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What’s the best treatment for acne? Ask a dermatologist.

May 26, 2020 • read

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What’s the best treatment for acne? Ask a dermatologist.

Skincare is an important aspect of health and wellbeing that’s so often overlooked. A lot of us don’t establish a regular skincare routine until we run into an issue, like breakouts in our teenage years, or wrinkles as we get older. That’s because when we’re young, we aren’t taught to take care of our skin on a daily basis like we do our teeth, hair, and diet.

If you have acne, you’re not alone. Almost 5.6 million Canadians have acne too, from age 12 to well into adulthood. Because there are several different skin types, and lots of factors that go into having healthy skin, figuring out the best acne treatment for you can be a challenge. The key is getting to know your skin, and sticking to a routine.

In some cases, talking to a pro is most helpful. A dermatologist can help you tailor a skincare routine and medication regimen that will set you on the road to great skin. To get you started, here’s some tried and true advice that’s dermatologist approved.

Causes of acne

Acne is a condition that affects your skin’s pores and oil glands. Doctors still don’t know exactly what causes acne, but factors like hormones and skin cleanliness are thought to play a role. Acne tends to manifest as:

  • Whiteheads: clogged pores that create pimples that stay under the surface of the skin
  • Blackheads: pimples that rise to the skin’s surface and are open
  • Papules: small, tender pink or red bumps
  • Pustules: pimples that are red (resembling papules) at the bottom and have pus on top
  • Nodules: red, large and painful pimples that are deep under the skin’s surface
  • Cysts: painful, pus-filled pimples deep under the skin that often cause redness and scarring

Sometimes acne symptoms are caused by blocked pores. Oil, dirt buildup, and dead skin cells can all be contributing factors. Facial acne and back acne are common, but you can get acne on your chest and shoulders too. To start finding solutions, it’s important to know what your skin type is so that you can use treatments that complement your skin’s composition.

Skin types

Did you know there are five different skin types, and that you should use a different acne treatment depending on the type of skin you have? That’s one of the reasons it can be tough to narrow down the best remedy for skin trouble — there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Another tricky factor is that as we age, our skin type can change. External factors like sun or smoking can have an impact on your skin type, and internal factors like hormonal changes also play a role.

The five skin types are:

  • Normal: Like the name suggests, people with normal skin type don’t have much imbalance at all, meaning their skin isn’t excessively oily or very dry. They have few imperfections like spots, minimally visible pores, and few wrinkles. Normal skin is most often found in young people
  • Combination: This skin type is really common. Combination skin means some areas of the face are dry or oily, while the rest of the skin is normal. Usually the dry and/or oily patches are in the t-zone, which is the area across your forehead, down the bridge of your nose, and across your chin. You may also have blackheads if you have combination skin.
  • Oily: Because oil can clog pores, people with oily skin often have trouble with blackheads or pimples. Enlarged pores and shiny skin are signs of an oily complexion.
  • Dry: People with dry skin have small pores, and rough skin that often flakes off. You’re more likely to have skin with less elasticity, which leads to a less vibrant complexion, redness, and wrinkles.
  • Sensitive: Sensitive skin presents itself through irritations like redness or itching, and sometimes burning, especially if you’re using products your skin doesn’t like, which can cause flare ups.

Prescriptions for acne

Good news! There are lots of options for acne treatment. A dermatologist can help you choose a treatment that’s right for you. Here are a few common medicines that fight acne:

  • Topical prescriptions: there are many topical cream options a dermatologist may prescribe to treat acne. Most of them contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These ingredients help reduce oil production and inflammation.
  • Oral prescriptions: some types of acne don’t respond to topical remedies, and in those cases there are treatment options in pill form. Commonly prescribed oral medications for acne include: Erythromycin, Tetracycline, Minocycline, and Doxycycline. A dermatologist can help you decide which of these options is the best idea for you.
  • Hormonal agents: For women, some dermatologists may suggest hormonal oral contraceptives (“the pill”), which are known to alleviate acne.

Some medications have side effects, like dry, irritated skin. Others may have more serious side effects, so it’s important to work with your dermatologist to find the solution that’s best for you.

Simple starts

Healthy skin starts from the inside out. There are everyday things you can do to clear your skin and maintain a healthy glow. Here are a few ideas to kickstart your acne treatment:

  • Pay attention to your diet.
    Avoid fried and sugary food. They spike your insulin production, which causes inflammation throughout your body — including in your skin. Choosing healthy foods like leafy greens has the opposite effect to sugars. They give the body a boost in anti inflammatory properties because they’re rich in vitamin K, which helps fight the redness and swelling that comes with acne.
  • Build a morning and night routine.
    Make sure that your morning routine includes products that are well suited to your skin type, and don’t forget to cleanse your face at night to remove the dirt buildup from the day. If you wear makeup, it’s the best way to ensure you’re not falling asleep with anything on your face that might clog your pores.
  • Drink lots of water.
    When your skin is hydrated, it’s happy! Proper hydration means your body doesn’t have to produce excess oils to protect the skin, which can contribute to acne breakouts.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
    Your body naturally makes repairs while you sleep — including healing your skin.

Seeing a dermatologist

If you’re having trouble managing your acne, or you have scarring, you might want to visit an acne clinic. But, it can take months to snag an appointment. Our dermatologists are available in 24 hours, and can help you with a wide range of concerns online. They can advise on changes to your routine that will help you achieve clearer skin, write prescriptions, and answer any questions you have about how to make your skin look and feel it’s best.

See a dermatologist online.

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