser for acne prone skin. Murad makes a gentler version with 1.5% salicylic acid. Either of these should be a staple in the medicine cabinet of every person with acne.

Monthly chemical peels will help regulate breakouts and minimize scarring. Glycolic acid peels and beta hydroxy peels are most effective for acne patients. In some cases a dermatologist may prescribe antibiotics to help reduce the acne causing inflammation. In the most extreme cases, a course of Accutane may even be recommended. Accutane is an oral medication that essentially dries out the body from the inside out. Side effects can be moderate to severe and I recommend this course of treatment as a last resort as it is expensive and somewhat dangerous.

In keeping with the laser craze, there are even lasers on the market that target acne. The Smoothbeam laser is said to treat acne scarring while reducing acne breakouts. This treatment is said to alter the production of acne producing sebum but may cause permanent excessive dryness.

To successfully combat acne, a small arsenal of tools is necessary. A good wash, topical medication, moisturizer, sunscreen, and monthly chemical peels alternated with laser treatments will target breakouts from all angles. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist about what combination of treatments is right for you.

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