What is Acne Vulgaris?
Acne vulgaris is a skin disease which affects the skin pore or the pilosebaceous unit.
This pilosebaceous unit consists of a hair follicle and a sebaceous or oil producing gland. These two are connected by a canal through which the hair shaft passes to the skin’s surface.
Acne vulgaris can affect all age groups. It can affect newborn babies, adolescent and adults right up to the fifth decade of life.
What Causes Acne Vulgaris?
Factors which contribute to the development of acne vulgaris include:
1. Increased sebum or oil production
2. Clogging of the skin pore
3. The bacteria Propionibacterium acnes
Other factors which can worsen acne include:
1. Cosmetics with pore clogging ingredients like acetylated lanoline and etoxylated lanolin which are both synthetic lanolins.
2. Emotional stress which aggravates acne by stimulating the production of sebum through stress hormones.
3. Foods like seaweed, kelp powder and other sources of dietary iodides.
4. Medications like lithium which is used to treat mania and isoniazid which treats tuberculosis (TB).
What are the Symptoms of Acne Vulgaris?
Symptoms of acne vulgaris include swellings on the face and other areas which have a high concentration of sebaceous or oil glands like the upper back and chest.
These swellings range from closed comedones (white heads), open comedones (black heads), papules (pimples), pustules (pus filled swellings), cysts and nodules.
What is the Conventional Medical Treatment for Acne Vulgaris?
The treatment of acne vulgaris can be divided into:
1. Medical treatment
2. Surgical treatment
3. Intra-lesional injections
5. Diet therapy
Medical Treatment For Acne Vulgaris includes the use of:
a) Topical retinoids or those which are applied on the skin include tretinoin, adapalene and tazarotene. These medications, which are derived from Vitamin A, are effective first line acne treatment because they are able to decrease the numbers of black heads, white heads and other acne lesions.
b) Topical antibiotics like clindamycin are used for mild to moderate acne. They are effective against the acne causing bacteria Propionibacterium acnes and should always be combined with another acne medication to prevent the bacteria from developing resistance.
c) Topical benzoyl peroxide also reduces the population of the P. acnes bacteria and decreases the development of antibiotic resistance when used together with the antibiotics.
e) Oral antibiotics or those taken by mouth like tetracycline and doxycline are other acne medications with anti-inflammatory effects in addition to controlling the population of the acne causing Propionibacterium acnes.
f) Oral retinoids like isotretinoin are used for the treatment of severe acne. Isotretinoin, which is a vitamin A derivative, reduces sebum or oil production and the formation of white heads and black heads.
What are the Home Remedies for Acne Vulgaris?
Home remedies used to treat acne include:
1. Tea tree essential oil
Tea tree essential oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) is an aromatherapy oil which is steam distilled from the leaves of the Tea tree. It is a potent natural antiseptic which is useful for controlling the acne causing bacteria P. acnes.
Tea tree oil has been proven effective for the treatment of mild to moderate acne. A 5% tea tree gel was shown to work just as well as 5% benzoyl peroxide in treating acne but produce results at a slower rate.
To make your own natural acne treatment gel you can mix 2.5 ml of tea tree essential oil with 1.6 oz (47.5 ml) of organic aloe vera gel. You can apply this mixture to your entire face or use a Q-tip to apply it as spot treatment for the occasional pimples.
Store your mixture in a dark container since light breaks down essential oils and makes them ineffective.
Do not use tea tree essential oil if you have risk factors for breast cancer and other hormonal tumors like cancer of the ovary and uterus since it has estrogen-like effects in the body. Person with other hormone dependent conditions like endometriosis and uterine fibroids should also avoid using this essential oil.
Tea tree essential oil can also cause contact dermatitis in some people. Therefore always do a patch test before using it on your face. Apply a small amount of the tea tree – aloe vera mixture to the inside of your elbow, bandage the area and wait for 24 hours. If you develop itchiness, rashes or any other signs of an allergic reaction, do not use it on your face.
In addition, avoid using tea tree essential oil if you have sensitive skin since it can cause irritation.
What are the Self Help Tips for Acne Vulgaris?
Self help tips for treating acne vulgaris naturally include:
1. Wash the affected areas with a mild cleanser that will remove the dirt without stripping the oils from your skin. A good example is Clean and Clear Acne Cleanser which contains the acne treatment medication benzoyl peroxide. Washing your face with a cleanser that contains salicylic acid like Neutrogena Oil-free Acne Wash can also help unclog the skin pores by removing the dead cells on the skin’s surface
2. Do not wash the affected ares more than twice a day since excessive washing dries the skin and triggers increased oil production which can lead to acne breakouts known as acne detergens.
3. Keep your hair off your face by avoiding fringes and similar hairstyles since hair products can also clog skin pores on the face and cause breakouts. If your acne eruptions are concentrated around your hair line, shampoo your hair more frequently.
4. Hold mobile phones away from your face and do not touch your face unnecessarily.
5. Do not squeeze your pimples since this can lead to increased inflammation and the development of large acne scars. If you want to remove a white head use a comedone extractor.
6. Avoid using oil rich creams on the face since they may cause breakouts known as pomade acne. Use skin care products which are clearly labeled non-comedogenic. This means that they will not clog your pores and cause the development of comedones (black heads and white heads). Products labelled “water based” are also suitable for using on acne prone skin. A good example is Clean and Clear Oil Free Moisturizer which contains the acne treatment medication salicylic acid.
7. Do not use scrubs or toners with alcohol since they can irritate the skin.
8. Wash your pillow cases often to avoid reapply the oils from your hair when sleeping.