Are you or a loved one struggling with acne? If so, you are not alone!
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in Canada, with an estimated 5.6 million Canadians (or 20% of our population) impacted annually. According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, more than 80% of people with acne are between 12 to 24 years old. However, many adults (mainly women) also suffer from the widespread skin condition.
So, what exactly is acne? What causes it? And how can you treat it naturally? Which over-the-counter medications will help acne the most? What can your doctor prescribe you? Below, we talk all about acne. Continue reading to learn more!
What is Acne?
Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when dead skin cells clog pores (hair follicles) on any part of the body. When pores are blocked, an oily substance called sebum accumulates. Bacteria trapped in the pores then contribute to redness, pus, and swelling characteristic of acne spots.
Acne spots can appear as whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, and cysts. They typically appear on the face and neck, though many people have acne on their back, shoulders, and arms too. Acne is generally seen as more of an inconvenience than a critical health concern, but it can significantly impact confidence and may be more severe (and very painful) for some people.
The severity of acne can vary from mild to severe. Mild acne presents as a few pimples, spots, and white or blackheads close to the skin's surface. Moderate acne is similar, though the blemishes may be larger, more widespread, and more inflamed. Severe acne is more significant and produces deeper and more painful nodules or cysts that are very frequent or abundant.
What Causes Acne?
The primary cause of acne is the overproduction of sebum that clogs pores and stimulates inflammation (which is responsible for the redness, swelling, and pain of acne). However, there are several other causes of acne, including:
As it turns out, if one or both of your parents had acne at any point in their life, the chances are good that you will too. However, while this factor is beyond your control, most causes of acne are within your power to change.
We briefly explain some of the natural ways to reduce acne below.
How to Reduce Acne Naturally
Based on the most common causes listed above, there are many ways you can try to reduce the frequency or severity of acne from home, including:
We cover each in greater detail below.
Washing Your Face Twice Per Day
Washing your face in the morning and before bed is one of the best ways to reduce mild to moderate acne. It is also an important part of the ongoing management of severe or more complicated acne.
Makeup, sweat, dirt, oil, grime, and dead skin cells can all build up throughout the day, so you want to avoid leaving all that muck on your face for longer necessary. Therefore, prioritize removing all makeup and washing with a gentle cleanser at least once daily.
While keeping your face clean is key, be sure to avoid over-exfoliating or over-washing. More is not always better because exfoliating or washing too frequently can leave your skin more irritated, raw, and stripped of your microbiome.
Using Non-Oily Face Products That Are Water-Based
If you have acne, oil-based face products, and makeup can only worsen your acne. For this reason, choose non-oily, water-based options instead. In particular, pay attention to your moisturizer, concealer, and foundation, as these products are the first layers applied to the skin.
When shopping, seek out products that indicate they are non-comedogenic.
Remember, too, that fragrances and dyes can also increase issues with acne. If you need help selecting skincare and makeup products for acne-prone skin, do not be shy to ask your local pharmacist for some advice.
It is also a good idea to avoid makeup when possible so you can give your skin a bit of a break to heal and breathe.
Resisting The Urge to Squeeze or Pick Blemishes
If you are like most people, any blemish or imperfection seems almost impossible not to pick, scratch, or squeeze.
However, poking and prodding a zit is one of the absolute worst ways to reduce acne. This is because dirty hands and fingernails introduce more bacteria. Squeezing out the infection from one or multiple whiteheads, blackheads, or pimples also spreads bacteria around further.
Do your best to leave acne alone whenever you can help it! Your future self will thank you because your pimple will heal more quickly, and you will reduce the risks of scarring and discolouration.
Changing Your Pillowcase Frequently
This next tip is one you may not have thought about much before, but it is a simple trick that makes a big difference. Most people change their bedding every one to two weeks, which means your pillowcase has a lot of time to accumulate oil from your hair, sweat from your neck and face, and who knows what else – especially if your family pet likes to share your pillow!
Therefore, plan to change your pillowcase every few days and try to keep your hair clean to reduce oil accumulation on your face and bedding. Tie your hair back before bed too, so that you aren't sleeping with it in your face all night.
Avoiding Touching Your Face
We are all guilty of the topic of this next tip – touching our faces. Whether working, driving, or lounging at home, we touch our faces countless times an hour, sometimes without even realizing it! Of course, this does not help with managing acne.
Our hands are generally dirty most of the time. From typing on our keyboards to touching our phones to grasping filthy door handles, dirt and germs are unavoidable. Our hands also produce oil which is transferred when we touch our face. So, while we can’t avoid bacteria and natural oil production on our hands, we can do our best to break our bad, face-touching habits.
In addition, pay attention to other items that could be harbouring dirt, oil, and grime, such as your phone, ball cap, headband, and helmet. Even backpack or bag straps can encourage acne!
Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments
While making lifestyle adjustments can reduce acne significantly, you will likely also want to utilize some readily available, over-the-counter products to complement your skin routine. For example, try gentle cleansers and medicated creams and gels.
When selecting over-the-counter acne products, look for active ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic acid helps prevent breakouts by unclogging pores, making it a very popular ingredient for treating acne at home. Benzoyl peroxide is another great choice because it kills acne-causing bacteria and removes oil and dead skin cells that plug pores.
Other common acne medications include adapalene, azelaic acid, and alpha hydroxy acids. These ingredients also help reduce blockages, kill bacteria, and calm inflamed skin. If you have any questions about them, your pharmacist is well-versed in over-the-counter acne solutions.
If your acne is severe or does not improve after one to two months of consistent lifestyle changes and non-prescription acne products, you should talk to your family doctor. In most cases, your doctor will offer you a prescription or refer you to a dermatologist.
Prescription Medications for Acne
If your doctor recommends prescription acne medicine, you will likely receive a script for a topical cream, oral antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, retinoids, or a hormone agent. These prescription-strength treatments work to control inflammation, unclog pores, reduce infections, balance hormones, and aid in healing.
It is important to note that acne may worsen in the first one to two weeks of using your new prescription. Hormonal treatments may also not be suitable for you if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or over the age of 35. Cigarette smoking can also increase your risks when taking hormones, so always work with a doctor or dermatologist before taking any new drugs.
Cook’s Pharmacy Can Help You Manage Acne
Struggling with acne is tough at any age, but there are many lifestyle and over-the-counter options to help you treat stubborn acne at home. At Cook's Pharmacy, we are happy to provide advice and help you select the best acne products for your unique needs.
Our team of friendly and compassionate pharmacists is available in multiple convenient locations, including Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, North Dumfries, and Wellesley. We will take time to ensure you find an acne product that targets your specific concerns and fits within your budget.
Reach out or drop in to see us to learn more about how Cook’s can support all your health needs!