Why is it so Hard to Get Rid of Acne?
Acne can be extremely frustrating to deal with. You try every new skin care product and procedure, but nothing seems to keep those pesky pimples away for good. So why is it so hard to get rid of acne?
- The Causes of Acne Go Beyond the Surface of the Skin
- Most Acne Treatments Only Treat the Surface
- Prescription Medications Have Side Effects
- Making Lifestyle Changes Can Be Hard
- Natural and Holistic Treatments Take Time
- Our Relationships with Food Are Complex
- Consistency Is Key, But Life Gets in the Way
- Frequently Asked Questions About Acne
- What is acne?
- What causes acne?
- What are the different types of acne?
- How can I get rid of acne?
- How can I prevent acne?
- When should I see a dermatologist for acne treatment?
- How can I cover up acne with makeup?
- Are there any home remedies for acne that work?
- How can I reduce acne scarring?
- What's the link between diet and acne? Should I avoid certain foods?
- Will my acne go away on its own eventually? At what age?
The Causes of Acne Go Beyond the Surface of the Skin
Acne forms when dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria clog your pores. This leads to inflammation and the development of whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples on the surface of your skin. But there are many factors that contribute to acne, not just what's happening on the surface.
Genetics play a big role. Research shows that over 80% of acne cases are due to genetics. If your parents had acne-prone skin, you're more likely to struggle with breakouts too.
Hormones also trigger acne. Puberty causes an increase in androgens, the hormones that enlarge oil glands and boost oil production. Adults get acne breakouts around their periods, pregnancies, and menopause thanks to hormonal fluctuations.
Even stress can aggravate acne. Stress hormones like cortisol increase oil production and inflammation. No wonder final exams and big presentations at work lead to those annoying under-the-skin spots.
So getting rid of acne requires more than just treating the surface of your skin. You have to get to the root causes inside your body.
Most Acne Treatments Only Treat the Surface
The most common over-the-counter acne products only treat the surface of your skin. They can help remove excess oil, exfoliate away dead skin cells, and kill acne-causing bacteria. But they don’t address the underlying factors that cause pimples to form in the first place.
Benzoyl peroxide is an extremely common acne medication. It kills bacteria on your skin and reduces inflammation. However, it doesn’t do anything to balance out oil production or hormone levels.
Salicylic acid and glycolic acid exfoliants help peel away dead skin cells and debris that clog pores. But they don’t regulate your genes or stress hormones.
Without treating the root causes, you’ll keep fighting a never-ending battle against acne. You may see clearing while using the products. But as soon as you stop, the pimples usually return.
Prescription Medications Have Side Effects
Dermatologists can prescribe stronger medications that work below the skin's surface, unlike over-the-counter products. The most common prescription acne treatments target the inflammation and hormones that cause excess oil and pimples.
However, these medications can cause significant side effects:
- Isotretinoin (Accutane) can cause severe birth defects, depression, nosebleeds, eye dryness, and increased sun sensitivity.
- Oral contraceptives help balance hormones but increase the risk for blood clots and breast cancer.
- Topical retinoids like tretinoin (Retin-A) can irritate and dry out the skin.
- Antibiotics kill acne bacteria but also destroy good bacteria in your gut, leading to other health issues.
These side effects make it difficult to use prescription acne treatments long term. But acne often returns once you stop using them.
Making Lifestyle Changes Can Be Hard
Dermatologists recommend simple lifestyle changes to help prevent acne, like:
- Washing your face twice a day
- Avoiding oils, greasy foods, and dairy
- Managing stress levels
- Exercising regularly
- Getting enough sleep
In theory, these are easy, natural ways to treat acne. But in reality, implementing major lifestyle changes is difficult. Our habits become ingrained over years or even decades. Breaking those habits requires tremendous willpower and consistency.
For example, most teens can’t imagine giving up chips, pizza, and ice cream, even if dairy triggers their breakouts. Adults under work or family pressures struggle to destress, get a full night’s rest, and make time for exercise. Making drastic lifestyle changes usually requires help from acne coaches, nutritionists, or therapists.
Natural and Holistic Treatments Take Time
Alternative medicine offers natural, holistic therapies to treat acne at the root. Treatments like herbs, supplements, and Ayurveda address the internal imbalances and inflammation that cause pimples.
However, natural remedies take much longer to work compared to medications. It can take months of consistent holistic or Ayurvedic treatments to rebalance the body and clear acne from within. Most people want to see faster results and give up too quickly on natural options.
Herbs like oregano oil and tea tree oil have antimicrobial effects to kill acne bacteria. Turmeric, green tea, and probiotics reduce inflammation. Supplements like zinc and vitamin A regulate oil production. But their impact is gradual and modest compared to prescription retinoids or antibiotics.
Holistic acne treatments require commitment and patience for long-term healing. If you’re looking for a quick fix to your pimples, they may not be the right choice.
Our Relationships with Food Are Complex
Certain foods like dairy or foods with a high glycemic index are known to aggravate acne. But completely eliminating these foods can seriously disrupt your lifestyle.
Food is closely tied to our social lives and cultural traditions. Giving up food you love or grew up eating means missing out on family meals, holidays, restaurants with friends, etc.
People develop emotional connections to foods over time. Ice cream becomes your go-to comfort food. Pizza reminds you of fun weekends in college. Cutting out foods you’re attached to feels like losing a friend.
Transitioning to a skin-friendly diet requires relearning how to grocery shop, cook, and eat out. It can mean feeling deprived watching friends eat foods that you “can’t” have. All of this makes dietary changes incredibly challenging.
No wonder so many acne sufferers try eliminating foods for a while but ultimately slip back into their old eating habits, even if it triggers breakouts.
Consistency Is Key, But Life Gets in the Way
Regardless of the treatment method, consistency is absolutely crucial for clearing acne and keeping it away long-term. But maintaining a daily skin care routine or sticks to dietary changes is difficult with life's constant demands.
It’s easy to get frustrated by breakouts, research new products, and try them diligently at first. But busy schedules, travel, holidays, illnesses, and stress can quickly disrupt your progress.
For example, a work deadline might force you to skip your nightly face washing routine or drink extra coffee, leading to a painful cystic breakout. An illness that knocks you out for a few days might throw off your entire supplement regimen. Holiday feasts filled with sugary, fatty, or dairy-laden treats can trigger a barrage of pimples.
Maintaining positive habits while navigating life's inevitable challenges requires incredible discipline. Falling off the wagon once or twice due to external circumstances can unravel weeks or months of progress on the acne journey.
So in summary, getting clear skin is so difficult because:
- Acne has complex internal causes beyond the skin’s surface
- Most treatments don’t address the root factors
- Medical treatments have side effects
- Lifestyle changes and natural remedies take time
- Dietary changes disrupt relationships with food
- Consistency is challenging with life’s demands
The solution? An integrative approach that combines the best of medical, natural, and lifestyle interventions for a more holistic healing process. Work with experts like dermatologists, health coaches, and nutritionists to create a customized, gentle plan you can stick to long-term.
Stay patient and persistent, even when progress seems painfully slow. Communicate openly with your support team regularly about challenges so you can get back on track quickly after slip ups.
Focus on finding a new mindset of self-care and building sustainable habits that fit into your lifestyle realistically. Don’t shoot for perfection. Be satisfied with incremental improvements.
With a multifaceted, flexible treatment plan tailored to your unique situation, clearing acne for good is achievable. The road won’t be easy or quick, but have hope. Your clear, glowing, confident skin is worth fighting for!
Frequently Asked Questions About Acne
Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of people. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about acne.
What is acne?
Acne is a skin condition that occurs when hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. This causes whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, cysts, nodules, and other blemishes to form on the skin, most commonly on the face, back, chest, and shoulders. Acne is most common during puberty due to hormonal changes, but can persist into adulthood.
What causes acne?
Acne is caused by a combination of factors:
- Excess oil production - Androgen hormones stimulate oil glands in the skin to produce excessive amounts of sebum, an oily substance that lubricates and protects the skin. Too much sebum can clog pores.
- Dead skin cell buildup - Normally old skin cells shed as new ones grow. But sometimes they stick together and clog pores along with oil.
- Bacteria - A bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes lives on everyone’s skin and feeds on sebum. It grows inside clogged follicles and causes inflammation.
- Genetics - Studies show acne runs in families. If your parents had acne, you're more likely to get it too.
- Hormones - Hormone fluctuations during puberty, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause can increase oil production and acne breakouts in women.
What are the different types of acne?
There are various types of acne blemishes:
- Whiteheads - Pores get clogged with oil and dead skin cells below the surface. They look like small white bumps.
- Blackheads - Similar to whiteheads, but the plugged pores are open so they appear dark at the surface.
- Papules - Small pink or red bumps that are inflamed and sore.
- Pustules - Pus-filled lesions that look like papules with a white tip.
- Nodules - Large, hard lumps under the skin’s surface.
- Cysts - Painful, pus-filled lumps that form deep within the skin and can cause scarring.
How can I get rid of acne?
There are many over-the-counter and prescription acne treatments available:
- Benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria and reduces inflammation.
- Salicylic acid unclogs pores by exfoliating away dead skin cells.
- Retinoids like tretinoin (Retin-A) increase skin cell turnover to prevent pores from clogging up.
- Antibiotics kill bacteria and reduce inflammation when taken orally or applied topically.
- Birth control pills can help regulate hormonal fluctuations in women.
- Isotretinoin (Accutane) is a powerful oral retinoid for severe, scarring acne.
Lifestyle measures like gentle skin care, makeup avoidance, healthy diet, exercise, and stress management can also help control acne.
How can I prevent acne?
Some tips for preventing acne include:
- Wash your face twice daily with a gentle cleanser. Avoid scrubbing harshly.
- Shampoo regularly, especially if you have oily hair. Oil and products from your hair can worsen acne on the forehead and along the hairline.
- Avoid picking, squeezing, or popping pimples to prevent infection and scarring.
- Pay attention to possible acne triggers like greasy cosmetics, sunscreens, or hair products. Switch to oil-free, non-comedogenic options.
- Manage stress levels through exercise, meditation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques.
- Follow a balanced, low-glycemic diet. Reduce dairy and sugar consumption. Stay hydrated.
- Take off sweaty gym clothes or equipment right after working out to avoid clogged pores.
- Change pillowcases frequently to avoid transferring oils back to your skin overnight.
When should I see a dermatologist for acne treatment?
See a dermatologist if you have:
- Severe, painful cysts and nodules
- Acne that persists into your 20s, 30s, 40s, or beyond
- Acne that leaves scars or dark spots
- Signs of infection like swelling, redness, pain, fever
- Acne unresponsive to over-the-counter treatments
- Acne that causes emotional distress or low self-esteem
A dermatologist can prescribe stronger medications like antibiotics or Accutane to treat more stubborn cases of acne. They may also offer professional procedures and phototherapy to complement your acne regimen.
How can I cover up acne with makeup?
- Use oil-free, non-comedogenic makeup labeled "non-acnegenic" or "won't clog pores." Avoid heavy formulas.
- Look for products with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to help treat acne while covering it up.
- Opt for mineral makeup with natural ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide instead of chemical ingredients that can irritate skin.
- Avoid wearing thick, occlusive foundations for long periods, which can clog pores. Take makeup off thoroughly at the end of the day.
- Spot conceal only troubled areas instead of applying full-face foundation for a more natural look.
- Use a light touch when applying concealer over acne spots to avoid further irritating them.
- Set makeup with a loose, translucent powder to help absorb oil and keep makeup looking fresh longer.
Are there any home remedies for acne that work?
Some at-home acne remedies have shown promising results in studies:
- Tea tree oil - Applying diluted tea tree oil helps kill acne-causing bacteria.
- Green tea - Drinking or applying it reduces inflammation due to antioxidants.
- Aloe vera gel - Helps heal inflammatory acne lesions.
- Honey - Has antimicrobial effects that may reduce acne.
- Apple cider vinegar - Contains acids that exfoliate dead skin cells when diluted and applied topically.
- Turmeric - Curcumin has anti-inflammatory effects that may help acne according to some studies.
- Probiotics - Can help regulate gut bacteria and decrease inflammation.
- Zinc supplements - Can reduce acne severity by regulating oil production.
However, these natural remedies have modest effects compared to medical treatments and require consistent, long-term use. Seek medical care for moderate to severe acne.
How can I reduce acne scarring?
If acne has left stubborn scars or dark spots, treatment options include:
- Chemical peels - Glycolic acid and salicylic acid peels exfoliate to smooth scars.
- Microdermabrasion - Uses fine crystals to buff away surface scars gently.
- Microneedling - Creates tiny wounds in skin to stimulate collagen and remodeling.
- Laser resurfacing - Directs pulsating beams of light below the skin to improve texture.
- Subscision - Breaks up fibrous bands under scars with a needle to lift depressed scars.
- Injectable fillers - Plumps up pitted scars for a smoother appearance.
- Retinoids - Increase cell turnover to fade discoloration from old acne scars over time.
Remember to always use sun protection when treating acne scars, as sun exposure worsens pigmentation. Multiple treatments are usually needed for significant improvement. See a board-certified dermatologist to discuss your options.
What's the link between diet and acne? Should I avoid certain foods?
Emerging research shows stronger associations between diet and acne, although more evidence is still needed. Foods linked to worse acne include:
- High glycemic foods like processed grains, sodas, juices, sweets. They trigger blood sugar and insulin spikes that increase oil production and inflammation.
- Milk and dairy products due to hormones and bioactive molecules that aggravate acne.
- Trans fats found in fried, processed, and packaged foods promote inflammation.
- Foods high in omega-6 fatty acids like vegetable oils, mayonnaise, sauces. They can be pro-inflammatory compared to omega-3s.
A balanced, low glycemic diet rich in produce, lean proteins, probiotics, antioxidants, and omega-3s may improve acne. But more research is still needed to confirm dietary strategies. Work with a dermatologist and nutritionist to tailor a diet to your unique needs.
Will my acne go away on its own eventually? At what age?
Acne usually starts clearing up around age 20 for women and age 25 for men as hormone levels stabilize. However, many adults continue battling acne into their 30s, 40s, and beyond. Acne can be a chronic condition requiring long-term treatment. See a dermatologist to find an effective regimen for your particular type and severity of acne. Don't rely on it resolving spontaneously with age. Early intervention leads to better outcomes.