When I say acne, you probably think ugh. And I don’t blame you. It’s the dreaded skin condition that roughly 95% of people aged 11-30 (me included) experience. That’s pretty mind blowing! According to one research paper, it’s actually the eighth most common disease in the world - eighth.
But, there is some good news. Several treatments exist which can help improve acne-prone skin and we’re going to look at three of these treatments here. But, first, what is acne?
What is acne?
Acne (technically called acne vulgaris) is a skin condition that’s characterised by spots and breakouts, which typically occur on the face, neck, chest and back. The types of acne that can curse our complexions are pretty varied, including comedones (whiteheads and blackheads), papules and cysts. And these breakouts are either non-inflammatory or inflammatory, with the latter being more severe.
What causes acne?
Okay, so what causes our bothersome breakouts? Acne appears when pores (the small holes in the skin which secrete sebum and sweat) become blocked with excess oil and dead skin cells, causing comedonal acne. If these blocked pores become infected with bacteria, they can turn into inflamed spots - and these can sometimes be pretty painful.
People who have naturally oily skin are more likely to develop acne - and I can vouch for this - because more oil means there’s a higher chance pores will get clogged. The acne-inducing bacterium, Propionibacterium acnes, also thrives off sebum. So, very oily skin is a recipe for acne, basically. Not great news for us oily skin types!
Who can get acne?
Some are lucky to escape teenage acne, but others are not so fortunate (as if there’s not enough to deal with as we’re navigating the obstacles of relationships, braces and poor fashion choices!). But, mainly because of hormone disruption, acne can strike in adulthood, too. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that 15% of women are affected by adult acne - and this is on the rise. So, let’s look at three treatments that can help this...
How to treat acne...
LED light therapy for acne
We have NASA to thank for this space-turned-beauty mastery that really is grounded in science. LED light therapy is a painless, chemical-free and non-invasive treatment that uses different coloured lights to target a range of skin concerns. So far, so good.
When it comes to acne, blue light is the best choice. There are several blue LED light therapy benefits, including the fact that it’s antimicrobial and can kill the acne-causing bacteria I talked about earlier. Blue light therapy also has an anti-inflammatory effect which is great for minimising breakouts and the treatment also helps shrink the sebaceous glands, resulting in less sebum secretion - and, so, acne. It can be used for active acne and as a preventative measure against future breakouts - sign me up!
Chemical peels for acne
Chemical peels are a go-to treatment for loads of skin issues - acne included. Effective for mild to moderate acne, superficial and medium-depth peels work by removing layers of skin to reveal the clearer skin underneath. The chemical peel benefits range from clearing out pores (buh-bye, blackheads and whiteheads) to initiating the growth of healthy, undamaged skin cells. There are different types of chemical peels, with each one using different acids (which you can read about here), but two of the best chemicals with ultimate acne-fighting capabilities are salicylic acid and Jessner’s solution.
For full efficacy, you’ll usually have to have more than one chemical peel treatment. Your practitioner will advise you on how many you need, but a series of roughly 4-6 gives the best results.
Microdermabrasion for acne
Another non-invasive treatment, microdermabrasion is a method of mechanical exfoliation which buffs away dead skin cells, loosens clogged pores and even helps reduce excess oil. This acne treatment uses one of two tools, each one working in a slightly different way.
The first type, crystal microdermabrasion, involves a handheld device shooting a fine stream of exfoliants (like salt, baking powder and walnut shells) at the face to shed dead skin cells. The second type, diamond microdermabrasion, uses a rotating diamond-tipped tool to sand off skin cells from the skin’s surface. Despite words like shooting and sand, it’s a painless treatment that can even be quite relaxing!
A microdermabrasion treatment is best for mild, comedonal acne as it can free blocked pores. For more severe, inflamed breakouts, though, microdermabrasion can irritate the skin, so it’s not recommended.
If you’re considering microdermabrasion for acne and want to find out more about the treatment, see this article.
Before you go ahead with an acne treatment
Before going ahead with any acne treatment, it’s important that you speak to a fully qualified practitioner - this is the golden rule of any aesthetic treatment! A practitioner who specialises in skin will be able to assess whether you’re a suitable candidate for the treatment and will check you don’t have any conditions and that you’re not taking any medications (like the acne treatment isotretinoin) that might make certain treatments unsafe. So, it’s super important that you have a consultation beforehand and that you’re honest both when talking to your practitioner and when filling out any medical forms.
So, there are three acne treatments which can help tame problematic skin. It’s important to note that these treatments may need to be repeated to maintain results and are best integrated into an existing skincare regime that tackles acne.