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What’s Causing Your Acne?

Posted on: July 31st, 2016 by California Skin Institute

Here at California Skin Institute we’ve helped thousands of patients in their fight to control breakouts, and our providers understand just how frustrating acne can be for a patient.* It’s really unfortunate how much breakouts can impact a person’s life, leading to feelings of self consciousness, and causing many individuals to have a lower level of confidence.* Unfortunately, many individuals don’t realize that they are treating their acne at home incorrectly and simply prolonging, and sometimes feeding, the vicious cycle of breakouts.* To help you better understand the main causes and the common mistakes with acne treatments, we’ve put together this great informative overview with the help of Dr. Todd Anhalt, one of the expert providers at CSI.*

However, the best way to address acne in your situation is to speak with a provider who can assess your skin condition and design a treatment plan customized to your unique situation.* To schedule your appointment, please call a CSI practice near you, or schedule online now!*

What’s Causing Your Acne

At the very core, acne is caused by the effects of the male type hormones in the human body, and the effects these hormones have on the cells that line hair follicles. This is one of the reasons why acne is often associated with teenage years; because the hormonal shifts in early adulthood often cause significant changes in the production of sebum and the cells inside follicles.

However, acne isn’t just limited to teenagers, and can become an issue at any point in your life. According to Dr. Todd Anhalt at CSI – Los Altos, “Acne is extremely common. Almost everyone has it – just a small percentage of people don’t. Some patients will develop this condition even before their teenage years, while others will continue to struggle with breakouts well into their 50s and 60s.”

Further, acne can be divided into subsets, based on how severe the problem is and how the pimples appear:

  • Blackheads and Whiteheads:  Also called comedonal acne, this is the mildest form of acne that presents in small pimples with either black or white tips (comedones). A common misconception with blackheads is that the dark coloration is due to dirt, when the real culprit is oxidation of the upper layers of the pore plug. This can be difficult for some patients, because they feel even more self conscious as they mistakenly associate the blackheads with dirty skin.
  • Papules:  This type of acne is associated with red, inflamed bumps. The inflammation can lead to acne scarring, which makes it important to treat the problem if the acne is present on a large portion of the skin.
  • Pustules, Nodules and Cysts:  These are the most severe types of acne, and can result in deep scarring if left untreated. Cystic acne is perhaps the most difficult to treat, as the cysts and the bacteria are located deep under the skin, where topical medication often cannot penetrate.

Acne Treatments

“When it comes to treating acne, the problem is important to address in some cases, but not necessary in all situations,” Dr. Anhalt suggests.* For example, a teenager only dealing with whiteheads and blackheads may not need professional treatment if he/she is confident and comfortable with their appearance.* On the other hand, someone dealing with inflamed acne, nodules or cysts may need treatment to heal the acne faster and to prevent acne scars.*

However, treatment must be carefully planned, based on the patient’s unique situation.* Unfortunately, what many individuals don’t realize is that acne isn’t really their fault, so they end up using general guidance from skin care blogs and damage their skin further.* Dr. Anhalt continues; “People suffering from acne often don’t understand that it doesn’t have much to do with hygiene or how often they wash their skin. The hormonal changes are the real culprit.”*

This leads many to exacerbate the problem by washing with harsh ingredients and scrubbing the skin too much, “which leads to inflammation, skin irritation and damage, but doesn’t do much to actually heal the acne.”*

For best outcomes, it’s vital to design a treatment plan that focuses on the root cause of the problem, and also considers the patient’s gender.*

  • Men:  In the case of male patients, Dr. Anhalt points to several common strategies, like using “topical medications, which address inflammation and infection in hair follicles,” thus promoting faster healing of acne and reducing chances of scarring.* A variety of topical treatments can be utilized, including topical antibiotics, to kill acne-causing bacteria; retinoids, to improve skin cell function; and benzoyl peroxide, to reduce excess oil and kill bacteria with an abundance of oxygen.*
  • Women:  Treatments are somewhat different for women.* Dr. Anhalt continues, “In female patients we tend to move toward hormonal therapy.* Women can also benefit from other treatments, like topical retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, but they tend to react very well to hormone therapy.”* The treatment reduces the effects of male hormones, which in turn reduces the clogging of the hair follicle.*

Regardless of treatment choice, the goal of California Skin Institute providers is to help each patient achieve clear skin and reduce chances of future breakouts.* As Dr. Anhalt puts it, “The goal of finding the most appropriate treatment for the patient is not just to make the acne better.* The goal is to get the patient clear, as opposed to some percentage of clear.”*

Oral Antibiotics for Acne

In some cases, topical antibiotics may not be enough, and oral antibiotics may be required to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation.* “Acne causing bacteria thrive on the oil produced by the sebaceous glands,” Dr. Anhalt continues.* “This breaks down the oil into irritating substances which lead to inflammation.* By killing the bacteria, antibiotics also reduce inflammation and the probability of scarring.”*

Photodynamic Acne Therapy

In some situations, light-based therapy can also be used to cure acne.* In such cases, the goal is to focus on targeting acne-causing bacteria with different types of light.* One of the benefits of such treatments is that they can be performed in addition to using topical medication, but are also a great alternative for individuals whose skin is too sensitive for retinoids or antibiotics.*

For example, treatments with Isolaz utilize a combination of suction, to pull comedones out of pores, and broadband light, to kill bacteria.* Additionally, your CSI provider can perform serum profusions with the Isolaz device, to deliver acne-fighting ingredients deeper into the skin.*

There is also blue light therapy which relies on the combination of special chemicals, which react when exposed to blue light. This treatment helps kill bacteria and prevents future breakouts.*

Taking the Next Step to Fight Acne

If you’re struggling with acne, there’s no need to go it alone.* Whether you’d like to address your acne before the new school year, or you’ve been struggling with acne as an adult, we can help.* The highly trained providers at California Skin Institute will take the time to understand your unique situation and will create a customized treatment plan just for you.*

Get your acne under control; call a CSI practice near you, or schedule your appointment online now!*

(Dr. Todd Anhalt is a board certified dermatologist with over 20 years of experience helping patients treat a variety of skin conditions, including all types of acne. In addition to helping his patients, Dr. Anhalt also serves as a Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Stanford.)

*Individual results may vary and are not guaranteed.