Acne pimples alternatively termed as zits or spots are not something faced by teens alone as acne follows many into adulthood. The lucky few who escape a bout of acne in their teen years find themselves staring into the mirror and finding zits on their face at an older age. While teen acne is usually blamed on the hormones that leads to excess production of sebum, adult acne has many factors to blame.
Some of these include stress, hormonal changes in women, processed foods, humid working conditions, certain drugs and steroids and even over or under exercising. Acne spots occur when the top layer of skin gets clogged with oil and bacteria gets trapped in these pores causing inflammation that leads to breakouts.
Spot treatments help in quick healing of the pimple or zit. You can reduce the impact of any surprise flare up with remedies that range from natural ones, over the counter products and prescription medicines. The treatment are basically used to heal existing pimples not prevent future breakouts.
Commercial products are the first course of action against acne breakouts followed by topical medications for stubborn acne pimples or spots.
Ingredients Used in Acne Spot Treatments
Commercial treatments are available in the form of gels, creams, and complete acne regimen or kits. The chemical composition in over the counter products for most part includes – 2.5 %, 5% and 10% of benzoyl peroxide, 2 % or more of salicylic acid and often sulfur. Sulfur combined with resorcinol or an alcohol and acetone combination is also used in formulations.
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most widely used ingredients in acne formulations both commercial and topical. The compound oxygenates the skin and destroys the pimple causing bacteria. It penetrates deep into the skin and rids you of acne. As benzoyl peroxide does not regulate sebum oil formation, it has to be used continuously for a period of at least four weeks to be effective. It is useful in preventing future breakouts of acne and reducing the redness in the affected area.
The downside is that it causes dryness. People with sensitive skin should use a formulation with smaller doses of benzoyl peroxide and use a moisturizer on the area after applying the medication.
Salicylic acid is milder than benzoyl peroxide and is used in both commercial acne products and topical medications. It removes the dead skin in the pores and unclogs them. It prevents skin shedding in the hair follicles located beneath the skin and prevents clogging and subsequent formation of lesions. It helps in clearing black heads and whiteheads. Salicylic acid comes in different strengths and a range of .5% to 2% is used in over the counters gels and creams. Salicylic can prevent breakouts and when used in combination with benzoyl peroxide quicken the pimple healing process. Salicylic acid has a gentle effect on the skin and is used in face cleansers.
Topical medication based on salicylic acid can be used several times on a daily basis or used a few times in the week based on the formulation strength and are prescribed for people with sensitive skin.
Sulfur is a substance that has been used as a treatment for acne spots over centuries. Sulfur tends to dry out the pimple and clean the clogged pores. Sulfur is used in many commercial creams in the concentration of 5% to 8 %.
Resorcinol is often used in combination with sulfur in the strength of 2%. Together with sulfur, it reduces excess oil production and minimizes white heads and blackheads. Resorcinol can cause redness and peeling.
Precautions like using milder soaps and cleansers and avoiding products containing alcohol, benzoyl peroxide and Vitamin A need to be followedtaken.
Alcohol and Acetone
This combination is basically used for products aimed at people with oily skin. Alcohol being an antibacterial, it helps in destroying acne causing bacteria. Acetone reduces excess sebum oil. Together, the ingredients help in unclogging pores by reducing oil levels.
Topical medications prescribed by the doctors contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and topical retinoids. Prescription medicines for the treatment of acne spots may also include a combination of antibiotics and topical retinoids.
Azelaic acid – in prescription gel or cream form is used to clear acne breakouts. Its effectiveness lies in the ability to reduce acne causing bacteria.
Azelaic acid formulations help reduce both inflammation in the pimple area and shedding of dead skin. It also aids in reducing any discoloration or scarring that remains after the pimple has healed.
Topical antibiotics inhibit bacterial growth, limit clogged pores and reduce inflammation in the acne area. They are commonly prescribed by doctors for cases of stubborn breakouts.
Retinoids are derived from the synthetic form of Vitamin A and are considered as highly effective treatments for acne. They act as exfoliators and keep pores clean. Retinoids like adapalene, tretinoin and tazarotene are usually prescribed to clear existing spots and prevent new ones from occurring. Retinoids can be combined with medications like benzoyl peroxide or prescribed along with antibiotics.
Topical Combination Therapy
This therapy is a combination of topical antibiotics with other acne spot treatment ingredients like retinoids, azelaic acid or benzoyl peroxide. The therapy can help in destroying acne causing bacteria, reducing dead skin, unclogging pores and limiting breakouts. Another benefit is that lesser dosages of antibiotics are used in combination therapy.
Tips For Using Commercial and Topical Acne Spot Treatments
Follow the instruction on the label of the over the counter products used and be realistic about the results. Give it a day or two for the spot to heal when using overnight spot treatments.
There is also tendency to over apply the cream over the affected area. This common mistake or over zealousness can cause the spot to become dry, irritated, and flaky with increased sensitivity to sunlight rather than aid in the healing process.
Some products may cause side effects due to higher concentration of ingredients like benzoyl peroxide. In case side effects are experienced, stop using the product and consult the doctor.
Acne breakouts tend to clear within six weeks of using commercial products. If the breakouts haven’t healed by then, it is time to see the doctor or dermatologist who will prescribe topical medications. You can continue to use commercial products along with the topical prescription, provided the doctor approves it.