Acne can have deep psychological and physical effects for adolescents and teens. Ann Welch, nurse practitioner for Trinity Health's dermatology department, said that through new products and cleansing routines, no one should have to deal with acne.
"We don't want to see people suffer with acne, either psychologically, or physically with the scarring effects of acne," Welch said. "No one should have to deal with severe acne. In this day and age, there are so many good products out there."
People should seek treatment for acne when they feel it's affecting them both physically and psychologically, Welch added, and when over the counter products don't seem to be controlling the acne anymore.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Ann Welch, a nurse practitioner with Trinity Health’s dermatology department, talks about acne treatment while holding a diagram on how acne develops.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Several prescription and over-the-counter products are available to help with acne treatment. Dermatologists often begin with treatment.
Though acne treatment depends on the types of acne an individual has and an individual's preferences, treatment typically begins with topical medications containing Retin-A or antibiotics. Treatments may also include oral antibiotics; and as a last resort, isotretinoin, or Accutane, is used.
"What has changed in more recent years with the Retin-A products is how they are formulated," Welch said. "They're formulated now so it's not as drying or as irritating to the skin. There are also more combination products, so people don't have to put on more than one product."
"The application is easier now, too. People just want quick, simple things," she added. "We want to pick a product that you're willing to use. The medication isn't doing you any good if it's sitting in a tube."
For those still treating acne at home, the number of over-the-counter products can be staggering. A back-to-basics approach works best for home treatment, Welch said.
"The market is inundated with different acne products, but going back to basics is what works," Welch said. "I'm a big fan of your basic soap and water, and benzoyl peroxide-based products."
"Almost all over-the-counter products have benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, moisturizers or sunscreens," she said. "They're all basically the same. A higher price does not guarantee a better outcome."
Welch said that people should avoid exfoliating or astringent products because they can cause skin irritation, and should avoid scrubbing the face with too much force or with harsh scrubbers. Other things to avoid are using antibacterial soap on the face, rubbing the face with rubbing alcohol or peroxide, or picking at and manipulating acne.
"If you dry your skin out too much, your body produces more oil to compensate, and in the end you can end up with even more pimples," she said. "Picking acne causes scarring, and touching your face a lot can cause a transfer of bacteria. Picking a pimple won't shorten its life cycle, and most pimples will last anywhere from between five to 14 days."
A good at-home treatment should include washing the face twice a day with a mild soap and water, and making sure to wash after heavy sweating or sports activities. Those who wear makeup should wash it off before going to sleep. Leading a healthy lifestyle can also help.
"A big thing is your lifestyle," Welch said. "Eating right, drinking enough water, getting enough rest and washing your face regularly is going to be the biggest help."
Welch said that while acne is a common problem throughout the teenage years, its severity depends on lifestyle, skin care routines, and hereditary factors.
"I've seen acne in kids as young as 10, especially those who are active in sports," Welch said. "Getting them in the habit of washing their face every day or after every sporting activity is good."
When at-home care routines aren't as effective as they used to be, seeking treatment from a dermatologist may be the solution.
"Acne is a multi-factoral problem, a problem with bacteria, and with oil glands getting inflamed," she said. "Sometimes a visit to the dermatologist is what's needed. People are more aware now that there are prescriptions out there to help, and there is greater accessibility in getting into a dermatology department to be seen."