Acne is a common chronic disorder that leads to significant social and emotional distress for patients. There are several variants, but the triggering factors are the hair follicle and oil gland, in which there is blockage of the follicle and inflammation.
Who gets acne?
Acne affects both males and females of all races and ethnicities. Although it is most commonly seen in adolescents and young adults (with 85% of 16-18 year olds affected), we see if commonly in children and adults of all ages.
What causes acne?
Several factors contribute to the development of acne, such as genetics, hormones, bacteria, and clogging of pores. Many times acne flare ups are caused by:
- Hormones imbalance such as in PCOS
- Medications such as steroids, B vitamins, anticonvulsants, and others
- Occlusive cosmetics or moisturizers
- High environmental humidity (such as flares with travel)
- Diet high in dairy, animal fats, and high glycemic foods
What are the treatment options for patients with acne?
1 – Medical treatments: The mainstay for continued remission in acne is to target the reasons why we get acne, and to reverse those. Such treatments include topical retinoids to normalize oil gland production; topical antibiotic and benzoyl peroxide solutions to kill the acne bacteria; topical salicylic acid and Glycolic acid pads to exfoliate the skin and prevent the clogging of pores; and a good sun block made for acne-prone skin to prevent dark spots from the combination of acne and the sun. Occasionally, we will utilize more extensive oral medical treatments such as oral antibiotics, oral isotretinoin, oral contraceptive pills or spironolactone.
2 – Microdermabrasion and AHA or BHA peels: These exfoliative measures are used once or twice a month to clear acne and expose healthier, brighter skin.
3 – Laser / Light treatments: Photodynamic therapy, or Blu-U, is a light-based treatment with the use of amino-levulanic acid to clear active acne.
- Blu-U is a light-based treatment for active acne that is safe in pregnancy. It uses the antibacterial properties of blue light to kill acne bacteria and decrease inflammation. Eight treatments are recommended over a 5 week period, or 1-2 light treatments of 15 minutes per session.
Several studies have shown some benefit:
- 30 patients received x2/week for 5 weeks – 64% decrease in acne lesions
- 35 patients x2/week for 4 weeks – 80% of patients had significant improvement
- 40 patients x2/week; 3 months following their last treatment – 43% decrease in inflammatory lesions
4 – Intense Pulse Light / IPL treatments: These treatments are believed to kill the bacteria that leads to acne.