June is National Acne Awareness Month, the time to speak up about this incredibly common, yet often overlooked skin condition. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, nearly 50 million Americans (and up to 15% of adult women!) are affected by acne every year.
Often dismissed as “just pimples”, acne can turn into a never-ending cycle of breakouts and scarring. Over time, it can have a negative impact on your self-esteem, emotional well-being, and social life. At TONE Dermatology, we believe that everyone deserves a chance at clearer skin and to feel empowered in their decision to address acne, hyperpigmentation, and scarring. In this article, we are going to cover everything you need to know about acne and how you can start your journey to clearer skin.
Acne Awareness Month: More Than “Just Pimples”
Acne is a common skin condition that affects up to 90% of teenagers but can continue well into the adult years. Acne is thought to be caused by dysfunctional oil glands of the skin, which cause pores or hair follicles to get blocked with oil and dead skin cells. As a result, you can get pimples, whiteheads, or blackheads, filled with oil, dead skin, or pus. The acne-causing bacteria that normally lives on our skin and within our pores can sometimes become involved and lead to more severe acne.
Acne can affect different parts of the body, including the face, back, chest, shoulders, and neck. Even though it rarely causes serious health threats, if untreated, it can lead to scars and impact quality of life.
What Are the Different Types of Acne?
Determining which type of acne, you are suffering from is key to successful treatment. Acne can be either inflammatory or non-inflammatory and show up on the skin as one of the following types of acne bumps:
Oftentimes, our guests come in with a combination of acne types. At TONE, we always start by identifying the problem at hand, to find optimal treatment and skin care options.
If over-the-counter acne products fail to reduce the breakouts, you can consult TONE Dermatology for treatment options such as prescription-strength topical or oral medications. While there is no true cure for acne there are very effective treatment options for controlling breakouts. Most acne medications work either by decreasing the sticky-ness of skin cells allowing them to exfoliate more easily and reducing the risk of clogged pores or by addressing acne-causing bacteria in the pores. An effective oral medication called isotretinoin (Accutane) is also an available prescription option provided by our office.
Even with medical-strength products, you might not see results for four to eight weeks. In fact, it can take many months or even years for your acne to be well-controlled. And, once it’s controlled, acne may leave behind lingering scars and skin changes.
Long-Term Impacts of Acne
Acne is a frustrating condition that can lead to several undesired consequences that may last long after the acne itself is gone. This Acne Awareness Month, we would like to talk about the negative impacts of acne that go well beyond physical appearance.
Once a pimple heals, it may leave a dark spot behind, known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). PIH is a skin’s response to the inflammatory process associated with acne, and it typically lasts several months before fading.
Individuals with darker skin may experience brown spots, while those with lighter skin tones may instead see some post-inflammatory redness.
What can be done?
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation typically fades by itself, but it can last for 6 to 12 months or longer. To speed up the process, you can apply topicals that contain kojic acid, vitamin C, niacinamide, hydroquinone, and retinoids. In addition, it is crucial to wear sunscreen daily with broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher. Tinted sunscreens are most effective in protecting areas of hyperpigmentation.
At TONE Dermatology, we also often recommend chemical peels or a series of laser treatments that can effectively fade dark spots in a couple of treatments.
Cystic acne with lots of inflammation can lead to either depressed (atrophic) or raised (hypertrophic) scarring.
Atrophic acne scars happen when acne leads to the loss of collagen. These scars can take the form of small, deep holes (icepick scars) or wider depressions in the skin (boxcar and rolling scars). Hypertrophic scarring, on the other hand, forms when the skin produces too much collagen as it heals. These elevated scars are more commonly found on the chest or back.
What can be done?
Unfortunately, atrophic, and hypertrophic acne scars are more difficult to improve although their appearance can be improved to be virtually unnoticeable. These scars require in-office treatments, such as laser resurfacing, chemical peels, micro-needling, and even minor surgery. To achieve satisfying results, you might need multiple treatments performed over the course of many months.
Larger atrophic scars may benefit from hyaluronic acid filler or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, but the treatment may need to be repeated to maintain the results. Hypertrophic scarring, on other hand, can be minimized with steroid injections.
Acne can affect more than your skin. For many people suffering from acne, the condition can take a toll on emotional health and lead to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and decreased quality of life. In fact, acne can feel so distressing that you would just want to hide from the entire world.
What can be done?
One way to combat the negative psychological effects of acne is to minimize its appearance. Unfortunately, even with professional treatments and recommendations from TONE Dermatology, treating acne and lingering scarring can take many months or even years.
In the meantime, we recommend embracing your skin the way it is. Avoid regularly checking your reflection or comparing yourself to Instagram models by overusing filters. Real skin has texture and imperfection, and acne treatment is a personal journey.
Even though you may be tempted to cover your blemishes with a thick layer of makeup, many of these products can clog your pores and worsen your acne. Instead, apply professional acne products and approved cover-up techniques recommended by your dermatologist.
We encourage building a support network both in your personal life and with your health providers. This can include seeking mental health resources and professionals.
Combat Acne and Scarring with TONE Dermatology
While dealing with acne can be challenging the good news is that it is often treatable with professional products and procedures. At TONE Dermatology, we are happy to offer comprehensive acne consultations to address the causes and symptoms of the condition. During the consultation, you will receive a guided skincare and prescription plan, as well as recommendations for in-office procedures to treat acne and subsequent scarring.
National Acne Awareness Month is an excellent reason to take the health of your skin into your own hands. Book now.