The cause of acne is reasonably easy to state. The sebaceous glands in the skin begin producing an excess of oil which builds up in the pores, trapping dead skin cells that would otherwise have been shed. This forms an excellent breeding ground for bacteria that lives on everyone’s skin. As they multiply, spots form. Because the majority of people experience acne during their teen years, it’s easy to focus on puberty and the lifestyle of young adults as the primary causes of the problem. So most people blame hormones, too much sexual activity too early, and offer each other advice on hygiene. When acne comes later in life, people look for similar lifestyle issues.
Now it’s stress or changes in diet. It would be wonderful if the cure of acne was as simple as keeping your face clean or cutting down on the amount of chocolate we eat. But there is no scientific evidence for what we eat or stress being a cause of acne, although stress can aggravate the condition once formed. It comes down to genetics – people who naturally have an oily skin – and an excess of some hormones that may be associated with puberty, the menstrual cycle or pregnancy. Among women, the use of an oral contraceptive can help even out the balance of hormones. Once pregnant, it comes down to patience until after the birth. Everyone else relies on a basic program of regular, but not excessive, cleanliness and products containing vitamin A.
Among all the skin products, the most reliable is benzoyl peroxide. This only costs a few dollars and with regular use, it will clear most mild cases of acne. It’s actually important not to wash too frequently and not to scrub at the skin with any kind of abrasive. Some oil in the skin is necessary. Any break in the skin caused by excessive rubbing can become a source of more infection. For more serious cases that fail to respond to over-the-counter treatments, there are a range of prescription products containing vitamin A. This vitamin has been found effective to reduce the amount of oil in the skin, minimize inflammation and support the body’s defenses against bacterial infection.
In all of this there is one key fact to remember. It takes about three months for a pimple to form so, whatever course of treatment you follow must be continued for between three and six months. Any let up and the cycle of pimples begun three months ago will continue and zits will form. When all the standard products and drugs have been tried without success, the more or less guaranteed cure is accutane. Among men, this is reasonably safe. There is anecdotal evidence of mood changes and irritability but, as anyone who has had acne will tell you, this is not unusual. There is also a very small risk of gastrointestinal damage. In women, great care must be taken to avoid pregnancy. When you buy Accutane, it damages the fetus and children are often born with injuries. The iPledge program may appear a deterrent but it’s necessary to prevent fetal damage. This is why it’s always necessary to distinguish fact from myth. We need everyone to be aware of the real risks and how to treat this skin problem safely.