In our society, flawless skin equals health and beauty. Despite their best efforts to maintain healthy lifestyles many Canadians of all ages find themselves battling with acne. This leaves them puzzled and dismayed about what causes and cures this problem. Acne is the most common skin disorder affecting millions of people in Canada. It typically affects adolescents and young adults, but some people are still dealing with this problem into their forties and fifties.
Acne is not a serious disease, yet few ailments can have such a profound effect on self esteem and happiness.
Acne is a disease that affects the skin’s oil glands. Your pores connect to these glands via a follicle. Fine hairs also travel through the follicle connecting the gland to the pore. The oil, or sebaceous gland, makes an oily substance called sebum which protects and hydrates the skin. The skin is continuously turning over, so the sebum carries dead cells to the surface through the follicle. Sometimes bacteria on the skin cause the gland to clog up with the oil and dead skin. A whitehead results when the plug is beneath the surface of the skin. If the plug reaches the surface, the outer layer oxidizes, giving it a dark appearance and thus forming a blackhead. If the wall of the blocked follicle breaks, inflammation results, causing a sore bump. If the bump is close to the surface it becomes a pimple. If it is deeper, a cyst or nodule can result.
Why pores clog in the first place is not fully understood, but we do know that in adolescence and pregnancy, hormone shifts can cause oil glands to clog up more readily. We also know that heredity seems to be an important factor. If your parents had acne you are more likely to get it too. Men are more at risk because they have more skin oil. Some people have sebum that is thicker and more sticky. Some people are more susceptible to the acne-causing bacteria. We also know that emotional stressors as well as physical stressors can worsen acne. Physical pressure from helmets or collars, or telephone use or pillow cases can exacerbate the problem.
The treatment of acne is aimed at controlling the things we understand about it. Controlling oil production can be helpful, as long as it is not stripping the skin so much that it becomes irritated. This can be done using a mild cleanser and toner. Unclogging the skin can be accomplished with several products. Benzoyl peroxide in various forms is available over the counter and can be applied to the skin once or twice a day. Topical retinoic acid is also applied topically up to twice daily with good success. Salicylic acid can also be effective. All of these products must be started gradually, because they can cause dryness and inflammation which can actually exacerbate the acne. It will take about two months to see a big change in the skin, so be patient.
Topical antibiotics can be helpful to control the acne- causing bacteria. If the acne is mostly comprised of deeper bumps oral antibiotics may be the most efficient means of tackling the problem.
When fluctuating hormones seem to be the problem, female patients will often have good success with the birth control pill. There is also an antiandrogen based product, Diane 35 which is different than most birth control pills and is often an excellent choice to reduce severe acne in some women.
If acne is severe and unremitting or scarring, oral retinoids may be the best choice. Accutane is an oral medication which can dramatically reduce acne. It can, however, have serious side effects and patients taking this drug need to be counselled and followed regularly by their physician.
Outside of traditional therapy, Image Anti-Aging & Laser centre has some state of the art technologies which may be used in conjunction with other conservative therapy to reduce and control acne.
Microdermabrasion is a therapy using a device which aggressively removes the dead layer of cells from the surface of the skin. Used regularly, acne patients will suffer from fewer blockages of the pores, but will also find topical treatments are better absorbed and more effective.
Broad band light can be used to target and kill the acne- causing bacteria. Patients are treated quickly and with minimal discomfort and will notice their acne staring to dry up within 24 to 48 hours. This therapy can be used on special occasions to clear up the skin, but can also be used regularly to control breakouts and break the cycle of acne.
Photodynamic therapy involves the topical application of a photosensitizing agent followed by treatment with broad band light. This therapy helps to shrink or obliterate sebum glands which can permanently improve acne. It also helps to reduce acne -causing bacteria. This treatment can be associated with some discomfort and has some down time. Usually three treatments are required and some maintenance treatments may be indicated.
Laser hair removal helps to obliterate hair follicles and may help to reduce acne in those patients suffering from outbreaks in the beard, neck or other heavily haired areas.
Profractional laser treatment is an exciting new technology to help reduce acne scarring. It uses the technology of a resurfacing laser in combination with fractional technology. This causes islands of injury which help to build collagen underneath scars, but also can partially resurface the scarred skin without the downtime. Treatments can be tailored to the individuals needs. Several treatments are usually necessary. Downtime and discomfort are minimal.
At Image Anti-Aging & Laser Clinic we offer free consultations for acne. We will outline all the options for your treatment and provide you with the necessary prescriptions and advice. We follow your progress and help you design a treatment course which fits your budget and lifestyle.
Image Anti-Aging & Laser Clinic
436 Waterloo St.