Acne is something that almost every single person goes through, especially in their teenage years. There’s a whole drugstore aisle devoted to its prevention and it features in just about every documentation of the teenage experience. In reality, about 85% of people have had some kind of acne at one point or another in their lives and over 95% of people have said they’ve felt depressed because of the ace. And unfortunately, for many, it’s bad enough that they need to see a dermatologist or discuss a more regimented skincare treatment than just a face wash or using specific cleansers or moisturizers. But how do you know when it’s not just run of the mill acne and when it’s serious enough to talk about acne treatment with dermatology professionals?
The Scoop on Acne
Acne is the most common type of skin condition one can have, as evidenced by the numbers, and unfortunately it can last well into someone’s 20’s or 30’s — even their 40’s! And it doesn’t just appear on the face; other common areas for it to appear are on the back, neck, chest, and shoulders. There’s also different kinds of acne — blackheads and whiteheads are the most common, but pustules, cysts, and nodules are also possibilities. The latter two are more serious and can result in scarring once the acne is gone.
Acne is essentially caused because of a clogged pore. Sebum, which is an oil that keeps our skin from getting too dry, makes dead skin cells stick together in the pore and get stuck. And since our skin regenerates every 28 days, this cycle can go on indefinitely. When bacteria ( p. acnes ) also get inside the pore, they grow rapidly, making the pore become swollen and often red. If this gets too inflamed, a cyst or nodule is created.
When Should I See My Dermatologist?
If you have any acne, you should likely see a dermatologist for the official diagnosis. Your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist during a regular check up. The dermatologist can tell you what grade you have and identify what kind (or kinds) of acne you have.
You should definitely be seeing a dermatologist if it’splentiful and not responding to non-prescription acne treatments, or if you have cysts or nodules (which can scar). A dermatologist can also help you have clearer skin in general — and if you have sensitive skin anyway, might be able to see if you’re allergic to other substances as well.
Your dermatologist can also help you get on a regimen that reduces or prevents acne scarring entirely and can potentially refer you to a surgical dermatologist if you want to get rid of your acne scarring later on down the road.
What Are Some Solutions For My Acne?
What most people use to control their acne is a special type of cleanser or face wash (or combination thereof) to reduce the amount of oil their skin produces or kill the bacteria. There are other types of topical treatments as wells, like creams and gels. Other than a topical treatment, your dermatologist might suggest an acne treatment that works inside, like birth control (if you’re female) or isotretinoin.
More severe acne can be treated with regular visits to your dermatologist with chemical peels, acne removal, or even light therapies, though these are usually more involved and can’t be done too regularly.
The most extreme solution is the use of isotretinoin, and is cautioned as a last resort if your acne is persistent or really severe. You need a prescription and it’s accompanied by a number of very serious warnings and strict guidelines that must be adhered to. However, it is very effective, and can be life-changing for some people. This should not be the first course of action you take though.
Don’t despair about never having clear skin — it’s certainly possible and many people do simply outgrow it. Consult with your dermatologist to see the best way forward for you.