Acne is the most most common skin condition in the world. About 3 in every 4 people will experience it at some time in their lives.
If you’re one of those people, fear not. Because acne is the most common skin condition in the world, there’s a tonne of treatment options when it comes to banning your blemishes. From natural to over the counter remedies, there’s going to be something for everyone and we’ve listed the best of the best in this article.
So if you’re searching for some reprieve from your painful pimples, and want to know what your options are, read on to find out what acne actually is and how to manage it.
What is acne?
Acne (acne vulgaris) as mentioned above, is a very common skin condition that affects around 3 out of 4 people, mainly around puberty but it can strike at anytime.
Acne is caused when the male hormone, testosterone, overstimulates oil production in your skin. This oil is called sebum and can block your pores along with dirt and ingrown hair, and voila! Acne.
Acne comes in the form of pimples, blind pimples, whiteheads and blackheads. Generally it’s a mixture of all of these but depending on the severity and what your skin is more prone to, you may only see one or two different kinds of pustules on your body. Not only is it uncomfortable, but acne can actually cause permanent scarring of the skin – so it’s not something to be taken lightly.
Acne can be exacerbated by many everyday factors such as stress, poor diet, some medications and normal hormonal changes in the body. It’s been shown that if you don’t exercise enough and are overweight you are also prone to acne, but on the flip side of that, sweat and rubbing against sweaty gym clothes when you’re working out can also make acne worse. So it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, it’s a mix of genetics and environmental factors that will determine what severity of acne you may experience.
As mentioned above, there are different kinds of acne spots. This includes:
- Blackheads – Small, blocked pores
- Whiteheads – Tiny, hard lumps with white centres
- Pustules – Pimple, red with pus inside them, easily popped
- Nodules – Very red bumps that are under the skin, can be quite painful and cannot be popped
There are also different severities of acne. Non-inflammatory, mild acne is generally not commonly referred to as acne and is characterised by a small number of random pimples, whiteheads or blackheads. This mild kind of acne will develop at random but the spots will disappear quite quickly leaving little to no scarring on the skin, unless popped or scratched at.
An increase in pimples and blind pimples, along with more redness and inflammation is generally what moderate acne will look like. Severe acne is where you will experience many red and painful nodules and pustules plus a mix of whiteheads and blackheads. This kind of acne can result in scarring and should be treated medically for best results.
To figure out the best course of action for you and your skin, and to understand what severity of acne you have, it’s best to go to the doctor for an official diagnosis.
Types of acne
Acne can appear all over the body in varying intensities and forms, here’s a few of the most common forms of acne:
Face acne – Acne that is localized to the face and neck, hard to treat because it is so visible and skin is softer/more sensitive.
Back/shoulder acne – Characterized by acne across the shoulders and down the back. Usually concentrated on the upper back but can extend to the buttocks. Mostly caused by sweating and sweaty clothes rubbing against the skin.
Chest acne – Acne on the upper chest region, generally caused by sweat and consuming foods with high sugar content.
Cystic acne – Very painful and serious condition, this acne comes with large, swollen bumps which are deep under the surface of the skin and filled with alot of pus. When a cystic acne pustule bursts, the infection can spread and cause more breakouts. Treated with harsher, prescription medications.
Baby acne – Said to be caused by the mother’s hormones being transferred to the infant during pregnancy, causes bumpy pinkish skin that will generally not cause any discomfort to the child and clear within a couple weeks. May need treatment if it doesn’t subside in a couple weeks after birth.
How to get rid of acne
When it comes to getting rid of your acne, there are lots of options available. It’s all about finding what works best for your skin and your condition, whether it be just a few spots or severe acne. Here’s a few options:
If you have mild acne, a few simple alterations to your daily lifestyle might be all you need to reduce your condition. Things like eating a better diet, exercising and washing regularly to avoid sweat pimples, exfoliating and moisturising your skin every day, not picking at scabs or touching your face excessively or even just a daily, consistent skincare routine may all help to reduce your spots.
The key to finding a great face wash for your acne that works on your skin, is identifying if your skin is dry or oily. You might think that if you have acne your face is automatically oily, but this is not always the case. If you have dry, flaky skin around your acne then you’re going to want a face wash that exfoliates and cleanses your pores of excess oil but also locks in the moisture so your skin is nourished at the same time. And if you’ve got oily skin, you’re going to want a face wash that exfoliates, strips away the excess oil and combats further oil production.
Depending on the severity of your acne, you can either purchase an over the counter acne cream or have your doctor prescribe you one if your acne is on the more serious side. If you’re purchasing one over the counter yourself, be sure to look for ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid and retin-a as these are all known to effectively combat acne. Be sure to do your research beforehand and carefully read the labels to check if there’s anything you may be allergic or sensitive to in the product.
Another medication a doctor can prescribe is isotretinoin, an oral retinoid that can be used as a last resort on severe and persistent acne. Some side effects can include mood swings, nosebleeds, dry skin, dry lips more so make sure you’re full aware and prepared to use this product in the correct way.
Taking the oral contraceptive pill as a long-term acne treatment can be very effective as the pill will control and suppress any overactive hormones producing the excess sebum that’s resulting in acne. Your doctor will be able to determine if this is a suitable treatment for you to try.
Oral antibiotics are best used on moderate to severe acne to fight inflammation and further infection. As this article suggests, if you use them in conjunction with a topical treatment (cream) then you can gradually decrease your antibiotics until you are only using the cream. The positive effects should be consistent even after you stop the antibiotics as your body will be used to fighting off the acne by then.
Natural remedies for acne
If your acne is mild to moderate, you might want to skip the chemicals in commercial products and opt for a natural remedy, which will be gentler on the skin but just as effective if you can find the right one for you!
Remember, when trying a new natural substance you need to do a spot check first. Put your chosen ointment on the skin inside your elbow and leave it for 24 hours, if you have no negative reaction then you’re good to go!
Here’s some of the best natural remedies for acne and a quick guide on how to use each:
Witch hazel comes from the bark and leaves of a shrub in North America, it’s known to have awesome antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. There aren’t any specific studies analyzing the effects of witch hazel on acne yet, but it’s been shown throughout history to combat bacteria and inflammation on the skin whilst promoting healing – which is perfect for acne! It will generally come in liquid form, which is convenient if you’re going to use it on it’s own.
To use: Pour a small amount of witch hazel on a flat cotton pad and wipe this over your face gently every morning and night. The witch hazel will dry out your spots, causing them to shrink. As it will dry your skin out a bit, this will be perfect for those people with oilier skin.
Apple cider vinegar
If you haven’t heard about the amazing natural cure-all that is apple cider vinegar, then you’ve probably been living under a rock. Everything from weight loss to curing a common cold, and yes, even acne reduction can be accredited to this simple pantry item. And the best part is, a bottle of this magic liquid will only set you back a few dollars!
Apple cider vinegar will naturally even out your skin tone, fade acne scars, shrink pores and ban blemishes by restoring the natural acidity of your skin to protect it from germs and bacteria that can cause acne. At the same time it will also strip away any dirt, dead skin cells or excess oil on the skin’s surface so you can give you skin the best chance at fighting off acne.
If you’re going to use apple cider vinegar, make sure you get a bottle that has “the mother” in it, this is a strand of beneficial bacteria that makes this vinegar so effective.
To use: Get a container and pour one part apple cider vinegar into about 3 parts of warm water and mix it all together. Make enough to last you a week or so, then after washing your face morning and night, dab a cotton pad into the mixture and apply it all over your face and neck. After it has completely dried you can use your normal moisturizer over the top.
Essential oils are another amazing, natural remedy that can cure a huge variety of skin and health woes. Some are even super effective on acne due to their respective antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Here’s the top 3 and how to use them:
This classic essential oil smells devine and is known for its calming properties, it soothes the mind and assists with mood and sleep issues as well as blood circulation. Lavender will be great for those who have sensitive skin as it will gently soothe inflammation, reduce scarring and treat stress at the same time for a multi-pronged approach to curing acne.
To use: Mix a few drops of lavender oil with half a teaspoon of coconut oil or any other base oil you prefer. Then you can massage it into your skin morning and night. You can also apply lavender oil to your wrists, temples, nape of your neck and your pillow to reduce stress and alleviate your mood.
Tea tree oil is another very well known essential oil, it’s made from the leaves of a native Australian plant called the Melaleuca alternifolia and has been used for decades by Aboriginal communities as an antiseptic. It’s used in this way because it’s got antibacterial and antifungal properties, which is why it’s made the list as an acne remedy and is used in many commercial skin treatment products.
This is an important essential oil to test on a small area before you use as many people are allergic to it. And make sure you’ve purchased 100% pure tea tree oil as this will be the most effective.
To use: Add a few drops to a teaspoon of coconut oil or any other base you prefer and apply to your breakouts overnight. Use sparingly and only once every couple days, be sure to wash it off thoroughly in the morning. You can also add a few drops to your bath if your breakouts are on your body.
Simply named, this essential oil comes from the clary sage plant that has been used for hundreds of years in medicines assisting with sleep, anxiety, hair care and more. It’s also said to be an essential oil that’s excellent for women as it helps regulate intimate female health aspects such as menstruation, menopause and libido.
In regard to acne, it will help to minimize pores, kill bacteria, reduce inflammation and scarring and gently exfoliate the skin. Make sure to talk to a doctor before using clary sage as it is known to influence hormone production.
To use: You have to make sure you dilute clary sage properly, never use it undiluted. Mix around 10 ml of any base oil you prefer with a couple drops of clary sage oil. Then just smooth a thin layer of the mixture over your most affected areas every night.
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