No doubt you have tried a lot of things to clear up your acne. You have probably been to the dermatologist, spent hours talking with people in white coats at department stores, and lots of money trying products on the aisles of the drug store and Wal-Mart.
But since you are reading this, I’m betting nothing has worked. Is there anything that does? Yes, actually, but it isn’t a magic pill, or magic cream, or magic potion. It is a process, and one works best if you have the help of an acne specialist, and it works 95% of the time. And, unlike some products that work for a time and then stop, this process keeps working and keeps your skin clear.
What is Acne?
To get started you have to understand what acne is and what it is not. Acne is not a result of the wrong foods, of not being clean, or of having impure thoughts. That one still makes me laugh, but trust me, there are many people who used to believe that. It doesn’t come from sexual frustration or sexual excess. In short, your acne is not a result of something you are doing wrong. It is not your fault.
Acne is a hereditary disease of the sebaceous follicles – the pores. Hereditary. That means like your curly hair and your green eyes, you got it from your parents. Thanks, Mom!
What’s going on with those pores? Three things, but it always starts with one.
Number one. The lining of our pores is just like the surface of our skin; it sheds cells in the process of renewing itself. When you have the tendency for acne, it sheds too many of those cells. Normal skin sheds about one cell layer a day. Acne-prone skin sheds up to five cell layers a day! In acne skin the cells are sticky, so they form tiny little plugs that scientists call “microcomedones,” deep in our pores.
Number two. In most acne cases, the sebaceous glands – those oil glands inside our pores – are secreting a lot of oil. This is especially true during puberty when our raging hormones act on the sebaceous glands.
In people who don’t shed those extra skin cells, this extra oil production just results in a shiny nose. In those who do shed extra cells, the oil mixes with the dead cells and causes more cells to stick to the microcomedones as they work their way toward the surface. The microcomedones grow larger with the extra cells, becoming what the scientists call “comedones.” If you’ve ever heard the word “comedogenic” it means producing comedones.
It can take 90 days from the first formation of a microcomedo until it reaches the surface. So any product that promises to clear acne overnight is lying. The blemishes you see today started back quite a while ago.
Number three. Everyone’s pores, acne and non-acne alike, harbor naturally occurring bacteria. Unfortunately, the scientist who first discovered these bacteria discovered them in an acne sufferer and concluded that they caused the acne, so named them for the disease. To this day that bacteria has “acne” in its name (p. acnes bacteria), which reinforces the idea that it causes acne. It doesn’t. But in the case of acne sufferers, the combination of oil and dead skin cells creates a perfect environment for the bacteria to grow rampantly, which contributes to the acne problem. However, if it weren’t for the dead skin cells and the oil, the bacteria would be harmless.
So if you think about this trio of factors, you will start to understand why so many acne treatments don’t work. To conquer acne, you have to deal with all three, but which one do you think is the most important to deal with? It’s the excess skin cells. You have to figure a way to get them out of the pore without forming those plugs.
Why Some Acne Treatments Don’t Work
Now think about the acne remedies you’ve seen or tried. Most of them are promising to dry up the oil. Some of them are promising to kill the bacteria. Killing the bacteria will solve a part of the problem. Drying up the oil will solve part of the problem. But you have to start by getting rid of the excess skin cells. Those excess dead skin cells are the root of the problem.
Retinoids were originally developed to address the excess skin cell problem. They cause the outer layers of skin to slough off and the cells to be less sticky in the process. Used correctly they will help lift those impactions right out of your skin. But if used incorrectly, they will irritate the heck out of your skin, and do nothing for your acne. Some formulations will even make your acne worse.
A brief detour here: If you are an inflamed retinoid user, or you tried retinoids and had to stop because they made your face too uncomfortable, I am not saying you did something wrong. You simply had no way of knowing how to use a retinoid correctly. Most doctors prescribing them don’t take the time to explain, or in some cases don’t know, the proper way to use retinoids. And it certainly isn’t written on the package! Take a look at the article on this site about retinoids, and you will find a description of the proper way to use them. You have to use a slow break-in period to allow your skin to adapt to them. And make sure your retinoid doesn’t have isopropyl myristate or one of the other notorious pore-cloggers. The cream form of Retin-A does!
But even used correctly and in the right formula, retinoids do not address the oil or the bacteria part of the problem. There is one product that does a remarkable job of addressing all three factors that contribute to acne. It’s called Benzoyl Peroxide.
Benzoyl Peroxide dries up oil, and like it’s cousin, Hydrogen Peroxide, it kills anaerobic bacteria by flooding them with oxygen. But unlike its cousin, which stays on the surface, the Benzoyl portion of the molecule draws the Peroxide portion deep into the pore where it can flood those anaerobic p.acnes bacteria with oxygen. But most remarkably of all, Benzoyl Peroxide, or BPO, causes mild exfoliation and makes those sticky dead skin cells unsticky! It is amazing to see how those plugs soften right up after a couple weeks on BPO. Used consistently, BPO stops those plugs from forming in the first place.
Oh goodness! I can hear the screams from here. You tried Benzoyl Peroxide and it didn’t work! You tried Benzoyl Peroxide and you’re allergic to it! You can buy Benzoyl Peroxide at Target so why do you need the help of an acne specialist?
To the first scream my answer has four parts.
- First, you were probably using the wrong BPO. Most formulations of BPO have ingredients in them that will clog the pores. By nature BPO is drying, and manufacturers worry that people won’t like to have their skin feel dry, so they add creams or lotions to counteract this effect. Many of the creams are clogging, and of those that aren’t, most contain fatty acids that prevent the BPO from getting into the pore to do its work. So just because a product contains five or 10 percent BPO does not mean it will help your acne.
- Second, even with the right formula, you have to be religious in your use. The night you skip is the night a microcomedo forms. You may think you got away with it, because the lesion won’t surface for weeks or even months, but it will surface.
- Third, your skin will adapt to the BPO. So even the right BPO used consistently will stop working over time, and you need a way to increase its action, probably more than once.
- Fourth, while BPO is the best acne medication ever developed, it isn’t the whole answer to acne skin care.
To the second scream I’d say, less than 1% of the population is actually truly allergic to BPO. Were you ever patch tested, or do you think you’re allergic because your face got red and irritated when you tried it? Chances are pretty good, in fact I’d say it’s 99% likely, that you are not allergic to BPO.
If you were patch-tested and really are allergic, we can still get you clear without it at The Acne Treatment Center, but it might take a little longer. If you only think you are allergic because your face got red and irritated, you probably didn’t use a break-in protocol (who knew?) to allow your skin to adjust.
Consult an Acne specialist
To the third scream, I will tell you that an acne specialist will design the whole answer to your acne skin care, not just give you the right BPO. She will provide professional treatments that will help clear you up faster and allow your home care to work more effectively. These treatments include professional exfoliation and extraction. She will design the right home care for you, including the right break-in period for BPO and retinoids, after testing your skin for sensitivity, and she will be able to judge when you need to increase the action of your products. She can judge when your skin is getting too dry for lesions to heal and when it isn’t dry enough. She will keep track of your progress to be sure you are moving forward and she is always just an email or phone call away when you have questions or concerns about your skin.
At The Acne Treatment Center we are the acne specialists. We will do all the above for you and more. Together we really can get you clear. This is the acne treatment that works! Give us a call today and let’s get started.
©2011 Jane Neville Dudik; The Acne Treatment Center; www.acnetreatmentcenterWA.com