Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist - Written by Rithi Choudhary (Journalist) on 22nd Dec 2020
Adult Acne & Teen Acne - How To Remove Acne and Scars?
Acne, whether in the form of pimples, papules, pustules, nodules or comedones, etc., is one pesky skin condition we hate as teenagers and adults. While acne in the adolescent phase is very common due to the several hormonal changes in the body (transition from a child to adult), acne as an adult results from fluctuating hormones, which could be due to various reasons menopause to birth control medication, etc.
Whatever is the reason behind acne, nobody wants it, at any age. And if you are someone who is pestered by this condition, you have come to the right place because you will possibly learn the cause behind your acne flare-up as an adult (even when you did not get a single breakout as a teen) and also learn of the best treatments (we do not mean DIYs) to clear acne and the even more annoyingly stubborn acne scars.
Reasons Behind Acne In Teenage Phase
As the body is transitioning from that of a child to a reproductive state, there is an increase in sex hormones called androgens. This sudden secretion of hormones in puberty causes the oil glands under the skin to become overactive and produce an excess of sebum (oil). This sebum in the pores gets mixed with dirt and grime, leading to comedones. When bacteria act upon these clogged pores, the resulting inflammation is red, painful lesions we term pimples.
Reasons Behind Adult Acne
- Stress: Name one skin condition that isn’t caused due to stress. When the body is under stress (physical/mental), the adrenal glands secrete a stress hormone called cortisol that triggers acne.
- Hormonal Fluctuation: Hormonal fluctuation in adulthood can be due to various reasons such as menstrual cycle or pregnancy. Breastfeeding, before, during, and after menopause; hormonal changes due to certain medications, birth control medication, etc.
- Hygiene: The facial products that we put on our skin and the natural sebum forms a film on our face. This film comes into contact with dust, grime, and bacteria from our day to day lives. When we sleep on the pillows, this film is also left on the pillow covers, and day after day, it becomes a breeding ground for pimple-causing bacteria. Not only that, the makeup that we put on sits on top of our skin and seeps into our pores if not taken off at the end of the day. Clogged pores give way to acne sooner or later.
- Diet: Diet is of the utmost importance when it comes to having beautiful skin. A diet high in sugar and inflammatory foods like dairy, processed and junk foods, etc., leads to inflammation and triggers acne.
- Comedogenic Skin Products: The skin products that we put on our skin often have comedogenic ingredients, meaning that they clog the pores and do not let other ingredients pass through. And therefore, it is always important to turn the bottle and learn about the ingredients you will be putting on the skin. For the list of comedogenic ingredients used in skincare products, refer to this list here.
Best Treatment For Acne
Now that we have covered the possible reasons behind acne flare-ups, let’s get straight to why you are here, which is an effective acne treatment. When it comes to treating acne, you need to be gentle on your skin first and foremost. Anything harsh will only worsen the acne flare-ups. Here are the best and most effective ingredients you should be using/including in your skincare to treat acne.
Depending on your skin's needs, choose only one active at a time, and do not use all of them together as it will lead to irritation.
- Salicylic Acid: Salicylic Acid is the go-to BHA (beta hydroxy acid) for treating acne. While it does not help kill the acne-causing bacteria, it reduces excess oil, mildly exfoliates, soothes inflammation, and unclogs pores. Keep in mind that if you are starting with salicylic acid, use a 1% concentration, but if you have been using salicylic acid (in wash off forms), then a 2% concentration, which is the maximum strength, will help. However, salicylic acid can be drying. Therefore, be mindful of using it as a spot treatment on only the acne-prone area and following up with a non-comedogenic/oil-free moisturizer. When using SA in wash-off forms, face washes, massage the product into the affected areas, let it sit for 1-2 minutes, and wash off.
- Benzoyl Peroxide: Benzoyl Peroxide is a favorite ingredient among dermatologists when it comes to treating acne. It is antibacterial, and therefore it kills the acne-causing bacteria and removes excess oil from the skin. Benzoyl Peroxide, however, can be drying to the skin. Therefore consult with your dermatologist for the right concentration suitable for your skin. Whether in wash-off forms or leave-on treatment, Benzoyl Peroxide generally ranges between 2.5 % - 10 %. If you are using Benzoyl Peroxide for the first time, always start with a lower concentration.
Products with Benzoyl Peroxide tend to leave a stain on the clothes. So you do not want to be wearing lighter shades.
- Retinoid: Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A. They come in OTC (over the counter) variants and prescription-only variants. They are a gold-standard skincare ingredient and extremely effective for treating acne, promoting cell turnover and its anti-aging properties. While you can use OTC retinoids like retinol, adapalene on the affected areas, they are less effective than prescription-strength retinoids like tretinoin. It is always beneficial to consult a dermatologist before starting retinoids, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.
- Azelaic Acid: Azelaic Acid is another great ingredient to fight acne. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The best part about azelaic acid is that it is mild enough to be used even for sensitive skin. But always do a patch test before trying any new product for sensitive skin.
Best Treatment For Acne Scars
So you got rid of the acne. But what about the scars that it left behind? Don’t you worry because we have got you covered on that too:
- Lactic Acid: Lactic Acid is the mildest of AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids). It works by exfoliating the top layer of the skin and penetrating the breakdown of dead skin cells, oil, and grime clogging the pores. Lactic acid inhibits the production of melanin, like several skin-lightening ingredients in this list. It is a great option to treat dark spots, uneven patches, sun tan, and acne scars and smoothen the skin’s texture and diminish wrinkles and fine lines. Its hydrating properties make it a great option for dry and sensitive skin.
- Niacinamide: Niacinamide (a derivative of Vitamin B3) is a versatile skincare ingredient. It helps in controlling oil and skin-repairing, along with a plethora of other skin benefits. It is a milder alternative for those who cannot tolerate retinoids.
- Kojic Acid: Kojic acid is derived from fermented foods like rice wine derived from fungi like mushrooms. It is a mild exfoliant that lightens scars by suppressing tyrosinase formation, an enzyme needed for melanin synthesis (making). Melanin is the pigment responsible for giving skin, hair, and eyes their respective color. Lighter skin has less melanin compared to darker skin, which has more melanin. Skin surfaces with dark spots, dark patches, scars, and hyperpigmentation have more melanin accumulation, making them darker than the skin tone. Tyrosinase contains copper ions in the active site. When exposed to UV rays, the copper ions direct the tyrosinase to become more active. Kojic Acid captures the copper ions and prevents them from activating the tyrosinase. In other words, Kojic Acid inhibits the creation of melanin. By reducing melanin production, Kojic Acid can fade dark spots, help reduce hyperpigmentation, and make the skin tone even and brighter.
- Alpha Arbutin: Arbutin is a naturally occurring safer alternative to hydroquinone, a widely used yet highly controversial skin lightening ingredient. Arbutin is derived from bearberry, mulberry, blueberry, cranberry, wheat, and some pears varieties. Alpha Arbutin is a stable form - Arbutin and is synthesized from hydroquinone using an enzymatic or chemical reaction. Alpha arbutin is non-irritating and is suitable for sensitive skin that cannot tolerate hydroquinone. Unlike hydroquinone, alpha-arbutin does not lead to rebound hyperpigmentation (which means pigmentation comes back after you stop using hydroquinone). It is suited/suitable for all skin types and works on all skin tones to mildly bleach pigmentation.
Face Mapping: What Does Location Of Your Acne Indicate
In simple words, face mapping is a technique of determining underlying body ailments/conditions by blemish location on the face. The idea behind face mapping is that each blemish on different parts of the face indicates a more profound issue.
- Acne On Forehead: Digestion issues, stress, insufficient sleep.
- Acne On Cheeks: Bacteria, unhygienic practices, comedogenic face creams, medications, stomach ailments, respiratory issues.
- Acne On Chin & Jawline: Hormonal imbalance, stress.
- Acne On Temples: Kidney or bladder infection, medications.
- Acne Between Eyebrows: Liver issues, excess toxin accumulation.
- Acne On The Nose: Heart ailments.
- Acne Around The Mouth: Stomach and colon ulcers.
Things To Remember When Treating Acne
- The best way to cure acne is through diet, the right products, and a healthy lifestyle. It would not be wrong to say that one needs to take a holistic approach to treat acne effectively. Keep the following points in mind if you want clear skin sans acne:
- Before going to bed, always remove the day's stress from your face- makeup, sunscreen, and pollution.
- Wash towels, bed linens, and pillow covers frequently or on alternate days.
- Eat more fruits, green leafy vegetables, and lean proteins. Cut down on processed and junk foods.
- Consult your doctor if you suspect your medication could be behind your acne flare-ups.
- De-stress and remember to deep breathe from time to time. As boring as it sounds, meditation helps you to calm down.
- Incorporate exercise into your routine at least twice or thrice a week to sweat out the toxins and boost blood circulation.
- Avoid using skincare products with fragrance as fragrance are irritating to the skin and cause contact allergy with long term use. You do not want to irritate your inflamed skin further.