My family was born with acne loving skin. Before I knew it was bad for you, I grew up popping zits, living on pimple cream, and washing my face all the time. Neutrogena, Oxy, Clearasil were some of the most well known brands in our house, that’s not including the countless antibiotic and other medications that peppered our medicine cabinet.
In looking back, and dealing with adult acne, I did some research on the meds that we apply and take for acne. You’ve already read up on how not to overcleanse oily skin etc., but do you know how the popular acne medications out their work?
Benzoyl Peroxide: Kills Bacteria: Mild to Moderate Acne
Works by introducing oxygen to P. acnes, one of the main acne-causing bacteria that will die with oxygen exposure, and by removing dead skin cells and sebum, helping to keep your pores clean and prevent further acne breakouts.
Most recommend that one starts with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide, and if your acne doesn’t clear up, to move to a higher percentage. However, that could mean more drying and flaky skin. Don’t forget, it can bleach your hair and clothing!
Salicylic Acid: Peeling Agent
Did you know that Salicylic Acid does not kill bacteria? Topical salicylic acid treats acne by reducing swelling and redness and unplugging blocked skin pores to allow pimples to shrink. Tip: Don’t use on damaged, irritated, sunburned, or broken skin!
Tea Tree Oil: Natural Anti-bacterial and Anti-fungal: Mild to Moderate Acne
Found to have fewer side effects than Benzoyl Peroxide at similar percentage use (5%), but may take longer to work as well. May also be less effective than Benzoyl Peroxide. If you buy the pure oil, be sure to dilute – 5% solution is 95 parts water, 5 parts tea tree oil. If you don’t dilute – you can get side effects like itching, burning, and irritated skin. Not fun if you’re stressing dealing with acne already!
If those over-the-counter medications don’t work, as they didn’t in my case, then you move on to prescription anti-bacterial medications to apply to skin or take as pills. Beyond that (and hopefully you don’t end up here because we all know how fun it is to be plagued by acne), there are topical and oral retinoids or diluted steroid injections. Topical retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) work to unclog pores and prevent whiteheads and blackheads from forming, but these can make one sun-sensitive or have extremely dry skin, bright side- they can also help with wrinkles. (But if I have wrinkles and crazy acne -I will be one unhappy lady). Oral retinoids do the same, but can also cause birth defects.
But thinking back, I guess the journey makes the woman! Maybe that’s looking at the glass half full, but having acne definitely made me appreciate inner beauty more and the strength of nature and genetics. My good friend used to always get a big red pimple in the middle of her nose – kudos to her for living through all her Rudolf moments…Mine were not so poetic, but it’s definitely humbling to have acne in your 30s and count more than the fingers on our hands.
Tell me about your worst acne experience…always good to commiserate!