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What are the Different Treatments for Acne?

By Sarah Valek
Updated May 17, 2024
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Acne appears when the skin produces an overabundance of oil known as sebum. This sebum builds up, clogs pores and traps bacteria that inflame the skin, causing what are known as pimples or zits. There are many different treatments for acne, from natural remedies to prescription medications, that all focus on getting rid of excess sebum and unclogging pores.

Over-the-counter creams and lotions are popular treatments for acne. These treatments contain either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid as the main ingredient. Benzoyl peroxide is one of the first proven treatments for acne and is used in many over-the-counter creams and lotions. Products containing this active ingredient are usually inexpensive and effective.

Benzoyl peroxide works by killing the bacteria responsible for acne, Propionibacteria acnes (P. acnes). Since P. acnes cannot live in an oxygen-rich environment, benzoyl peroxide introduces oxygen to the skin’s pores. It also cleans pores of excess skin. When used consistently, medications containing benzoyl peroxide prevent breakouts from happening in the first place.

Salicylic acid is the other popular ingredient in over-the-counter treatments for acne. This beta hydroxy exfoliates pores and helps the epidermis shed dead skin cells, leaving less acne-causing buildup in the pores. Products containing salicylic acid must also be used continuously to be effective. Regularly using facial cleansers and astringents may also help relieve acne by ridding the skin of excess oil.

Some people get rid of acne not with over-the-counter products, but with natural treatments and common sense. Though no foods are thought to cause acne, some people believe that white flour and white sugars contribute to breakouts, along with other foods high in carbohydrates. Dairy products are also linked to poor skin. Detoxification can be used as an acne treatment. Since detoxifying the body removes toxins, some people believe going on a detox will flush their skin of bacteria and buildup.

There are also natural over-the-counter acne treatments containing ingredients like tea tree oil and green tea. Tea tree oil is a strong antiseptic and green tea may be an effective treatment for mild cases of acne. Drinking plenty of water is also essential to maintain healthy skin.

If over-the-counter treatments and natural remedies aren’t working, a dermatologist may prescribe drugs as treatments for acne. A doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics, which kill any trapped bacteria in pores. Women with poor skin may be prescribed birth control pills, which contain hormones said to cause clear skin.

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