I have had a horrible relationship with acne for more than 25 years. The relationship began when I turned 10 years old! There is nothing my parents didn’t do or buy to help but to no avail. My dressing table looked like a mini shop, they sure wasted their hard earned money! To top it all, I would so pinch and burst those pimples, they will heal and leave craters behind. If you have seen a locally made grater before – made from old tins using nails to make the holes, that’s how may face was and that’s what my mother called me. If you couldn’t remember my name, you would at least remember the pimples, acne and scars on my face. In secondary school and part of university my most favorite pass time was bursting pimples, mine and anyone’s I got my hands on. Then in my late 20s, I felt it was time to treat, so I visited a dermatologist. I was placed on some antibiotics, I took the first dose and puked out my guts; that was the last time I took prescription medicine for acne. Years later I read about using food and exercise to manage acne and I laughed at the idea. Then sometime in 2010, I decided to research on benefits healthy living and natural products for conditions like acne, and my life changed!
When people I have known all my life see me now, they don’t believe the rough face or those craters could ever disappear; they did disappear but I have occasional flare ups when I am stressed or under pressure.
Propionibacterium acnes are members of the normal bacterial flora of the skin. When there is an imbalance or irritation of the skin, they cause a disease acne, or ‘acne vulgaris’. This causes irritation and inflammation of the skin surface, the hair follicles get clogged with dead skin cells and oil emanating from the skin thus forming a pimple. Therefore if you are acne prone, simply washing your face frequently with a gentle soap and wash cloth will decrease flare ups
Acne has been in existence since the days of Cleopatra, in those days sulfur was applied to the skin to reduce and eliminate the outbreak. Sulfur has since been identified as a useful substance for clearing acne.Acne is most common during adolescent years, it is often used as one of the signs of puberty. Acne is less common in adults although there is adult onset acne, and acne due to stress, some medical conditions or long term use of steroid creams on skin used for skin bleaching. Acne is also seen in male body builders especially if they are on anabolic steroids.
Pimples and blackheads may cause scarring. This can be quite embarrassing for some young people and can even lead to reduced self-esteem and heightened anxiety. Apart from the face, acne may be seen on the back, arms, buttocks, neck and chest.
The precise cause is unknown though there are a few suspects such genes, hormones, unhealthy gut, infections, psychological stress have been implicated. Some individuals are more prone than others.Some women, have break outs just before or during their menstrual period. There is no direct correlation established between particular diets and acne, though healthy eating may improve and eliminate breakout.
It is worthy of note to know that cosmetics can clog the pores.
Hormone imbalance or an increase in androgens contribute to the increased sebum production, this is why women often break out around their menstrual period and why acne is
Medication and Treatment
A number of medications exist to help eradicate acne. These include benzoyl peroxide ointment, which is often seen as a first line treatment option for acne and has anti-inflammatory properties. Others include vitamin A compounds and antibiotics, these come with different side effects. In women, combined oral contraceptives can be used to eliminate severe outbreaks on the skin.
Combination therapy is often used to combat this disease. Benzoyl peroxide can be combined with antibiotics for greater effects. Benzoyl peroxide will bleach your clothes so careful especially if you sweat a lot. For some people steroid preparations may be used.
Advanced procedures such as comedo extraction and light therapy also exist. However, these forms of eradication are not cost friendly. Others include dermabrasion, laser resurfacing and chemical peels. As Africans, be careful with laser therapy, speak with an expert before going that route.
Home remedies and lifestyle modifications
A number of effective home remedies exist to prevent or reduce acne outbreaks.
- Better personal hygiene
- use clean pillow cases – change at least once or twice a week
- wash your face every night before going to bed
- use gentle ‘soap-free’ soaps
- use a face towel for face only
- Skincare routine
- cleanse with non-alcoholic cleansers, alcohol causes dryness and this will cause a rebound over-production of oil and worsening acne
- exfoliate weekly with a gentle scrub
- tone with cucumber, dilute apple cider, dilute lime or cold water
- witch hazel, tea-tree oil, jojoba and bee propolis – these act as natural antibiotics, soothing and healing balm; honey and beeswax may also be used for their antibacterial properties
- mask – clay, kaolin, egg whites, honey, milk
- light moisturizers, even if your skin is oily, it needs to be hydrated with moisturizers
- jojoba helps decrease sebum production by skin
- natural make up and cosmetics
- 2% salicylic acid
Aloe containing products, vitamin C and chlorophyll containing products are excellent for the skin.
- Food, supplements and drinks
- eating foods that are whole, largely unprocessed and have a low glycemic index e.g. oats
- drink at least 3L of water daily to help cleanse the system
- eat fresh fruits and vegetables
- omega 3 and 9 essential oils
- vitamins ACE and selenium
- for some people, limit ingestion dairy milk, replace with nut/plant based milk – almond, rice, hazel nut
- garlic, turmeric, thyme
- Manage stress, sleep well, exercise and love yourself
- Exercise improves the appearance of your skin.
If you are battling acne simply adopt a healthy lifestyle, improve personal hygiene and get a daily skincare routine.Acne can be quite embarrassing but usually starts to ease off around the early twenties.Also be reminded this is simply a phase and would clear as unexpectedly as it started. Simple lifestyle change may just be the best solution.