Acne can affect those of all ages and ethnicities; from adolescents and teenagers, to adult onset acne sufferers. The effects can be devastating and treatment options are often confusing and expensive.
The treatment of acne needs to take into account the causes and include clearing congestion and bacteria, regulating cell renewal and oil production and exfoliating dead skin cells from the surface while optimising hydration and controlling any known triggers
Here are my top 5 treatment tips to help in the fight against acne, all of which are inexpensive and readily available without a prescription.
Review your diet – Diet and acne is still a controversial topic. However we do know that certain food classes such as refined carbohydrates, dairy products and saturated fat are linked to the development of acne. There are lots of new studies linking a deficiency of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in causing acne also. The western diet of high sugar, high dairy and processed foods results in excess insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IFG-1) which when released can affect hormone production leading to excess levels of androgens (sex hormones) which in turn cause excess oil production in the skin. So what to do? A diet low in refined carbohydrates, low sugar, low dairy and high in omega 3 fatty acids with lots of fresh vegetables and fish, will help to decrease the symptoms of acne and control the hormonal causes.
Use Alpha Hydroxy Acids In Your Products – There are many available products marketed to treat acne, both over the counter and prescription, but the one ingredient which is essential is alpha hydroxyl acids. These acids such as glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acid work as keratolytics, meaning they work to gently exfoliate the skin by breaking down the bonds between keratinocytes (skin cells) which in turn reduces sebum production and the formation of comedomes and blackheads. By exfoliating the skin and opening the pores these acids control and prevent acne breakouts while providing an antibacterial effect by preventing the build up of oil. Beta hydroxyl acids such as Salicylic acid are also effective and work in similar ways.
Introduce a retinol – Retinol, Retinioic acid, Tretinoin, Isoretinoin – all forms of vitamin A which is essential in managing acne. Regular use of retinol is needed to ensure skin cell renewal and to control the excess keratinisation that occurs in acne. Retinol works deep within the dermis controlling active acne, decreasing the formation of new acne lesions and balancing sebum production. It also has an antibacterial effect on P.acnes bacteria. Retinol can be found in cosmeceutical skin care and can be just as effective as prescription creams when in the right concentrations. I would suggest seeking advice from your doctor or skin therapist about the right product and concentration for your skin. When introducing any retinol to the skin, it is important to do so slowly, and restrict use to night times only as there can be some sensitivity. As always use a broad spectrum SPF in the day.
Lay under the blue light – The use of light based treatments to target the acne causing P.acne bacteria is a no downtime, comfortable and effective treatment. Low level light therapy known as LED uses 415nm wavelengths of light to selectively target the P.acne bacteria and destroy it within the skin. By alternative blue light treatments with other LED wavelengths such as 830nm helps to promote healing and reduce inflammation and redness. 1-2 sessions per week for 4 weeks will help to eradicate the acne causing bacteria that cause inflammation without the side effects of oral therapy. LED can be accessed at any good cosmetic or skin clinic and does not need a GP referral.
Do not fear a chemical peel– Chemical peels are a step up from the home care ingredients of hydroxyl acids and retinol. They contain active ingredients which work as keratolytics to soften and exfoliate the superficial skin cells, control oil production, clear away congestion and blackheads and stimulate new and healthy cell developments. Chemical peel concentrations can be built up over a course of treatment to maximise results and no longer are these treatments associated with pain, peeling or downtime.
Dr Kate Jameson MBBS (hons), FRACGP, FACAM is based in Perth, Western Australia is a qualified General Practitioner, Cosmetic Physician and is the founder of her cosmetic clinic Youth Lab. With a focus on natural beauty, skin health and non-invasive treatments Dr Kate uses her passion for aesthetics and medicine to deliver an unrivalled service for her patients.