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With countless acne products available it can be difficult to figure out which medication would work best for you. There are three things you must keep in mind before heading down the acne treatment aisle: possible underlying causes of acne, the type of acne you have, and the characteristics of your skin.
Underlying Acne Causes
One of the best ways to combat acne is to target underlying factors that may be making acne worse. Do not touch your face, avoid resting your chin or cheek on your hand, and do not pick or squeeze your acne lesions. Stick with non-comedogenic products and stay away from oil-based health and beauty products that clog up your pores. Body acne could be worsened by friction from tight-fitting clothing or during exercise due to a buildup of sweat mixed with dirt or greasy products that plug the pores of the skin.
Hormones can worsen acne by increasing oil production, and acne can be improved for some patients simply by correcting a hormone imbalance. Increased androgen levels have been linked to acne, especially in older women. Stress increases cortisol levels that can also lead to acne breakouts. Other causes of altered hormones include pregnancy and medication. Examples of medication that could worsen acne include: phenytoin, phenobarbital, lithium, isoniazid, and steroids.
Treat for the Type of Acne You Have
It is important to consider the type of acne you have before choosing a product. Do you have inflammatory or non-inflammatory acne? Inflammatory acne is red, inflamed (swollen) and can be painful. Non-inflammatory acne includes blackheads and whiteheads (milia). Knowing the type of acne you have can narrow down your choices to acne products that will be the most effective for you.
Benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide is the treatment of choice for those who have inflammatory acne. It reduces inflammation by preventing the growth of P. acnes (the bacteria involved in acne breakouts) which is the culprit that causes inflammation. Benzoyl peroxide also has a mild keratolytic peeling effect that makes it effective for non- inflammatory acne lesions as well.
Salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acids, BHA). Salicylic acid is a mild comedolytic and keratolytic agent and is great for non-inflammatory acne (i.e. whiteheads, blackheads). It also unclogs pores due to its slight peeling effects. Salicylic acid is less potent than benzoyl peroxide and can be used if other acne products cannot be tolerated.
Glycolic acid, Lactic acid, or Citric acid (alpha hydroxy acids, AHA). These are natural exfoliating agents that have a chemical peeling effect. AHAs reduce the appearance of post-inflammatory acne scars, hyperpigmentation, and are used in anti-aging skin care regimens.
Tea Tree Oil. Tea tree oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. One study showed that tea tree oil reduces acne lesions similar to that of benzoyl peroxide but it has a slower onset of action.
Pick a Product Based on Your Acne and Skin Characteristics
When it comes to acne products, gels are the most effective since it remains on the skin the longest (like Clean & ClearÂ® Persa-Gel). Liquid solutions are best when you need to treat a large area since it will be easier to apply. For example, sprays are ideal for those who have back acne (such as NeutrogenaÂ® Body Clear Body Spray or GlytoneÂ® Back Acne Spray). Acne gels and liquid solutions have a drying effect which can be beneficial for those with oily skin, but it should be avoided in people with dry or sensitive skin. Creams and lotions may be beneficial to those with dry skin since these products tend to moisturize and are less irritating to the skin in comparison to gels and solutions. And finally, face and body washes are only effective if you leave them on the skin long enough for the active ingredient to penetrate into the skin. For instance, the Clean & ClearÂ® Continuous Control Acne Cleanser directions recommend gently massaging the cleanser over the face for about 20-30 seconds.
So which is the best acne product out there for you? By now you should know the active ingredient to look for based on the type of acne you have. I always tell patients to look at the active ingredient and strength of the products available and never purchase an acne product based on the brand name alone. Look at the active ingredient and consider the formulations (i.e. gel, lotion, cream, liquid solution) available that will compliment your skin and treat your acne effectively.
This article was previously posted on Yahoo! Voices